For some people cooking is an activity they enjoy very much. On the other hand, there are way fewer people who enjoy cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. It ruins the experience, in a way, however necessary it may be.

Whether you are a professional chef, a housewife or a cooking enthusiast and you enjoy making delicious meals for your friends and family, there is something you definitely do not like- dirty dishes. Now, that is usually not a problem if you own a dishwasher, however, what do you do when the pots and pans are too dirty or burnt so that even the dishwasher does not help?

Do you resort to soaking it and then scrubbing relentlessly? And what do you do with the gentle, easy-to-damage Teflon frying pans?  Even with stainless steel and cast iron pans, which are not as sensitive as Teflon pans are, you do not want to scrub too hard and damage the surface.

Now, why would you spend your money on expensive specialized products that promise you magic when you are cleaning, when there are some things that you already have in your kitchen that are cheap, gentle on the surfaces, and work great?!

Imagine this: you put your dinner on the stove and forgot to lower the cooking temperature. To make things even more interesting, you went out to finish some swift business as you are a true multitasker.  You return to your kitchen minutes later only to find the burnt food stuck to the bottom of the frying pan, some oil flowing on the outside of the pan, burning in contact to the heat. The result? A ruined pan.

No, you do not need to throw the pan or renounce cooking altogether! There is a solution.

You will need:

  • gloves to protect your hands
  • abrasive sponge or an old toothbrush
  • plastic spatula
  • dish soap
  • baking soda
  • vinegar or lemon juice

Cleaning the inside of the pan

The key to this technique is to do it as soon as possible. If you wait too long and the burnt food cools down and sticks to the pan even harder, you will have to put on much more elbow grease than if you do it right away.

 After you have emptied the pan put some dish soap inside. Usually, the amount of about a teaspoon of dish soap would be enough; however, it depends on the amount of burned food and the pan size.

The next step would be to fill about the quarter of the pan with water. Bring the pan back to the stove and bring the water to a boil. After it boils, lower the temperature to medium and let it simmer for about 10-20 minutes.

 Now would be the time to take the plastic spatula and scrape the burned food remains carefully. The heat and the soap have softened it so scraping should not be a problem.  Wash the pan as usual after this process.

If there is some more food left, apply the process for cleaning the outside of the pan.

Cleaning the outside of the pan

This is usually the more difficult part since the oil that spilt gets burned right away in contact with the stove. For this technique, wait for the pan to cool down and sprinkle it with some white vinegar or lemon juice.  It will enable the baking soda to stick when you perform the next step, which is covering the surface with it. After that, sprinkle some more vinegar or lemon juice, and watch the magic happen.

The mix should start to bubble, which is how the dirt comes off. You should leave it to sit for 20 to 30 minutes and then use an abrasive sponge or an old toothbrush to scrub.  The scorch marks and burnt oil should come off relatively easily, however, you can repeat the process if there are some left.

Wash the pan as usual, and there it is, your pan is as good as new!


There is one store-bought product that does wonders on the outside of the pan, and that is Barkeeper’s Friend. Sprinkle it on the problematic surface, leave for about 15-20 minutes and scrub the same way as with baking soda and vinegar.

Another alternative is Cream-of-tartar; however, it is truly effective only on fresh marks. It does not do much on the old ones.


And here is your simple solution on how to clean a pan! You don’t have to throw them away anymore. After our tips, your pans will be as good as new!

About the Author James S

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