Whether you can barely boil water or are a gourmet cook, stove-tops can get messy. Food gets dropped and then burned onto the surface, pots boil over, hot grease flies everywhere — just preparing one meal can leave quite a problem. Ignore the chore of cleaning up for a couple of days and you've got a real quagmire.

Needless to say, the quicker you clean up a spill or splatter on a stove-top, the easier it will be to remove. It's a good idea to wipe away food and grease from the stove-top after every cooking session. That can usually be done in just a few minutes with the right cleaning tools and product. Then, you can give the stove-top a more thorough cleaning once a week or so depending on how often you cook.

The best product for cleaning a stove-top depends on the surface material: baked paint or porcelain enamel, ceramic (often called a glass cooktop), or stainless steel. There are even some differences in how you should safely clean a gas stove-top and an electric coil stove-top with drip pans.

After a lifetime of cooking in test labs and at home, I've cleaned every type of stove-top. Because it certainly wasn't my favorite task, I tested dozens of cleaning products and care tips to find the best. Any type of cleaning that requires less elbow grease, appeals to me. I'm always looking for the most effective, easiest to use, and the best value in products for myself and others.

For the simplest cleaning, I swear by daily wipedowns and then a thorough cleaning after a big cooking session. I can promise you that burned-on food and grease will not disappear on its own!

For decades, almost every home stove-top was constructed of baked porcelain enamel, a heavy-duty, heat resistant material that is fused to the steel surface. Today, you can still purchase both gas and electric shiny porcelain enamel stoves as well as matte painted baked enamel finishes.

Both finishes are durable and easy-to-clean once you get rid of the greasy film that can coat the surface. With ZEP Heavy Duty Citrus Degreaser, there's no need for scouring with abrasive pads. The natural citrus solvents will cut through the grease. Simply spray it on, wait a few minutes and wipe away the sticky messes. Finish up with just a clean cloth or sponge dipped in hot water for a final rinse.

I like to pour some ZEP into a separate spray bottle and dilute it 50/50 with water to use for small everyday messes. It is effective and safe to use on stainless steel, aluminum, and other metal surfaces.

For tough, burned-on food, spray on the ZEP and allow it to work for at least five minutes. You can then use a rubber scraper to loosen the food and wipe it away.  If you have a free-standing or built-in stove, be sure to lift the stove-top or remove the drip pans to clean away food that has dripped inside. You may be amazed at what you find.

Pros: Removes grease easily, pleasant citrus odor, available in one-gallon size for easy bottle refills

Cons: Can damage granite countertops and painted wood surfaces, usually only available online or in home improvement stores

After years of cleaning enamel and stainless steel cooktops that stood up to scrubbing from a steel wool pad, I encountered a smooth ceramic stove-top. It looked sleek and conducted heat well, but removing the overflow from a boiling pot was difficult until I found Weiman Cooktop Cleaner Max.

The micro-bead technology in the formula provides just the right amount of abrasive power to remove burned-on food and grease but doesn't scratch the surface. After cleaning with the lemon-scented paste and enclosed pad that conveniently stores in the lid of the container and rinsing, there are no streaks or watermarks at all.

One Amazon customer writes, "It's best for getting off that burn on stuff that doesn't like to come off with scrubbing pad and the polish. It's so fast and easy. I used to spend 30 minutes scrubbing (and getting irritated) but with this, it takes 2-3 minutes."

Pros: Removes the worst burned-on messes and grease effectively, will not scratch ceramic surfaces, comes with a scrubbing pad

Cons: Does not remove scratches caused by knives, pots and pans, not readily found in all mass-market stores

Stainless steel stove tops have plenty of great qualities. They are extremely durable but can show every water spot and smudge. They don't hold up well under harsh scouring powders, steel wool or abrasive sponges. Once the damage is done, there is no reversing the marred finish.

Since almost every commercial kitchen uses stainless steel stove-tops, I turned to the expert users who recommended TriNova Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish for my home stainless steel appliances. Professionals have been using it for years to keep commercial kitchen appliances shining.

Not only does TriNova remove food splatters, grease, and smudges easily with a non-abrasive, water-based product, it also coats the surface of stainless steel to help repel messes so it stays shiny longer. Simply give the bottle a good shake and spray on the cleaner. The solution is slightly thick so it adheres to the surface.

If you have been a bit negligent in your cleaning of the stove-top (there are months and months of burned-on food and grease), I recommend using ZEP Heavy Duty Citrus Degreaser first to cut through the mess. Then finish up with TriNova to begin protecting the stainless surface for easier daily cleaning!

TriNova includes a large microfiber towel with each purchase. Fold it into quarters and use one side to wipe the cleaner in the direction of the grain. Finish by using a dry side of the towel for a final buff of the surface to increase the shine.  When your stove-top is gleaming, don't forget the dishwasher, sink, and refrigerator!

Pros: Removes grease and burned-on food easily, leaves stainless stove-tops streak-free, comes with a microfiber cleaning cloth, can be used on all stainless steel appliances

I think we have established that we all love any type of cleaning that requires very little effort. If you own a gas stove-top, I can offer just that type of cleaning for filthy grates and grease-clogged burner heads: Austin's Clear Ammonia Multipurpose Cleaner.

All you need is a sealable plastic bag or container and Austin's. Simply place the grates and burner heads in the container and pour in just enough ammonia to cover the pieces. Seal up the container and let them "soak" for about eight hours or overnight. Remove the pieces, sponge them off with a bit of soapy water, rinse well with hot water, and they are sparkling clean! Just dry them and reinstall.

As with any too-easy-to-believe hack, there are a couple of things you should note. Ammonia has a very potent odor and should be used in a well-ventilated space. NEVER mix ammonia with other cleaning products, especially chlorine bleach, that can cause deadly gases. You should use tongs or wear protective gloves when removing stove-top pieces from the soaking solution to prevent skin irritation. Luckily, the ammonia can be safely disposed of down the drain.

Once you discover the cleaning potential of household ammonia, you'll find plenty of uses in the kitchen, laundry room, and throughout the house.

Pros: One-step cleaning, cuts through heavy grease and burned-on build up, works well to remove smudges

A small, white, brick-like miracle cleaning tool arrived on store shelves in 2003. Mr. Clean Extra Durable Magic Erasers uses melamine-foam activated with water as micro-scrubbers to remove stuck-on grime from nearly every type of surface including electric stove-top drip pans.

I grew up with an electric stove with burner coils and drip pans that took lots of abuse. It was my mother's favorite chore assignment for me. "Make those drip pans shine!" I remember plenty of time at the sink with hot water, scrubbing powders, and steel wool trying to get rid of burned-on food. Of course, I blamed her for letting the pans boil over in the first place.

To make cleaning simple, my first suggestion is to use Austin's Clear Ammonia Multipurpose Cleaner to give the drip pans a soak to cut through the grease and food on the pans. But if any bits linger, it is Mr. Clean to the rescue.

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I usually cut the erasers into smaller pieces that can be used to scrub away residue and then tossed after they become really messy. Finish by simply rinsing with warm water to remove any foam particles that might remain.

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