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Years ago, when we rid our family of foods that my children were reacting to and stopped buying plastic items, we thought we were done. I had not considered that there was another danger lurking in my kitchen: toxic cookware. Here are the 4 main types that can be problematic.
Three Types of Toxic Cookware
Nonstick cookware, which is usually made of Teflon, may give off toxic chemicals when heated. These chemicals are called perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). They have been linked to tumors, cancers, thyroid imbalance and delayed brain development, as well as ADHD in children.
2. Traditional Slow Cookers
These can also leech toxic chemicals. If you use a slow cooker, unless you have a lead-‐free glass, stainless steel or ceramic insert, you may be leaching lead, cadmium or PFCs into your food. Contrary to what most people think, lead poisoning is still a problem in America. Cadmium, too, has been linked to cancers and can negatively impact the central nervous system.
Aluminum, found in tin foil as well as low-end cookware, is a known neurotoxin that has been linked to illnesses including Alzheimer’s and cancer. It can leach into your food when heated, especially if you are cooking acidic foods.
Four Nontoxic Solutions
Once we banned these kitchen products, we had to find safe cookware. I was thrilled to find these (mostly) affordable solutions.
1. Cast Iron Cookware
These can be found in your local store, such as Target, and come in a variety of shapes and size. We have lots of pieces but we can always use more! You can use them for anything including baking but acidic foods can harm the coating. For that, we use the next item.
2. Nontoxic One-Pot Cooker
We use a ceramic slow cooker, but many people swear by the few stainless steel one-pot cookers on the market. Both do a great job on a variety of meals, from chili to yogurt, depending on which model you buy. The investment here is heavy, though, especially if you are used to cheap crockpots. You’ll want to keep this cooker in good, working order.
3. Glass Bakeware
As long as it’s lead-free, you can feel safe using glass bakeware or even glass pots. They are harder to locate but do exist. When cooking with glass you should coat with oil or butter before baking to prevent sticking, even if you are making a dish swimming in liquid.
4. Stainless Steel Bakeware
We strictly use our stainless steel for baking. Stainless steel pots and pans often have a mixture of metals, usually nickel or cadmium. There is a debate about whether these leach but I personally feel safer with glass and cast iron, but both are impractical for cooking things like muffins or cookies. If you are going to buy stainless steel cookware and are worried about leaching, make sure you buy a high quality brand and always use parchment paper for when baking.
Cleaning Your Nontoxic Cookware
All these items can be very difficult to clean, particularly if a piece of food gets stuck on. Cast iron needs to remain dry. Glassware can go in the dishwasher, more often than not this will simply bake on the dirt. Stainless steel is a challenge to get scrub clean and the ceramic pots are very delicate. What’s a nontoxic cook to do? I go to my trusted brand in sponges. Scotch-Brite® provides me the right tools for every surface. I’ve been using this brand for years and feel good about using it. Whenever another brand of sponge ends up in my kitchen (when the husband goes shopping, that is), it never works as well.
Blue Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch Scrub Sponges®
For my delicate cleaning needs, Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch Scrub Sponges just plain work. I can get my glass pans gleaming, my stainless steel bright and my cast iron looking brand new. You can safely use them on counter tops, cook tops, tubs, shower tile, window and dishes without scratching. Look for the blue sponge by Scotch-Brite.
Green Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Scrub Sponges®
While I try to keep up to date with all my cleaning, though, there are times when I just don’t have time to remove all the spots. I’d rather have a clean container than a perfect one, so that’s when I use Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Scrub Sponges. These green sponges will get out your toughest stain, even if you are using a DIY formula made from baking soda. They’re great around the areas you don’t normally get to on a regular basis, like the garage and outdoors areas, but work well for your kitchen too. That’s important for someone who can’t always get to the cleaning I’d like to do! You can use these sponges on pots, pans, oven racks, grill racks, tools, tires and sinks. They remove tough, baked-on messes 50% faster than other competitive sponges. Like I said, other brands just don’t work for me.
Scotch-Brite also makes both a Non-Scratch and Heavy Duty version of their Soap Dispensing Dishwand®, which really makes clean up a breeze! They clean just like the sponges but you can control the soap with the dispensing pump.
Cast Iron Cleaning
When you’re using cast iron, you must remember to season it from time to time to prevent rust. Rub in your favorite oil, set your oven in the low 200s and let it heat for 20-40 minutes. You’re supposed to see smoke come off but I’ve never let it go that long and they still get seasoned. Cast iron stays nicely seasoned if you use it frequently too.
To clean, you can let it soak if you have a tough stain (like rice) as long as you don’t keep it sitting too long – overnight is a no-no. Scrape off anything crusted on with a scraper or a non-scratch sponges Always make sure you completely dry it once clean. I also use dish soap on my cast iron at times but often find that hot water and a good sponge does the trick! (Gentle dish liquid does not strip the coating but do be careful when cleaning!)
Cleaning Ceramic Pots
Ceramic pans are extremely delicate and scratch really easily, requiring a soft cloth or non-scratch sponge. Do not let them soak overnight or sit with food in it for a long time. I recommend cleaning them as soon as they are cool, so you can get any stains off.
Stainless Steel and Glass Scrubbing
If you clean out burnt stains, you can put glass and even stainless steel in the dishwasher, however, I recommend hand washing as soon you can. These too require a non-scratch sponge, but if you have a piece as badly damaged as the one in the picture above, go heavy duty.
All Natural Cleaning Recipe
Like I said, glass, stainless steel, ceramic and cast iron get some nasty stains. I’m extremely busy too, so I don’t always get the chance to clean a particular piece as well as I’d like to. That’s why it’s so important to have good cleaning supplies on hand.
When dish soap is just not cutting it for a caked on stain, you can easily whip up a nontoxic and affordable cleaning solution to solve the problem. Because these are cleaning tools and not for cooking, I buy the most affordable version of these ingredients that I can and keep them just for housekeeping.
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1/3 cup hot water
- 1/3 cup vinegar (white is best, but you can use apple cider vinegar if you’re out)
- 6-7 drops lemon essential oil (optional but it cuts the vinegar smell nicely)
Mix all the ingredients well and coat your difficult stains or the whole dish with the mixture. A basting brush works well. Let set for 10-15 minutes. Then scrub.
Try the blue Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge first. If this is an old stain, the green Heavy Duty Scrub Sponge might be required. Reapply mixture as needed until the stain is removed.
Did it work? Here is the same dish you can see from above. Not too shabby!
What homemade recipes do you use to clean tough spots on your delicate cookware? Share with us!
Want to find more great cleaning inspiration? Check them out here. Best yet, you can get a good deal on these sponges! Save now on Scotch-Brite® Scrub Sponges at Target with this Cartwheel offer.