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Tips for Pot Cleaning

First, thanks for a wonderful web site. While I only discovered it this afternoon, I've already covered a fair bit of the reading. By and large, great stuff!

However, one point that you have made alarms me greatly, and I consider it down right dangerous.

The suggestion to use sand or fine gravel instead of a scouring pad for dirty pots and pans invites disaster.

This idea is a hold over from World War II boot camps and long outmoded Scout books. Too many soldiers and Scouts have suffered anything from mild stomach upset or diarrhea, to debilitating dysentery, dehydration, or worse.

Sand or gravel scrubbed into a metal pot or pan will leave coarse and irregular scrapes, scratches and gouges in the metal surface. These scratches will eventually collect trapped food particles, soap film, etc., and be next to impossible to clean, especially if particles have become dried or burnt onto the surface at some time. Also, these scratches take longer to dry out due to capillary action within these small surfaces. Old food and moisture invite every awful bug, known and unknown, to breed with abandon, waiting only for the addition of more food and moisture in tepid conditions to allow them to explode in number.

Let's face it, the "trots" is no fun at anytime, let alone miles from the trailhead. Lying under a pine tree, wondering which end of one's aching anatomy is going blow up next is not my personal idea of enjoyable backpacking. Did you count out enough squares of "all-purpose paper" when you packed?

In a worst case type of scenario, a backpacker may be unable to eat, control themselves, travel, or even keep down water for a period of several days. Just 2 or 3 days of dehydration, combined with a weakened condition, in a desert, mountainous, cold, or other type of remote area can too easily become a life threatening condition.

I will gladly carry a small corner of a green Scotch pad type scouring pad in its ever present little zip lock baggie. They don't rust, dry fairly quickly and will hold up for a full season. I'm only talking about a piece of 3 or 4 square inches in area at the most. Nope, I have never gotten around to weighing stuff. But I do consider what I carry, and how to improve upon that load.

Other techniques that I've heard of include using a wood chip to scrape away most food stuffs from pots, even stuck on foods, without scratching. Since almost no one carries an ax anymore, (nor should they, ) a whittled end of a green stick might be used, and still not cause the scratching or gouging problem. Soaking a pot with a bit of water over a low heat goes a long way to making even the cheesiest, eggiest, burned on mess softer and easier to clean. If the hard stuff is scraped out, then only a corner of a wash cloth will be needed to keep those high dollar titanium pots looking shiny and well cared for.

Pot cleaning is always easiest when food is well prepared, not burned, and pots are quickly wiped out before anything has a chance to dry or stick to the pot. Warm wash water and fingertips can even get a pot clean in these circumstances - to be followed up by the hottest rinse water that may be had.

Author:  Rich Hawes

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