Couldn’t wait to get my snappy new glass cooktop installed. Shiny. Black. Easy to clean.

Or maybe not.

“You’re going to hate this,” said the installer. “Every time you cook something, it’s going to be a mess that you won’t be able to clean. And you’re going to have to buy all new pots and pans – because the ones you have will leave marks.”

Huh?

This guy must be nuts.

Well, the first time I cooked something… it looked like he knew what he was talking about. I thought I’d be able to do a quick wipe with a sponge and be done. Wrong! Smears. Stains. Glopped on stuff that looked like it would never come off. And all I’d done was saute and then deglaze a few boneless chicken breasts.

The next day, after simply frying some bacon and eggs for breakfast and heating some soup for lunch, it was worse.

I was not happy. I told myself it didn’t matter. But it did.

So I did what I always do when I have a “how-to” question. I went to Google. I searched for something like “cooktop glass black clean.” And I got dozens – maybe hundreds (but I didn’t get that far) – of ideas. “Soak a paper towel in vinegar and leave it on the burner for 15 minutes,” said one. “Then just wipe it off.” “Use a plastic credit card as a scraper,” said another. “WD40” advised a third. “Boiling water and a metal spatula.” And on and on it went.

I tried them, one by one. And, little by little, it all came off. Eventually I figured out that if I’d nipped my first mess in the bud – by totally cleaning it off before it had a chance to burn itself onto the surface – I wouldn’t have had a problem to begin with.

Oh well.

With a little elbow grease, my cooktop was back to its pristine glory. I’d made a mistake, but I had plenty of advice (from people I didn’t even know) to help me fix it.

“Don’t re-invent the wheel,” we’ve cautioned you in ETR. No matter what major or minor problem you’re facing, someone has already faced – and solved – it. As Paul Lawrence said recently , “Chances are many other people have struggled with the same type of challenge and have come up with a good way to deal with it.”

Right.

Thank you, Google.

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