If You're Not Cleaning Baking Sheets With This Essential, You're Doing It Wrong

According to a 2021 survey commissioned by Birds Eye and Kelton Global, the average American spends about 25 minutes every day washing dishes — which adds up to a total of six days every year (via PR Newswire). All that time spent scrubbing at the sink isn't just exhausting; it could also be bad for your cookware, especially nonstick baking sheets. Scrubbing with a rough sponge or spatula to force stuck-on grease to come up before it's loosened can damage the baking sheet's nonstick coating, making it even more susceptible to scratches, stains, and gunk in the future. Stuck-on stains and discoloration can be so hard to remove that many of us just opt to ignore the stains or cover the pan with foil each time. But you don't have to live with the ick; the solution to cleaner cookware could be right under your kitchen sink. Next time you're wrestling with dirty baking sheets, reach for a dishwasher detergent tablet. 

While rough sponges and extensive scrubbing can make matters worse, the powerful soaps and gentle abrasive qualities of a dishwasher tablet are just the thing to get your baking sheets back to their clean and shiny selves — especially if you love the "let it soak" method of washing dishes. Here's how to use the hack and why dishwasher detergent tablets are a nonstick pan cleaning trick you should be using yourself

Dishwasher tablets offer concentrated cleaning power

Dishwasher tablets can do so much more than their label suggests, including blasting away baked-on gunk. To give your baking sheet a much-needed deep clean, start by filling a kettle or pot with water and setting it on the stove to boil. Lay your baking sheet on a flat surface (in the sink, if possible) and drop a dishwasher tablet onto the center. When your water reaches a boil, carefully pour it over the dishwasher tablet until it dissolves and fills the baking sheet with hot, sudsy water. Allow the dissolved tablet to work its magic for at least 20 minutes, then dump out the water and rinse the gunk away. If needed, follow up by washing normally with a soft sponge and you'll be amazed at how your baking sheet looks so much cleaner and brighter — no scrubbing required!

If dishwasher tablets are so effective, you may be wondering, "Why not just pop your baking sheet into the dishwasher?" Some baking sheets are dishwasher-safe, but most of them shouldn't be put in the dishwasher, especially nonstick baking sheets. While baking sheets can survive high oven temperatures, dishwasher cycles can still be too hot and abrasive, damaging the finish on your baking sheet. High pressure from the dishwasher cycle can also force water up into the edges of the pan, eventually causing it to rust and corrode. While the dishwasher cycle might be too powerful, the ingredients from dishwasher tablets are typically fine to use on baking sheets. Plus, using a whole tablet for handwashing the sheet provides a higher concentration of stain-fighting ingredients, instead of diluting and distributing it through the dishwasher cycle.  

The science behind the hack for cleaning baking sheets

What makes dishwasher tablets so much more effective than a regular soak with dish soap and water? Dishwasher detergent tablets can have varying chemical makeups depending on the brand, but most contain a few key stain-fighting ingredients: enzymes, oxygen-based bleaches, and alkaline salts. Sodium percarbonate, the most common oxygen-based bleach in dishwasher tablets, uses oxygen atoms to loosen and lift dark, oxidizable stains such as red wine or Worcestershire sauce. Alkaline salts dissolve grease, while enzymes such as protease and amylase work by attaching to and absorbing the stains on your baking sheet, particularly stains caused by proteins like meat and eggs or starches like breads and cookies. All of these factors make handwashing dishes with dishwasher detergent a smart hack for cleaning baking sheets, but you can also use the tablets on other pots, pans, and stubbornly stained cookware. If you don't have any solid dishwasher tablets on hand, you can test the hack using gel pods, loose powder detergent, or even liquid gel. 

Dishwasher tablets have a leg-up over regular dish soap because of these specialized stain-fighting ingredients. Ordinary liquid dish soap contains many of the same surfactants, but more foaming agents and gentle, moisturizing additives to help protect your skin. When you're handwashing a baking sheet with a dishwasher tablet, it's best to avoid contact with your skin, wear gloves while washing, and rinse and dry the baking sheet thoroughly before using it to prepare food again.