How to Clean Dirty Pots and Pans: 10 Surprising Ways

In the world of cooking, mishaps are bound to happen. Then the question of how to clean dirty pots and pans is of significant importance. Whether you’ve accidentally let a pan burn or ended up with a sticky mess at the bottom of your cookware, cleaning up can be daunting. But fear not because we’ve covered you with tried-and-true methods for tackling those dirty pots and pans. These techniques involve household ingredients or cleaners that can cut through grease and lift away stubborn grime, although a bit of scrubbing is usually required. It’s important to note that the approach you take should vary depending on the material of your cookware, as abrasive cleaning methods could harm nonstick pans. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions and let your pan cool before cleaning it. With these instructions on how to clean dirty Pots and pans, you’ll be able to eliminate burnt-on residue and restore your cookware’s shine, no matter how tough the job may seem. So, let’s dive into these proven methods and get your pots and pans looking their best again, no matter the mess.

What You’ll Need For Cleaning Pots and Pans

When it comes to cleaning dirty pots and pans, the materials you’ll need can vary depending on the condition of the Cookware and its type. However, some fundamental items are essential for the job:

Dishwashing Liquid

A mild detergent is crucial for breaking down grease and food residue, making it easier to clean your cookware effectively.

Sponge or Brush

You’ll need a scrubbing tool to remove stubborn stains and debris. Choosing a non-scratch sponge, especially for nonstick cookware, is essential to avoid damaging the surface.

Hot Water

Hot water is a valuable ally in the cleaning process. It helps dissolve the cleaning solution and loosens dirt, making cleaning easier.

Rubber Gloves

These are important for protecting your hands from heat and any potentially harsh chemicals used in cleaning.

How to clean dirty pots and pans Step-by-Step Guide

Here is a step-by-step guide to cleaning dirty pots and pans:

Scrape off Food Residue

Before cleaning, employ a wooden or silicone spatula to delicately remove any significant food particles or debris adhered to the pot or pan. It will make the cleaning process more manageable.


If the pot or pan has stubborn, stuck-on food, fill it with hot water and a few drops of dish soap. Let it soak for about 15-20 minutes. It will help loosen the food particles and make them easier to scrub off.

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda, with its gentle abrasiveness, aids in eliminating stains and harsh, burnt-on residues without causing scratches. Apply a generous layer of baking soda onto the pot or pan’s surface.


Gently scrub the pot’s surface or pan using a non-abrasive scrubbing pad or brush. Apply a bit of pressure to remove the stubborn residues. Baking soda will help lift the stains without damaging the surface.

Rinse and Inspect

Rinse the pot or pan thoroughly with warm water. Check to see if there are any remaining stains or residue. If needed, you can repeat steps 3 and 4.

Use Vinegar

If there are still stains or discoloration, use white vinegar. Pour a small amount of vinegar onto the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes. Vinegar helps dissolve mineral deposits and can be particularly effective for stainless steel pans.

Final Wash

After applying baking soda and vinegar, clean the pot or pan with a mild dish soap mixed in warm water. Utilize a gentle sponge or cloth to cleanse the surface and remove any remaining residue thoroughly.

Dry Thoroughly

Once you’ve completed the washing process, thoroughly dry the pot or pan using a clean towel to prevent the occurrence of water spots or rust, mainly when dealing with cast iron or carbon steel cookware.

Oil Cast Iron and Carbon Steel

If you’re dealing with cast iron or carbon steel pans, seasoning them after cleaning is essential. Apply a thin cooking oil layer to the surface and heat it gently to create a protective coating.

Regular Maintenance

To prevent the buildup of tough stains, wash your pots and pans immediately after cooking. Refrain from utilizing rough materials that could cause scratches on the surface.

How to Clean a Dirty Nonstick Pan

Follow these steps for effective and safe cleaning without damaging the nonstick coating:

Cool Down

Allow the pan to cool completely before cleaning. It prevents any warping of the pan due to sudden temperature changes.

Basic Grease Removal

After use, use a small amount of dish soap and warm water to gently remove grease residue from the pan. It helps protect the nonstick coating.

Avoid Abrasives

Avoid using abrasive tools like steel wool or scouring pads, as they can potentially create scratches on the nonstick surface. Scratches can damage the coating and reduce its effectiveness.

Stains and Stuck-on Food

Sprinkle baking soda over the affected area for tough stains or burnt-on food. Add a small amount of water to create a paste. Let the pan sit overnight. Gently scrub with a non-scratch sponge to remove residue.

Exterior Cleaning

If the outside of the pan has stains or spills, mix baking soda with water to make a paste. Use this paste with a non-abrasive nylon scrubber to clean the exterior. Avoid scratching the coated surface.

Boil Water

Fill the pan with water and bring it to a boil for a few minutes. It helps loosen stubborn food particles and makes cleaning easier.

Gentle Scrubbing

Utilize a nylon scrubber and a small dish soap to eliminate any remaining food stuck to the surface from baking. Use moderate pressure to avoid damaging the nonstick surface.

Dry Thoroughly

Dry the pan with a soft microfiber cloth after cleaning. It helps prevent water spots and potential rusting of the exterior.

How to Clean Dirty Cast Iron Pans

Cleaning soiled cast iron pots and pans can be a straightforward task when you adhere to these uncomplicated steps:

Avoid Abrasives

Never use abrasive sponges on cast iron; they damage the protective seasoning.

Rinse with Hot Water

After use, rinse the cast iron with hot or boiling water to remove loose residue.

Use Kosher Salt

For stubborn residue, mix kosher salt with warm water and gently scrub with a soft sponge.

Dry Thoroughly

Ensure the cast iron is completely dry to prevent rust.

Apply Oil

Following the drying process, apply a slender layer of vegetable oil to the pan’s surface to uphold its seasoning and a protective coating.

Temperature Matters

Always match the water temperature to the pan’s temperature to avoid thermal shock.

Hand Wash Only

Never put cast iron in a dishwasher; always wash by hand.

Stubborn Marks

If marks persist, heat the pan, add water, and use a pan scraper to remove them.

Oil After Use

After each use, dry the pan and rub it with a paper towel to maintain its seasoning.

Soap Caution

While using a bit of dish soap is acceptable, avoid soaking, as it can strip the seasoning.

How to Clean Burnt Pots and Pans

When your pans are burnt and seemingly beyond repair, don’t fret. Try these effective methods to bring them back to life:

Vinegar and Baking Soda Method

  • Fill the burnt pan halfway with a 50/50 water mixture and white vinegar.
  • Heat it until it boils, then introduce two tablespoons of baking soda.
  • Remove from heat and let it sit for 15 minutes.
  • Discard the vinegar-water mixture and scrub the pan with a brush.
  • Repeat if needed.

Baking Soda Bath

  • Pour water into a sizable pot or pan and incorporate half a cup of baking soda.
  • Submerge the burnt pan in the pot, if possible.
  • Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the burnt pan and scrub it with a brush.

Lemon Fresh Method

  • Fill the burnt pan with water.
  • Add 1-2 sliced lemons to the water.
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • After 5-10 minutes, remove the pan from heat.
  • Remove the lemons and the hot water.
  • Proceed to clean the pan using soapy water and a scrubbing brush.

Tips on how to clean dirty pots and pans

Avoiding Abrasive Cleaners

Abrasive cleaners seem adequate but can scratch and damage your pots and pans. Stick to non-abrasive options to ensure your cookware stays in good condition.

The Magic of Barkeeper Friend

Barkeepers Friend is a versatile cleaner that works wonders on stainless steel, copper, and ceramic cookware. Use a damp cloth to apply it gently, then scrub to eliminate stains and bring back the shine.

Caring for Cast Iron Pans

Cast iron requires special care. Steer clear of using soap, as it can potentially remove the pan’s seasoning. Opt for a stiff brush or salt for cleaning, and afterward, apply a thin layer of Oil to maintain the pan’s seasoning and prevent rust.

Reviving Copper Cookware

To restore the sparkle of copper pots, concoct a paste using a mixture of lemon juice and salt. Delicately scrub the surface, then thoroughly rinse and dry to thwart any potential tarnishing.

Shining Stainless Steel Pots

Stainless steel can lose its shine over time. Use a mixture of water and vinegar to restore its brilliance, and don’t forget to dry the cookware after cleaning to prevent water spots.

Drying and Storing Properly

After cleaning, ensure your pots and pans are completely dry before storing them. Moisture can lead to rust or tarnishing, so proper drying is crucial.

Preventing Future Buildup

Avoid cooking at high temperatures that can cause excessive residue to minimize the need for intense cleaning. Use cooking sprays or oils to create a barrier, making cleaning easier afterward.


In conclusion, mastering the art of how to clean dirty pots and pans is crucial for every kitchen. We’ve explored various methods tailored to different types of cookware, emphasizing the importance of avoiding abrasive cleaners and opting for gentler solutions like baking soda, vinegar, or lemon. Whether it’s caring for cast iron, stainless steel, or copper, proper maintenance, drying, and storage are essential to prevent future issues and ensure the longevity of your cookware. By following these tips, you preserve your pots and pans and enhance the flavors of your dishes, making your culinary adventures all the more enjoyable.

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