This 2-Ingredient Combo Removes Sticky Residue Off Appliances — and It’s Seriously Impressive

published Nov 7, 2022
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

In the midst of selling my apartment (and caring for my new baby) I got a call from my estate agent, asking if they could come and photograph my property in a week. Suddenly I saw my home with new eyes — eager eyes that might want to buy it, instead of my tired eyes that want to sell it and move on — and I began to notice the state of everything

I’d been doing the bare minimum “survival cleaning” for weeks. If the surfaces were wiped down, the dishes washed, and the floor swept, I had considered my kitchen clean enough. But clean enough won’t impress homebuyers in the current market.

Suddenly I could see the smeared handprints on the cabinets, all the appliances cluttering the countertops, and the cupboard door hanging at an angle because we hadn’t quite gotten around to replacing the missing hinge. 

So my husband got out his power drill and fixed the cupboard door. I wiped down the cabinets to remove those handprints and temporarily relocated the air fryer and the slow cooker. And when the kitchen was actually tidy, I finally noticed the sticky, greasy residue that had built up on surfaces like my toaster and stove hood. 

That sticky residue is oil that evaporated during cooking and resettled on any exposed surfaces in the kitchen. When left too long it gathers dust, clinging to the oil like glue. Over time, layers of oil and dust can build into a hard-to-clean residue.

In a moment of serendipity (or maybe the algorithms really do know far too much about us for our own good), I landed on an Instagram Reel from cleaning influencers @TheTidyPeople with a solution to this very problem. 

The video recommends a surprising combination to get rid of that sticky build-up: oil and vinegar. While more commonly found in a salad dressing, oil and vinegar are an effective way to clean that sticky residue. Lora Ladd, who runs the account as well as her own cleaning business, explains that the oil loosens hardened grease, while the acidity of white vinegar breaks down food debris.

You can use any cheap cooking oil or mineral oil and basic white vinegar for this trick. Here’s what you do: First, apply cooking oil and scrub with a brush to the area. Then spray with white vinegar and buffer with a dry towel. Finally, wash with dish soap to get rid of any oil and vinegar, and buffer again until clean.

Credit: Zoe Pickburn
What the top of my fridge looked like before cleaning.

I tried this hack on the caked-on grease on top of my fridge — and it actually worked. I also tried washing a separate section with just dish soap, and I could see the difference. The oil and vinegar took less scrubbing and got a better result.

Credit: Zoe Pickburn
The result of cleaning with oil and vinegar.

Sometimes, however, you’ll need a little more than salad dressing to banish the sticky residue. “Not all appliances are created equally,” says Ladd, “so you want to take a couple of different approaches.”

Credit: Zoe Pickburn
The result of cleaning with dish soap.

If the oil and vinegar combo doesn’t work immediately, try pre-treating the surface with an all-purpose spray to saturate and loosen any food debris. Then wipe down using a wet and soapy towel, which gets into the debris and lifts it off the surface. Use oil and vinegar to remove any remaining grease stains that are hardened to the surface. 

Alternatively, if you need extra grit to break it down further, Ladd recommends scrubbing with a paste of one part baking soda and one part water. 

Even with the oil and vinegar trick, you might have to be patient and work away at the residue. “Sometimes we think about cleaning as being something that’s really easy,” says Ladd. “You see something online, and you think it’s gonna be easy, but it does take some elbow grease at times.”