Real Simple answers your questions.
Q. How do I clean the nonstick spray and olive oil from my panini maker?
Winter Garden, Florida
A. The best way to keep your nonstick grill grime-free is to clean it after every use. You may be tempted to attack the mess on your panini maker―or electric skillet or waffle iron―with a scouring pad, a chemical scrubber, or maybe even a knife, but hold back. Those can all damage the nonstick coating. The first step to cleaning is to unplug the grill and let it cool down. Then, using a damp paper towel, wipe crumbs and any oily residue off the grill. With a small amount of warm, soapy water, firmly scrub the surface with a sponge, paying special attention to the grooves, where oil gets trapped. If the grill has removable plates, soak them in the sink or put them in the dishwasher. (Check the owner’s manual to see if the plates are dishwasher-safe.)
If a stubborn residue is still sticking to your nonstick, try wrapping the square side of a chopstick with a damp dishcloth and rubbing it a few times in between the grooves. If you have tried everything and aren’t seeing results, check with the manufacturer for more instructions.
Prevent grime from building up in the first place by avoiding oily sprays. Without regular cleaning, oil sits and bakes into the grill, causing permanent stains. For that reason, some manufacturers don’t recommend using a spray. But always check the owner’s manual: There are panini makers that grill better when prepped with a bit of olive oil, applied with a silicone brush. “An additional protective oil coating may help keep any caramelized bits of food from sticking to the grill grooves,” says Mary Rodgers of Cuisinart. ―Caroline Gottesman