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Tough and dirty – how to clean your dirtiest dishes in the dishwasher

Even if your dishwasher has no problem handling day-to-day dishes and cutlery, cleaning particularly dirty pots, burnt pans and other challenging items can require extra effort. Find out how to achieve ultra-clean results every time with our pre-soaking, rinsing and product tips for tough stains.

How to clean a burnt pot in the dishwasher

We've all been there – take your eyes off a pot of risotto or a bubbling tomato sauce for just a minute and not only have you ruined your dinner, your stainless-steel cookware is also covered in a black crust so thick and hard, you think you'll have to wave farewell to your burnt pot for ever. However, if that burnt pot really is made of stainless steel, you're in luck. With a bit of soaking, the correct dishwasher settings and using the right cleaning product, you can clean a burnt pot and avoid tossing it.

1. In general, it's unnecessary to rinse or soak regular dirty dishes before loading the dishwasher. Obviously, a burnt pot is a slightly different matter, so soak it in warm water as quickly as possible. Do not use regular dish soap or any other additive at this stage. Water alone will help soften the crust. If you do decide to use an additive, make sure you rinse it off thoroughly before putting the pot in the dishwasher or any residue may affect the result.

How to clean a burnt pot in the dishwasher

2. Once the burnt pot has soaked for long enough, scrape the scorched bottom with a wooden spoon or spatula to remove the rough crust, then remove some more with plastic or steel wool scrubbers. 

3. Ideally, you should wash a burnt pot only with other particularly dirty dishes. After a party or a big dinner, it's best to do a light wash for plates and glasses and a heavy wash with your burnt pots, sticky pans and dirty oven dishes. If you don't have enough for a separate heavy-duty wash, then only wash your burnt pot with non-delicate and fragile dishes and leave the likes of wine glasses and fine china for another day. 

4. Don't overload the dishwasher and don't angle the pot the way you usually would to save space. The more room there is around your burnt pot, the more water will reach it and the cleaner it will get. Check if your dishwasher manual or the website of the manufacturer recommends a specific place for the dirtiest dishes. If not, load your burnt pot face-down on the bottom rack. 

5. Set your dishwasher to the highest possible programme. Depending on your model, this may be a high temperature, or it may be a “heavy-duty”, “dirty” or “pots and pans” setting.

6. In addition to the right cleaning product, hot water is an essential ingredient that will make the difference between clean and dirty dishes. If your tap can take a while to heat up, the same will apply to the water in your dishwasher, as most dishwashers draw hot water. To ensure that water is as hot as possible from the start, you can run the warm tap before starting the dishwasher. You could fill the kettle, for example, or a bucket for washing the floors, to avoid wasting water.

7. For the dirtiest of dirty dishes, we recommend Somat Gold, a multi-active dishwasher tablet with extra power to remove burnt food from dirty pots and pans. Resist the urge to double up – using two tablets won't make the results twice as clean. On the contrary, excess detergent can actually leave a residue that is hard to rinse off. See the video below to find out how these powerful tabs work.

8. Normally, you want to wait until your dishwasher's drying programme has completed its full cycle, but it's better to remove a burnt pot while it's still damp. That way, any scorched leftovers that weren't fully removed in the wash will still be soft and can easily be wiped off manually. In the drying process, they are baked back on to the pot and you'll end up back where you started.

How to clean a burnt pan in the dishwasher

Most of the above steps for cleaning a burnt pot also apply to cleaning a burnt pan – if it's stainless steel! However, if your pots of pans are made from anodized aluminium, you shouldn't wash them in the dishwasher at all. Non-stick, teflon-coated pots and pans can be dishwasher safe (check the bottom of the pot/pan, the packaging or the manufacturer website), but you should skip the steel wool in step 2. 

How to clean REALLY dirty dishes in the dishwasher

Once you've successfully cleaned a burnt pot or pan, mere dirty dishes may seem like a piece of cake, but there are some additional things that you should keep in mind:

1. Only wash dirty dishes on a heavy-duty cycle if you are sure that they are robust enough to withstand the high heat.

2. You can't place all dirty dishes face-down like you did with a burnt pot or pan, but you should definitely allow more space between them. For example, you could leave an empty space between two particularly dirty plates. 

3. Re-think how you load your dishwasher when items that usually go on the top shelf are dirtier than usual. For example, a coffee mug that has been used to bake a cake in a mug should go on the bottom shelf, even if you normally put it on top.

4. Dirty oven dishes can be almost as hard to clean as burnt pots and pans, so soak them as described above (in water only) if necessary.

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