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As you know, sometimes the best scraping tool in the kitchen for cleaning up is your own fingernails.

The only thing I know of that compares in terms of effectiveness is metal, but you shouldn't use metal on many things, such as cast iron or teflon pans.

Is there anything that can match the effectiveness of fingernails, but that isn't so hard it scratches like metal?

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    I am a bit confused by this question, because I can't recall the time when fingernails were the best scraping tool. They do a pretty bad job of it, and if I ever use them, it's because I am too lazy to get something else, not because they are effective.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 14 '20 at 7:31
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    What nonmetal items do you use that are better then? A wooden spoon is a close second for me. But I've never used a spatula that could remove tiny bits stuck on a cast iron pan like fingernails. Could be your fingernails aren't hard or break easily?
    – BVernon
    Oct 14 '20 at 8:06
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    Wooden knife made exactly for removing stuck food. Nail is good for removing because you can apply force more directly. So if you made yourself a tool that allow you to pry and scratch things from wood it will have similar effect. Oct 14 '20 at 9:05
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    What do you want to scrape and why? The specific job will likely yield the best suggestions.
    – moscafj
    Oct 14 '20 at 11:13
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    My nails are quite durable, thank you :) but the shape alone is already a problem, gouging the dirt rather than removing it. Spatulas, scrapers, brushes, scrubby sponges, mesh sponges, those little packets of metal wire with a piece of soap enclosed - all work well for me, and better than nails. Unless we are talking about a single small spot of dirt (2-3 mm) that is disloged with a nail in one go. But for that, why search for a different utensil at all, when getting it removed is less work than grabbing a tool.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 14 '20 at 16:49

12 Answers 12

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Try searching for "pan scrapers." I have a pair from Lodge that has served me well, though you can find almost identical scrapers without the branding.

pan scraper

These are essentially equivalent to the scrapers mentioned by ChrisH, but with curves to make it easier to clean the edges of your pans

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    I have some from Pampered chef that are similar. The work great, and don't scratch anything because they are plastic. Oct 14 '20 at 15:14
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    Yup, I originally had a couple that came from Pampered Chef with a pizza stone, they've got lost over the years but I've replaced them with ones identical, all bar the logo, to the Lodge ones. I don't know how people manage without them. The big advantage is that there is nowhere for food to get trapped on the scraper itself, unlike a pan scrubber.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 14 '20 at 16:14
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    Lodge also has some scrapers that are made for grill pans. And I'll 100% recommend them. They're a good stiffness / hardness for scraping cast iron pans, and I really like each corner having a different radius. (George Forman grills also came with a scraper that was more like a notched putty knife, which worked well for non-stick stuff, but it was much softer and didn't hold up to heat)
    – Joe
    Oct 14 '20 at 16:54
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    @AndrewLeach probably with this method
    – BruceWayne
    Oct 15 '20 at 19:41
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    Thought it was nice of you to take a picture with you using it while cleaning a pan, then I clicked the link and saw it's the official picture from their website lol
    – Quantic
    Oct 15 '20 at 21:37
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I feel your pain. Dough and sourdough starter seem to find ways of sneaking onto my worktop when I'm not looking, and drying there; as it's solid wood I can't soak them off, and do end up using my nails.

A few things things spring to mind, depending on the task:

  • Plastic ice scrapers for freezers work on fairly large flat surfaces. (That's what I should use, but I can never be bothered to find mine)
  • Some washing up brushes (often the cheap ones, not the one I have from Ikea) have a chisel-shaped scraper on the back. Here's a slightly unusual example.
  • During cooking or on hot stuff, a flat wooden spatula is good (and very cheap). The one I've pictured tapers to a good edge for scraping. They can be reshaped with sandpaper if you like. I choose one for some cooking tasks so it's ready preemptively, to scrape before things burn on.
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  • Agreed on a set of brushes -- they're great for getting into corners and such. (and cleaning out bottles). And I love my wooden spatulas ... I usually use them when I'm deglazing to clean my pans.
    – Joe
    Oct 14 '20 at 17:00
  • Yes! I've not seen a flat wooden spatula and hadn't thought to look for one, but my wooden spoon is usually pretty effective... only problem being the tiny surface area a rounded object can cover. Def going to look for a flat one now.
    – BVernon
    Oct 14 '20 at 21:04
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What about 100 fingernails all scraping close to each other? That is one way I would describe the Scotch-Brite Dobie "all purpose cleaning pad".

Here's a picture:

enter image description here

Image source

It's a plastic mesh around a foam sponge, and it's safe on all non-stick and other surfaces. It's a bit gentler than the plastic scrapers in some other answers, which means it will take longer to get off stuck-on food. Also, the plastic mesh wears out and you have to replace them, whereas the scrapers can last forever.

One advantage of the Dobie over the scrapers or fingernail is that it has surface area to scrub a whole area, as opposed to just a blade-like profile.

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    Nice, and yeah I pretty much expected any such product to wear out since, you know, so do fingernails
    – BVernon
    Oct 14 '20 at 21:01
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    @BVernon In my family, we are never without at least one of these in the kitchen. They are also easier on the hands than steel wool and other scrubbers, so we have used them on cast iron as well. Oct 14 '20 at 21:04
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    @ToddWilcox "In my family, we are never without at least one of these in the kitchen." When I first read the beginning of your comment, I thought you were taking about fingernails... =) Oct 15 '20 at 17:09
  • They also work great on fish tanks, especially if you cut them open and put the outer scrubby part on a magnet, discarding the inner sponge.
    – Phil Frost
    Oct 16 '20 at 3:38
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Chopsticks. Take a few pairs of the cheap wooden chopsticks you get with takeout Chinese food and hold them together in a bundle

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    On a similar note, you can get 'wok scrubbers' that are bundles of split bamboo. It ends up being stiffer than most brushes (although they soften with use), but wouldn't be quite as stiff as chopsticks.
    – Joe
    Oct 14 '20 at 16:49
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    .... Or if you have nice chopsticks bit one gets lost/damaged. You can even go crazy and glue some sponge or something on one end if you need to.
    – kitukwfyer
    Oct 14 '20 at 19:26
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I keep an old credit/membership card next to the sink for this purpose.

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    I do this as well, though I also cut them in half on a diagonal first - one because it gives a nice point for digging into crevices, but also because maybe keeping a scraper around that has your complete credit card number embossed on it is perhaps unwise from an "identity theft" standpoint. (Don't keep both halves in the same location if you're paranoid...) Oct 16 '20 at 18:06
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I find dough scrapers indispensible, also for quick dry cleaning of surfaces (where the straight edge comes in handy). Here is an image of one (they tend to be slightly more convenient when they haven't yet dropped on the heating elements of a dishwasher, but the important thing is the plastic edge). Dough scraper

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I've used guitar picks for decades. They are in fact, artificial fingernails. Unfortunately, the music stores stopped giving them away free a few years ago. Now it's a couple, four bucks for a dozen Fender brand.

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    I spend a lot of time messing about repairing/modifying boats, and have often thought "what could I use instead of my fingernails for this task?" Guitar picks just went on my short list! (I thinking about tasks like fairing epoxy fillets, for example, where the smoothly varying curvature of the pick could be a big advantage, too!)
    – John
    Oct 16 '20 at 14:45
  • Yeah, I have them scattered all over the house for all sorts of scraping tasks. I don't play guitar. Oct 16 '20 at 15:15
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A chainmail pan scrubber is what I use on my cast iron, pots, and pans that needs something extra to help get them clean. Essentially it is reusable steel wool, but not as abrasive.

enter image description here

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    It looks super cool too.
    – BVernon
    Oct 14 '20 at 21:00
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    Never knew this existed, never needed one, don't think I'll ever need one, but I think I shall buy one anyway because, well, why not ;) Oct 15 '20 at 17:46
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I keep a plastic jar-lid lying around for this task. Peanut-butter lids are good, but the lids of the jars of actual peanuts are the same material, and ~2.5" in diameter (compared to ~3.5"), which I like better. We go through peanuts fast enough that there's never much concern about the scraper wearing out.

(These details may be different in your area, IDK. I'm sure lots of other consumables you use have similar pieces of hard plastic in their packaging. )

People have suggested dough scrapers; the one we have is distinctly softer than I'd want for this task. I keep a plastic jar-lid lying around for this task.

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  • Nice! Now I have to go eat some more peanut butter, lol.
    – BVernon
    Oct 14 '20 at 22:48
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I've found plastic razor blades to be good for this. The ones I got came with a plastic holder that didn't work very well, but they're the same size as normal double-edged razor blades, so they fit a better scraper I got at the hardware store.

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I have potscrubber pads made of loofah, a fibrous vegetable husk, which are not just effective, but also not made of plastic.

I got a pack of 5 from Amazon, because it's a bit exotic for our supermarket.

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The Scrigit is specifically designed to mimic using one's fingernail for scraping.

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