This is more than just a straight forward how-to, since it wasn’t me who figured out how to do this, but my girlfriend. I did, however, figure out two ways you CAN’T clean aluminum foil off the bottom of your oven’s drip pan though! And to me, that’s almost better than just a solution! Okay, maybe not really, but at least I can keep you from wasting your time.
I guess you’re not supposed to put aluminum foil to cover the bottom of your oven if there is already a broiler pan in there. This is a pan placed above the bottom coils or burner unit to keep dripping oil, juices, etc from hitting the elements and catching on fire. The logical thing to do would be to cover this to clean it easier. Not so much.
Since the pan and then the foil is directly above the bottom heater element, it experiences intense heat. This actually melts, burns, and fuses the aluminum to the pan, which is usually just enamel coated.
On most of the help forums my girlfriend found on getting this stuff off were just littered with scathing comments on “you should’ve read the manual stupid” rather than actual help. So she removed the pan and after trying a C.L.R. and then a mixture of baking soda and water (also found online) to no avail, she handed it over to me to see what I could do. Since I’ve done all sorts of stuff with cast iron and refinishing stuff on my motorcycle, I figured I could work some garage magic on it.
How NOT To Do It
Since it was metal on metal, I figured a brass bristle brush would pull it off easy. It works for light rust, scale, or burned grease. Nope. A hand brush (looks like a tooth brush) did nothing.
So I turned to a brass cup, that attaches to your power drill. Something like this. This usually takes off paint, thicker rust, and oxidation. That did nothing but lightly scuff the alunium.
Since the aluminum was burned in a thin sheet in some spots and thick, hardened globs in others, I then resorted to the big artillery. My air-powered needle scaler. This thing takes off heavy rust, scale, and thick automotive paint. I used thing ferociously to strip paint off my motorcycle frame. I mean, welders use these to bust off weld splatter. Sailors use these to clean the hulls of naval ships.
Did it work? …. Hardly.
It did take off some of the larger globs, but it required a few passes and I was running the thing nearly non-stop. It’s also risky to use because if you spend too much time battering a single spot, you may start deforming the base metal itself.
How To Do It
So, what did work? A bottle of toilet bowl cleaner called “The Works” that costs less than $5 .My girlfriend found online someone who recommended it. Essentially, it contains hydrochloric acid which undergoes a chemical reaction via replacement with aluminum. Wow, I finally used college chemistry for once. Here’s the reaction equation:
2Al(s) + 6HCl(aq) –> 2AlCl3(aq) + 3H2(g)
The aluminum (Al) gets lifted off the enamel coated pan and bonds with the chloride (Cl) molecules, releasing hydrogen gas. It also releases a good amount of heat. Voila, the magic of science!
Do this outside, or in a very well ventilated area. Use rubber gloves. Pour some of the toilet bowl cleaner on, walk away for 10 minutes. You’ll immediately see bubbles, this is the hydrogen gas. You’ll also see the liquid turn silvery, that’s the aluminum foil going into solution. Rinse this stuff off with water into a bucket, dump the bucket into your toilet and flush it down the drain. You may need to repeat this a few times.
Once all the aluminum is gone, scrub it with soap and water and rinse again. Let it dry for a good long time (it may still smell like bleach). If you put it back in your oven without cleaning it thoroughly, it’s going to stink to high heaven.
I’m sure anything with hydrochloric acid or some hydroxide would work, like Drano, which contains sodium hydroxide. However, The Works is the cheapest solution and it works just the same! You can find it online at Amazon for around $4, or at Wal-mart for about $2!
Hope this helped! Good luck!