I have a family member who sometimes likes to eat peanut butter by itself -- no bread, crackers, etc. For sanitary reasons, we do discourage eating directly from the jar, but that poses a quandary in terms of clean-up. (He also has a habit of not quite finishing, leaving a spoonful or two of peanut butter on the plate/bowl/whatever.) Not only do I generally end up with a couple dirty spoons, but also some small container or plate with leftover peanut butter.

Of all the things I have to clean in the kitchen, I have to say peanut butter is perhaps the most annoying. If you put it in the dishwasher directly, I still sometimes find residue left (and if there's too much peanut butter left on, the oil can even leave residue on other dishes). It doesn't dissolve easily even in hot water (at least not in any reasonable amount of time), it "gunks up" just about any cleaning device you might use (sponge, rag, brush, even gloves worn while dishwashing, etc.), and the oily element ends up contaminating any dishwater or other dishes around.

My only solution so far is to always leave any peanut-butter contaminated stuff to the very end of any handwashing of dishes I'm doing, then use the remaining dishwater to rub off most of it with my bare hands (to avoid contaminating other scrubbing devices), then put the stuff in the dishwasher for a final cleaning. That still often coats the sink or any dishwashing bin with a bit of peanut-smelling oil, which then has to be rinsed again (with more soap). And my hands end up smelling of peanuts.

I always feel that I end up wasting a lot of hot water just to deal with a few peanut butter utensils or containers. Alternatively, I have sometimes resorted to paper towels, which also seems wasteful.

Is there a better/easier way to wash away peanut butter, or even a better way of handling/finding an eating surface for peanut butter?

EDIT: I perhaps went into too much detail about my own situation, but I'd also be interested in any general suggestions for cleaning up peanut butter more easily. (I'm sure we've all wished for an easier way to clean dirty jars, etc.)

  • 10
    ... If this person eats so much, why don't you let them have their own jar, write their name on it, and let them eat it directly?
    – Catija
    Nov 14, 2016 at 17:09
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    And have them do the dishes :-)
    – Giorgio
    Nov 14, 2016 at 17:12
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    @Catija - I didn't want to get into this, but this person is a "small person" who is still young enough to be finicky about the way his food is "presented." Also, it's helpful to have a sense of how much he's actually eating. In any case, regardless of my specific situation, I think "how to clean up peanut butter" is something we've all dealt with from time to time.
    – Athanasius
    Nov 14, 2016 at 17:16
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    Not posting as an answer because this doesn't address how to clean it. My solution for things like this is disposable portion cups. They are quite inexpensive and come in many different sizes. Quite handy for many things. They can be purchased with or without tops. As for utensils, a quick wipe with a paper towel before washing does the trick.
    – Cindy
    Nov 14, 2016 at 19:57
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    One thing I would point out is that heavily processed peanut butter (skippy, jif) is harder to clean off than less processed peanut butter.
    – GdD
    Nov 15, 2016 at 8:22

7 Answers 7


The problem is the fat. You would have the same problem with a spoon full of shortening.

Since fat doesn't normally mix with water the fat makes a film that gets on everything. The solution to fat- or rather to make a solution of fat- you use soap.

You are trying to wash away a very large quantity of fat so it takes a lot of soap. Instead, scrape the majority of the fat into the garbage. Apply a liberal amount of soap and work it into a solution with the peanut butter residue.

The peanut oil, now in solution, will wash away nicely without coating everything.

  • 1
    I guess this is the obvious answer, which I've tried and still tend to end up doing multiple rinses of everything. Perhaps I notice it more because I don't tend to clean stuff coated with smeared large bits of butter or shortening on a regular basis... but there also seems to be something about specific texture of peanut butter that makes it worse for me than other fats.
    – Athanasius
    Nov 14, 2016 at 17:34
  • I realize the answer does seem kind of obvious. The non obvious part is to thoroughly emulsify the peanut butter with the soap before rinsing it out of the container. Once it leaves the container it is everywhere and harder to clean up. Nov 14, 2016 at 21:31
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    If it's not a very large amount (i.e., a little bit left in the bottom of the bowl is not especially large), I often find a couple paper towels to be quite effective at "scraping" the peanut butter off. Much more so than a knife or spoon whatever would be. Perhaps because they're all of absorbent, somewhat abrasive, and have a comparatively large surface area.
    – jpmc26
    Nov 15, 2016 at 1:50
  • @Athanasius - if you still need multiple rinses, perhaps you aren't using enough soap? I know when I'm doing my dishes, I usually have to soap up several times as the cleaning power of the soap gets used up... and if I get something really greasy, I will dropper a bit of soap, a full sponge's worth, on just that dish - even if it "otherwise" might have cleaned a whole pile of dishes, or it took two or three generous applications of soap to clean something because it just needed it more.
    – Megha
    Nov 16, 2016 at 12:00

The answer I've found is waste paper—newspaper, junk mail, whatever I have handy in the recycling bin.

As you've probably noticed, peanut butter doesn't wash off very well, but it does wipe off quite easily. The oil that makes it so hard to wash with water makes it slide right off with the right kind of friction.

Of course you don't want to use anything that itself needs to be washed, since then you're back to the "peanut butter doesn't wash" problem, and for big or frequent jobs paper towels do seem rather wasteful.

Luckily, since you will be washing the dishes after they are wiped, you don't need sterile paper towels. Using any moderately sturdy (but not too stiff) paper, you should be able to wipe off virtually all of the excess peanut butter. Dispose of the paper and peanut butter in the trash or compost, and wash the dishes the usual way.

  • This is the answer I was coming here to write. I have no idea why it doesn't have more votes. Why bother trying to wash it, when you can wipe it away and chuck it in the bin? In my experience, ordinary kitchen roll (i.e. paper towels) works really well, even just tearing off a corner for a teaspoon. Nov 15, 2016 at 10:23

One solution that I've seen proposed for measuring fatty ingredients, like olive oil, is to coat your container with water before filling it with fat. Because the water and fat repel each other, less fat will stick to the container. There will still be some residue where the water coating wasn't completely covering the surface, but it should be less.

However, this technique might be less appealing for serving fats, as you need a significantly wet plate or bowl for this to work. You'll need to see whether it is acceptable to your small person.


When it comes to peanut butter, which is fairly solid, I find it generally helps a lot to use baby-wipes to round up most of the peanut butter. On most surfaces, it's pretty easy to gather it up and toss it in the bin.

My own kid also eats a lot of it and smears it on his tray or the table, but a quick wipe on his plastic tray is enough to clean off all the residue. After that, any dishes can safely go in the washer.


Use a small, smooth, round bowl. Glass is especially good for making sure it's smooth:

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First thing scrape with rubber spatula and soak with water and detergent. I like a bowl as it is easier to hold in one hand while scraping but a small plate should work.

Then save for last and sponge out.

I know not the stated question but peanutes are very easy to clean up after. Give them the option of peanuts. Salted, unsalted, dry roasted, and honey covered. Peanuts and peanut butter are very high in fat. Make em chew if it will slow them down.

  • How are these different from any other bowl? Is there something about glass that is better than plastic, ceramic, metal, etc? Why a bowl over a plate?
    – Catija
    Nov 14, 2016 at 18:24
  • @Catija It is an example of a small bowl. Yes you could use a small plate. Glass is going to be smooth and not all plastic is.
    – paparazzo
    Nov 14, 2016 at 19:09
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    @Catija Plastic would certainly worse because it scratches, which makes it harder to clean. Nov 14, 2016 at 19:54
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    From the question I gather that the person is a toddler or thereabouts. I recently had an incident not too far away where a 3yo child almost died of choking a peanut. I don't propose that children never eat peanuts or the like, but since this seems to be a habit, I would rather get the cleaning down instead of regularly have him eat whole peanuts. Besides, cleaning up the mess that can leave behind in the hands of a wee'un might be just as "interesting" as cleaning up the butter. :) PS: health.ny.gov/prevention/injury_prevention/…
    – AnoE
    Nov 15, 2016 at 9:00
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    As @AnoE comments, whole nuts are generally regarded as a bad idea for children, who are much more pron than adults to choking even in ideal circumstances (some parts of the throat don't develop until several years old).
    – Chris H
    Nov 15, 2016 at 10:06

I use paper towel or used paper napkin to wipe away the peanut butter also do the same on any extra greasy cup or plates. then wash it with detergent as usual.


You could serve the portion of peanut butter on a disposable base, eg clingfilm, tinfoil, parchment, kitchen paper, paper plate, a muffin tin liner....

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