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How to Clean Burnt
Pots and Pans

August 5, 2021

Whether it’s from heating up leftover spaghetti too long or forgetting to turn off a burner, most of us have managed to burn our pots and pans. But scorched cookware isn’t as catastrophic as it may seem at first—as long as you know how to clean a burnt pot the right way. And no, you don’t have to resort to harsh cleaners, degreasers, or steel wool to save your favorite saute pan. Even though a burnt pan may look like it’s beyond hope, you likely have everything you need to salvage it already; all you need to clean a burnt pan or pot is baking soda, vinegar, dish soap, lemons, aluminum foil, and a can of soda pop. 

The first step for cleaning a burnt pot or pan is to let it soak in a sink of hot water and dish soap for 30 minutes. This helps break down grease and buildup so you won’t have to use so much elbow grease, getting your cookware back in shape. So let your burnt pot soak while you read on to learn how to clean a burnt pot and make it shine again. 

CAUTION: Don’t use these four cleaning methods for non-stick pots and pans. We’ll cover that later. 

Boiling Water

Sometimes the easiest way to clean a burnt pan is to return to the scene of the crime and heat things up again. All you need is your stovetop, water, baking soda, and a scrub pad:

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  • Fill the burnt pot or pan with enough water to cover the burnt area.
  • Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for about five minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the stove and set it on a potholder to cool down. 
  • Once the water has cooled, pour it out and use a plastic or wooden spatula to scrape away any residue.
  • Sprinkle two tablespoons of baking soda on the burned spots and clean the burnt pan with a plastic scrubber, then rinse. 

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Distilled white vinegar is a natural cleaner and degreaser, and baking soda is a mild abrasive that can clean a burnt pot and restore the shine. Unlike some other cleaning methods, this burnt pot cleaning process doesn’t require mixing the two ingredients:

  • Mix equal parts water and white vinegar and pour in enough to cover the burnt area.
  • Bring the vinegar and water to a boil on your stovetop.  
  • Let it boil for five minutes. 
  • Remove it from the heat and pour the contents down the drain.
  • Rinse the burnt pan with cool water and pour enough baking soda to cover the burnt area.
  • Use a scouring pad to scrub away any remaining burn marks and then rinse the pan.


Want to clean a burnt pan without making your kitchen smell like vinegar? Lemons are a natural bleaching agent and cleaner, and they can do wonders for burned pots and pans. Here’s how to make burnt pots shine and give your home a fresh, clean aroma:

  • Cut two lemons into quarters and put them in your scorched pot with enough water to submerge them.
  • Bring the water and lemons to a boil and let it simmer on high for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the pot and let the water cool down for five minutes.
  • Pour out the water and lemons and finish scrubbing any burn marks with a scrubber and dish soap. 
  • Rinse. 

Aluminum Foil

Here’s a trick you can use on old and new marks: aluminum foil will clean a burnt pan and give it back its shine. It takes a little more work than the methods above, but aluminum foil can tackle even the toughest burns on cookware. So grab your foil and let’s start scrubbing:

  • Add enough hot water to the pot or pan to cover the burnt area. 
  • Pour in a little dish soap and let the cookware soak for 30 minutes.
  • Tear off about a 12-by-12 inch sheet of aluminum foil and roll it into a ball.
  • With the cooled water still in the pot, scrub the burn marks vigorously until the shine returns. 
  • Wash the pot or pan with dish soap and rinse.

How to Clean a Scorched Pan With a Non-Stick Coating

Steel wool and even some plastic scrubbing pads can ruin a non-stick surface and make your pot or pan useless. Skip the harsh scrubbing and commercial cleaners and use one of these safe, effective methods to clean a burnt pot or pan: 

Carbonated Water

The carbonation in club soda and colas does a superb job of breaking down and removing charred food from pots and pans—if you catch it quickly enough. While the pan is still hot and freshly burnt, pour enough carbonated beverage to cover the burnt area and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then wash the pan with soapy water and rinse. 


Your go-to for heartburn and upset stomach happens to be just as effective as club soda for removing burn marks on pots. Pour in enough hot water to cover the burn marks, add two Alka-Seltzer tablets, and let the bubbles do the work. Wash the cookware like you normally would to remove residue.

Baking Soda and Olive Oil

Baking soda’s abrasiveness is mild enough to use on non-stick surfaces when you mix it with olive oil. Mix baking soda and enough olive oil to make a paste, apply it to the scorched area, and use a damp cloth to gently scrub away the burn marks. Then just wash and rinse away the residue.

Now that you know how to clean a burnt pot, pull out all your old pots and pans and give them a good cleaning too! For more tips and hacks on keeping your kitchen clean, check out our DIY cleaning guides. Whether you’re a DIYer or need a little help around the house, The Maids has your back. Learn more about affordable house cleaning services when you get your free, no-obligation estimate

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