Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

Invest in SOS pads.

I grew up with these little gems, using them for stainless steel, glass, and chrome. They cleaned beautifully. My mom also taught me to use it on our enamel stove top to really get those tough burnt on tidbits removed. I recently rediscovered this versatile tool, and realized I should never have let it go.

When we bought our home there were no useable appliances, requiring us to invest in a brand new ones. I was really excited when we found a gas stove with a continuous grate, and a 5th middle burner. I knew, with our large family, filling the range with bubbling pots was a reality I needed to address. Sure enough we started using our new stove the minute it was installed. I cook breakfast (oatmeal), often lunch (mac and cheese, soup), and dinner on top of that appliance, so you can imagine how often it needs cleaning. Just about every evening I take the grates off, and wipe down the gleaming white enamel. Occasionally something gets stuck, and needs a little more elbow grease. I had gotten in the habit of using a green scrubby for my stainless dishes, and then polishing them with Bar Keeper's Friend. This was working well for my dishes, but what I didn't realize was that it didn't have quite the umph necessary for a good clean on my stovetop.

About 6 weeks after using my stove I noticed a chip in the enamel next to one of the burners. I was sick! What on earth could have caused this? And what was I going to do about it? Earlier that day I had been spraying white gloss enamel into my medicine cabinets for a clean finish. I had some left over, and grabbed it for the job. After cleaning the stove for superior adhesion, I taped off the burner and gave a few short bursts to cover the nick. Sure enough, in no time flat, the chip was covered and my beautiful white stove was returned to me, sans blemish. I was so proud of my ingenuity.

However, I had second thoughts about my rather rash decision to use the spray-paint enamel I had on hand when I needed to blast the burner for a high boil a few days later. I worried that the paint would burn, and rightly so because after my pasta was done I had a glob the color of roasted marshmallows along the side of the burner. Now, instead of a small nick I had a brown spot roughly the size of a quarter. But I knew what to do! I was now convicted of my folly for not thinking through the specialized tasks of the stovetop, but I would not repeat my mistake. I went to The Home Depot for appliance enamel touch up paint. Sure enough, they had a whole variety of colors to match today's common finishes. However, proudly displayed on the label of every brand was a warning that the paint was not intended for use on the top of stoves where exposure to heat was certain. Thankfully a worker told me about a specialty store that sold wood-burning stoves, and parts. They also had touch-up paints which might be more specifically designed for heat-resistance. I made a mental note to get over to the stove store, and in the meantime I continued cleaning my stove with my green scrubby.

Well, several other projects, a baby, and 4 months of life later I still had not gotten over to the stove store. But last night I was using an SOS pad (which my mother purchased, since I didn't have any on hand) when I realized that my stove was in need of a thorough cleaning. I started working the pad over the top, noticing with pleasure how quickly the little spots of burnt on dinner disappeared. As I raced it along the surface where the nick was covered by burned spray-paint I saw that some of the "patch" was lifted! Perhaps I could scrub away the old paint, leaving just the original nick. Ironically I now wished all I had was that small nick, instead of that glob of brown adorning my beautiful stove all these months. I ran the SOS pad across it again, this time with a little more elbow grease. It appeared to be working on more of my patch. Now I was inspired and I got to really working, putting all my effort into that 2 inch square piece of steel wool. After several minutes the glob was noticeably smaller, and after several more minutes it seemed that I would be successful in getting back to the original nick!

Then the unthinkable happened.

I began to see the original nick surfacing under the burned on spray paint I was working so hard to remove. "Just a few more moments," I thought. But suddenly the brown paint was gone, and so was the nick! I blinked in astonishment. I ran my hand over the perfectly smooth, chip-free surface. What? 

There was no nick. I had spray painted over a small piece of burnt on food which my green scrubby could not loosen, but which my SOS pad had not only cleaned, but perfectly removed the spray paint covering it! The moral of of this week's Tuesday's Tip is:

Use SOS scrub pads BEFORE you paint over it.

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