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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

How to Clean Aluminum Baking Sheets



Sure the tray looks good now. But how do you clean it when the cookies are gone?
Sure the tray looks good now. But how do you clean it when the cookies are gone?

In my younger days, I wanted so badly to be a basketball coach.

I loved the game but also knew that I didn’t have the same physical gifts that many of my peers did, so coaching the game was my way of staying close to it.

Anyway, I was able to land a spot with a former coach I had helping out at his new school. The catch? I had to work at that school in order to be eligible. So without a teaching degree, I took a position as a “chef” in the school cafeteria (I am using the word chef very loosely here).

While “chefing” around I began to notice a troubling build up of grease, gunk, and other nasty brown and black marks on our aluminum baking sheets. Bored of my actual job, I made it my mission to get these back to their old shiny selves again. I’ll tell you how I came about this method later, but first I’ll tell you how I did it.

The easiest way to get your baking sheet sparkling new again is by following these steps:

How to clean aluminum baking sheets

  1. Wash the pan
  2. Sprinkle some baking soda (Amazon) on it
  3. Pour hydrogen peroxide on top of the baking soda
  4. Add more baking soda
  5. Give it time to set in
  6. Wipe away
  7. Wash and dry again

You’re probably thinking right now, “I thought you said this would be easy.” Well, don’t let the long 7-step process fool you, it is unbelievably simple.

How I came across this method

I started by using some brillo pads and scrubbing as hard as I could, my fingers took the brunt of the beating here, and the pan barely looked any better. So I improvised.

I stepped into the pantry area we had in the back of the kitchen and picked up some baking soda. After that, I went to the first aid kit and took some hydrogen peroxide, and got to work.

Once I put on the cleaning solution I made and was ready to get to scrubbing, the woman in charge walked in scolding me for wasting time (remember, I decided to do this because I was bored with my actual job).

Unexpected wait time

Naturally, I got back to work and handled the lunch money for the students. Once lunch was finally over, and it was time to pack up and go home, I was faced with cleaning the mess I made previously in the kitchen.

As any 18-year-old kid would do, I decided to completely abandon my mission to get these sheets sparkly again so I could get home faster (we didn’t have practice that day). I decided I would just wash the now lumpy mess that was on the pans, put them back where they belonged and wash them the next day before anybody noticed. That’s when it happened:

The miracle of peroxide and baking soda

I was stunned to find that when I removed the gunky build up of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, the nastiness that had built up over the years on the baking sheets went right along with it.

Want brand new baking sheets?
This one from Amazon comes with a silicone mat.

You might think, I was so amazed that I stayed behind to continue my mission of restoring the beloved baking sheets. But no, I was not that dedicated to my project. But I did take note of that moment, stored it in the back of my brain, and have been using this method ever since.

Get out your sponges! It's time to clean aluminum baking sheets.
Get out your sponges at Amazon. It’s time to clean aluminum baking sheets.

Other methods

Over the years I have heard some other methods that people swear by. Most of them include some powder and liquid combination to make a paste like substance (very similar to my discovery several years back).

But others seem silly at best.

Such as: using dryer sheets. This method assumes I guess, that the dryer sheet will loosen up the caked on dirt and grease when put in the pan with boiling water. My experience has told me that the heat from the boiling water is probably doing all the work here. I really don’t feel adding a dryer sheet is necessary.

There are some more that I do like, however. There’s a method that many seem to use that mixes baking soda, vinegar and salt. It appears to work pretty well, but only with coarse salt. Personally, I’d rather not use my salt for cleaning. It is far more valuable to me as a seasoning.

Perfecting my method

Over the years I have made slight adjustments to how I clean aluminum anything, and the biggest change came when I began cooking with stainless steel tools. Cleaning stainless steel requires some more work than regular cookware, and a product called “Bar Keepers Friend (Amazon)” is incredibly useful.

I now swear by this stuff because of its polishing ability. And eventually I figured, why not add some “BFK” to the paste and see if it helps any. Not surprisingly to me, it did. My pans are now not just somewhat cleaner, but much shinier than they were before.

Wrap – Up

As time passed, I realized that people have been using this method to clean their pans for years. This hurt me a little because I thought I found something that nobody else knew about. But like they say, “There is nothing new under the sun.” No matter… if you weren’t aware of it before, I’m glad I got to pass down this apparent age-old trick to you.

Additional Resources