Cleaning off Aluminum Foil stuck to a cooktop
We occasionally get questions from home chefs who’ve run into trouble with their ceramic glass cooktops. Recently Jeanne Huber from the Washington Post asked for Ted’s help for a home chef whose new ceramic glass cooktop had melted aluminum foil on the surface. Here’s a link to that article (to find the cooktop question, scroll down past the cabinet door question) The Washington Post Home & Garden. We’ve expanded on that topic, including the tests we did with melted aluminum foil and cleaning photos.Summary: Aluminum foil should never touch your glass-ceramic cooktop while it’s hot.
“I know, I know- why didn’t I tell you that BEFORE you had to search for it?!? “
I assume if you’re reading this, you accidentally melted some aluminum foil to your cooktop. There is good news and bad news… The bad news is you can most likely never completely remove the damage. The good news is you can clean up most of the mess and continue to use your cooktop as normal, possibly hiding the stain under a cute tea kettle when you have visitors.
How to clean melted-on aluminum foil- the short version:
How to clean melted-on aluminum foil- the long version with detailed photos:
In my experience, the difficulty of cleaning and the final result depend on how soon after “the incident” you attempt to remove the aluminum, and on how close the aluminum foil contacted the hot cooking surface. The clean-up will not be easy.
These photos compare melted aluminum foil cleaned immediately upon cooling (left photo) to cleaning following a longer waiting time including reheating (right photo) simulating the benefit of cleaning up melted aluminum foil as soon as possible without allowing to re-melt to the surface.
DO NOT try to reheat the foil hoping it will become easier to remove. In fact, stop using the affected burner until you’ve cleaned it. It is fine to use the other, non-foil attacked burners. Reheating might work to remove foil in other situations, but it makes the foil melted on your cooktop even worse looking. As you can see in this photo, when you reheat the melted foil and try to scrape it off while hot, the bits of aluminum you remove reattach to the glass and re-melt in metallic streaks. This makes the stain larger and more noticeable.STEPS TO MITIGATE:
STEP 1: With the cooking surface cool, start the cleaning process with a metal razor scraper. No cleaner or liquid is used in this first step; only the dry razor scraper. You’ll need to be aggressive; this is the step where you will remove the majority of the aluminum stain. Hold the scraper at an angle and try to get under the foil and scrape away as much as possible. But do not gouge the glass with the corners of the blade. Watch your fingers too- don’t make the situation worse by cutting yourself or scratching the ceramic glass surface with the sharp blade. If you haven’t used a razor scraper to clean your cooktop before, see our post about general cleaning to practice the right angle and technique for scraping. Scrape away the top layers of foil, the corners, etc. When you get frustrated, step away a moment and come back to scrape some more. I said this wasn’t going to be easy.
Here’s what you might be left with after diligent scraping. Note that all future cleaning steps will result in minor improvement, and this might be what your cooktop is going to look like from now on.
Breathe and take a moment to think about buying a cute sturdy tea kettle to hide this under.
STEP 2: Now we move on to the wet cleaning steps. Use your favorite liquid cooktop cleaner labeled for use on glass-ceramic “smooth top” ranges.
Do not use cleaners for window glass, such as Windex or other ammonia-based cleaners.
Squirt the cleaner directly on the stain and buff with a clean paper towel. Rinse with water and dry with clean paper towel.
If you’d like to get more aggressive, a paste of baking soda and water may provide more grit for polishing off stains. Note that baking soda could contain hard particles that could scratch the ceramic glass surface, so use a trusted brand and test a small area to be sure it’s not scratching.
Keep in mind, the more aggressive you go on abrasive the more likely scratches show up on a high-gloss back surface.
After all your efforts, you may be left with something similar to this stain, shown in the next photo.
The appearance of your stain now represents the best you can do for melted aluminum foil. Once you’ve flushed off all the cleaner with water and buffed dry with clean paper towels, it’s OK to use the cooktop, including this stained area as usual. If you look closely at the ceramic glass surface in the area of the stain, you will likely see pits where bits of the surface have chipped away. The melted aluminum foil reacts with the ceramic glass surface and damages it permanently when the foil is forcibly removed. Luckily, this is a cosmetic stain, and the cooktop will function normally.
A quick internet search will provide many other ideas to try on a melted aluminum foil cooktop. Here are a few that you should not try since I did it for you:
Effect on Foil Stain
Sodium Hydroxide, aka Caustic/lye
The ceramic-glass surface pitted and hazed, no foil removal
Nasty. I did this under a fume hood with protective equipment. Suggest you not try this.
VINEGAR + SALT
5% Acetic Acid
No change to foil or ceramic-glass surface
The acetic acid can damage the glass-ceramic surface, especially if heat is added, i.e. burners turned on
Effect on Foil Stain
No effect on foil stain and no effect on ceramic glass surface
The sodium hydroxide can damage the cooktop surface if heat is added, i.e. burner turned on