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How to clean non-stick pans properly

Need to get grease and burnt bits off without scratching the pan? Here’s how...

Updated

A pan being cleaned in a kitchen sink.

Knowing how to clean non-stick pans properly can save you both time and money. Your pans will stay non-stick for longer, so you won’t have to spend ages cleaning them or spend your hard-earned money on new ones. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy perfectly cooked omelettes, pancakes and other meals without battling to get them out of the pan.

While they do tend to cost a little more than a regular pan, non-stick pans should last you for years. As long as you treat them nicely that is...

You will need:

  • Sponge
  • Hot water
  • Washing up liquid
  • White vinegar

How to clean non-stick pans by hand

You want to do your pot wash while the pan is still warm. Too hot and you could burn yourself. Too cold and the food and oil is going to be harder to clean off.

  1. Empty the pan

    Use a plastic or wooden spatula to remove as much of the oil or food scraps as possible. Remember that you should never pour oil down the sink, as it can cause a blockage. So dispose of it in your food waste bin or regular rubbish bin.

  2. Rinse the pan

    Give the pan a quick rinse with hot water. This will help to dislodge a bit more oil and food waste before you start washing the saucepan. If there are lots of bits, empty the water through a slotted spoon or sieve to catch the bits before they make their way down your plughole.

  3. Remove oily residues

    Pour half a mug of white vinegar into the pan, and top it up with hot water so the pan is around two thirds full. Pop the pan on the hob and bring the liquid to the boil. You’ll see small, glistening bubbles of oil rising to the surface. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and drop an absorbent paper towel onto the surface of the water to draw out the leftover oils and grease. Then throw the paper towel away (use kitchen tongs to pick it up) and pour the water down the sink.

    Tip: You’ll be able to skip this step most days. It’s only necessary if your pan is really greasy or you left it to sit overnight.

  4. Soak the pan

    Place your pan into a sink full of hot water and washing up liquid. Believe it or not, a good quality washing up liquid is all you need to get your non-stick pans completely clean. It should cut through the grease, lift any leftover residues and help to remove any bacteria. If the pan isn’t too dirty, you’ll only need to leave it to soak for a few minutes. If the grease has congealed, you might need to leave it for longer.

  5. Wipe the pan clean

    If the  water in your sink is looking really oily, change it. Otherwise, just crack on. Remember, wipe, don’t scrub. The non-stick coating helps food and oil to glide off. Scrubbing can damage this coating. The surface can also be damaged by using abrasive cloths, metal scourers or utensils and harsh chemicals. So stick to washing up liquid and a sponge or cloth.

  6. Rinse and dry the pan

    Rinse the pan with clean water and dry it with a soft tea towel.

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How to clean burnt non-stick pans

The above step-by-step guide should get rid of most burnt bits. However, if you’re having difficulty removing any stubborn food waste, place a sponge or cloth over your thumb nail and give the pan’s surface a bit of a gentle scrape while it’s soaking in the sink. Never scrape the surface directly. 

How to clean a burnt non-stick pot with baking soda

Baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda to us Brits) is a really effective natural cleaning agent. Try making a paste with bicarb and water, smearing it over the burnt bits and leaving it to sit for half an hour before wiping clean.

Now you know how to clean a burnt non-stick pot, why not find out how to clean other burnt pots and pans, like stainless steel ones?

Looking after non-stick pans

Most non-stick pans need replacing every few years. To keep yours going as long as possible:

  • Wash by hand rather than in the dishwasher.

  • Don’t use metal or other abrasive utensils or scourers.

  • Don’t heat oil on too high a temperature or for too long. Remember that olive oil has a lower burning temperature than vegetable oil, so you shouldn’t need to use the hottest setting on your hob.

  • Don’t heat them dry (i.e. without oil or water).

  • Don’t put them in the oven, unless the manufacturer says they’re oven safe.

  • Dry after washing, rather than leaving them to drain.

  • If you need to stack them in the cupboard, place a clean cloth or paper towel between them to prevent scratching. 

Answers to your top questions on cleaning non-stick pans

Can I put a non-stick pan in the dishwasher?

Most non-stick pans aren’t dishwasher safe. Do check the label just in case though. Manufacturers generally advise against using a dishwasher as it can damage the non-stick coating. In other words, it might save you time short-term, but long-term the pans will be harder to cook with and harder to clean.

What should I use to wash a non-stick pan?

In most cases, hot water and washing up liquid are all you need. White vinegar can help tackle stubborn grease (see step 4 above). Wipe your pans clean with a soft sponge or cloth. Never use a metal scourer on them as you’ll scratch the non-stick coating. It’s also best to avoid scrubbing brushes and the green scratchy side of scouring sponges.

Is it safe to use a metal whisk with a non-stick pan?

Nope. Stick to wooden or plastic utensils to avoid damaging the non-stick coating.

When should I replace my non-stick pan?

Non-stick pans should be replaced when they get scratched or damaged. Otherwise, you could end up with tiny particles of coating flaking off into your food, which isn’t great for your health.

If your pan isn’t that old and you’ve followed the manufacturer’s instructions on looking after it, then it’s worth seeing if it’s still covered under the guarantee.  Some manufacturers guarantee their pans for several years.

Are you supposed to wash non-stick pans?

Definitely! However, it’s best to wash them by hand, rather than in the dishwasher, to keep them in tip-top condition for as long as possible.

How do I get the black stuff off my non-stick pan?

Burnt residue can be tricky to shift if the pan is starting to lose some of its non-stick coating. Soak the pan if you need to and then wipe it with a sponge or cloth. Try not to scrub it as you could damage the non-stick coating. You can also use vinegar on oily residues. (See our guide above.)

If by ‘black stuff’ you mean that the coating itself is flaking off the pan, then it’s time to buy a new saucepan.

Is it safe to use a burnt non-stick pan?

If you can’t get the burnt bits off or the non-stick coating is damaged, then we’re afraid it’s time to invest in a new pan. The chemicals in the coating are great for keeping food from sticking, but they’re not safe to eat, even in tiny amounts.

Will vinegar hurt non-stick pans?

We don’t know of any reason why you shouldn’t use vinegar in your pans. You can even use it to help tackle oily residue (see above).

Why is my non-stick pan sticking?

If the coating gets damaged, even slightly, then food and grease can start sticking to the pan. To avoid that happening, follow our tips above on looking after your pans. It’s also worth giving them a really good clean in hot, soapy water. Remember, use a soft sponge or cloth and never use anything metal on them, like a scourer.

How should I clean a stainless steel pan?

As it so happens, we have a guide on that (what are the chances?). Step right this way to find out how to clean stainless steel pans

Originally published