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Need help, from chemists or maybe nuclear engineers

  1. Jan 14, 2007 #1
    Burnt olive oil has resulted in some sort of weird carbon deposits on a steel pan, which resists most usual surfacant attacks and other mainstream methods. (Actually I have a whole spectrum of similar problems, due to low water pressure in my new dishwasher). I'm not going to waste any time with any manual, mechanical methods - what's a quick and easy chemical way to solve these problems in general (without damaging stainless steel or borosilicate glass)? Already tried 91% isopropanol.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2007 #2
    Oh yeah, and I don't got no fume hood or NRC license, so that limits the options...
  4. Jan 14, 2007 #3
    Hmm. On a related note, how does one know the correct temperature for sauteing, and how not to exceed it? Infrared thermometer? Is an inert gas (N2) fire extinguisher appropriate for fixing errors?
  5. Jan 14, 2007 #4
    As a cook, I say usually you don't want to use olive oil when you need to cook at high temperatures.

    As a chemist, I say try something like nail polish remover. ethyl acetate/acetone are excellent choices for cleaning glass wear a lot of times.

    Also try soaking the pan with baking soda and letting it sit over night. Sometimes this nifty trick works magic at cleaning some of the toughest dirty pan problems.
  6. Jan 14, 2007 #5
    Interesting suggestions. Hopping over right now to CVS for some nail polish remover and baking soda. I'd actually been thinking about both, but waiting for a real chemist to chime in.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2007
  7. Jan 14, 2007 #6
    Is the action of the baking soda simply due to the basicity? Would it work faster with a strong base like NaOH/KOH?
  8. Jan 14, 2007 #7
    Actually, these things probably need formal consideration. Why are there no products marketed for this purpose (other than liquid detergent and steel wool, which are suboptimal)? I think I'll need to do some thorough, controlled, documented experimentation here.
  9. Jan 14, 2007 #8
    On second thought, there's a polycarbonate container involved also (blender), so acetone/ethyl acetate is ruled out. Other reasonable solvents - methanol? Pentane?

    What about strong oxidizers, like bleach and "oxygen bleach" (peroxide)? I saw a cleaning product marketed for laundry in CVS, contains percarbonates, what about those?
  10. Jan 14, 2007 #9


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    My wife suggests (from experience) to soak the pan in hot water and dishsoap overnight and then scrub with baking soda (which is non-abrasive).

    Chemically, carbon disulphide (CS2) might work - but it reeks like rotten eggs.

    Or use Citrusol - http://citrusol.com/index.html - or see their industrial page -

    Or use Goop, which I used to use on heavy duty grease and carbon deposits on my hands and arms. http://www.goophandcleaner.com/orange_v2.htm
    http://www.goophandcleaner.com/original_v2.htm - probably available at a hardware store - one of these fine retailers ( :biggrin: ) - http://www.goophandcleaner.com/get_goop_v2.html
  11. Jan 14, 2007 #10
    Or maybe a stronger surfactant, one not marketed for dish use? Something in the laundry or carpet-cleaning sectors?
  12. Jan 14, 2007 #11
    Awesome, a whole list of suggestions! Thanks Astro!
  13. Jan 14, 2007 #12
    the baking soda method works because of basicity. NaOH or KOH would probably work faster, but you would have a hard time finding it. Plus dumping out a really basic solution made of KOH or NaOH wouldn't be good for the environment.

    lol im still recovering from the "waiting for a real chemist" comment.
  14. Jan 14, 2007 #13
    Found one solution; the marketed "antibacterial" spray I have (mixed alkyl/benzyl/methyl ammonium chlorides) has some awesome degreaser in it, took care of the blender fine.
  15. Jan 14, 2007 #14
    Huh? I'm not sure what that means - the intention was "I had been thinking about both, but I had been waiting for a real chemist to chime in". What did you think it meant? :confused:
  16. Jan 14, 2007 #15
    Why? What's a tiny bit of extra sodium salt? I bet some people eat more sodium in a day.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2007
  17. Jan 14, 2007 #16
    Astronuc, hope you're kidding with that CS2 suggestion... :uhh:

    Don't know about "citrusol", but I did notice a d-limonene product the other day at CVS.
  18. Jan 14, 2007 #17


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    My suggestions:

    1. The basics - baking soda + a little surfactant (a tsp of dishwasher soap, preferably powder) + gentle heat (oven at 150F) + agitation (I don't know, put your boombox in the oven?) OR 6-8 tabs of alka seltzer for a liter of water (alkalinity + effervescence for agitation) + a little surfactant OR oven cleaner + surfactant + gentle heat + lots of ventilation

    2. Go acidic: regular coca cola (not diet) + heat (on stove top, till boiling) OR vinegar + soap OR citrus cleaner

    3. Non-polar: carbon disulfide (read MSDS - for flammability and toxicity - and subsequently clean thoroughly)

    4. Pretty damn toxic and/or carcinogenic: Trichloroethylene OR Methylene chloride OR carbon tetrachloride (these, you want to avoid)
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2007
  19. Jan 14, 2007 #18


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    Rach - what were you sauteing?
  20. Jan 14, 2007 #19
    Baking soda + little surfactant --> solid NaOH + industrial degreaser
    gentle heat --> oxyacetylene torch
    coca cola --> conc. phosphoric acid

    otherwise the effect is too small, too slow, too impatient. Good idea in principle, though.

    Are you kidding? An extremely flammable, volatile, CNS toxin? For washing dishes???

    CH2Cl2 (methylene chloride, dichloromethane, DCM) is significantly less toxic than the other two, though it's low boiling point makes up for it. The other two are well-known caricinogens. I'm not aware that any of the three have made it into commercial products; for sure none of them will enter my kitchen!!! :grumpy:
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2007
  21. Jan 14, 2007 #20
    About all these "soak overnight" crap - yes that's a good START, but given the vast knowledge of 21st century industrial chemistry, can't we improve on that? I've already found one vastly superior alternative; "Fantastik heavy-duty antibacterial" spray (all-purpose), contaning mixed alkyl/aryl ammonium chlorides, has a very powerful degreaser in it and did what overnight soakings in liquid detergent, multiple dishwasher runs, high-temperature water, etc. could not, in SECONDS. Let's start from there; that's the best candidate so far.
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