How to clean burnt pans: 9 easy hacks using store cupboard standbys

Find out how to clean burnt pans and get yours sparkling clean again – without damaging them

How to clean burnt pans: copper pots and pans
(Image credit: Nest)

Wondering how to clean burnt pans? Your meal might have been delicious but that pan isn’t going to clean itself. Cooking can be a chore – the last thing you want to do after a tasty evening meal is to start scrubbing away at pots and pans. Here’s how to clean the dreaded, burnt on residue from your favourite cookware without too much elbow grease, and with cleaners you can find in your cupboards.

For more cleaning tips, visit our cleaning hub. 

1. Cleaning enamelled pans: a word of warning

Enamelware, such as Le Creuset, is not as resistant to harsh cleaning methods because the linings are made from porcelain, which can be scratched. Avoid any cleaning remedy that involves soaking overnight with an acidic liquid such as citric acid or lemon juice, although remedies that use lemon juice as an on-the-spot cleaner which is then removed and rinsed off promptly should be fine. 

When removing encrusted gunk from enamel pans, you should scrape at it and nudge it with a wooden spoon that has a flat edge, and this will prevent scratching a favourite piece of cookware. Once you have dislodged the stubborn bits, a gentle rub with a pan scourer or brush will finish the job.       

2. Cleaning pans with dishwasher tablets or washing up liquid

Half fill your pan with water and add either one dishwasher tablet or one tablespoon of biological washing detergent, which contains enzymes specifically designed to loosen food-based stains. Put the pan on the hob and bring the water to the boil, leaving it to simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully pour the water away before waiting until the pan is cool enough to clean gently with a scouring pad. The burnt-on bits should then just lift away. Give the pan a thorough rinse before its next use.

3. How to clean pans with baking soda

Put enough water in your pan to cover the bottom well and add two tablespoons of baking soda. Simmer for about 30 minutes, checking regularly to make sure that the pan has not boiled dry. The burnt bits should come away easily after this with a gentle scrub. If they don’t, make a stiff paste from baking soda and water, cover the problem area with the paste and leave overnight before a good wash with hot water and washing up liquid the next day.

Find more baking soda cleaning tips for all around the home in our guide.

4. Using Vinegar and baking soda to clean pans

Cover the bottom of your pan with water and add one cup of white distilled vinegar. Bring it to the boil and remove from the hob. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and let it dissolve into the mixture until it starts to fizz. Leave for 10 minutes and then pour away the contents of the pan, removing any stubborn residue afterwards with a gentle rub from a scouring pad. Rinse well before you use the pan again.

Try these 15 ways to use vinegar to clean your home for more cleaning solutions.

5. Cleaning pans with salt

Pour a generous amount of warm water into your burnt pan and add three tablespoons of salt. Stir it in and let it soak for 10 minutes before bringing it to the boil and simmering for 15 minutes.  If there’s still some residue to tackle after this, leave about half an inch of the boiled water in the pan and, when it has cooled sufficiently, add two tablespoons of salt and gently scrub with a scourer.

6. Cleaning pans with coca cola

Add around two cans of cola to your pan and leave it to soak for a few hours before loosening the encrusted stains with a dish-cleaning brush or a scouring pad. Rinse and wash with washing up liquid and hot water when you have finished.

7. Use tumble dryer sheets to clean burnt pans

Put one tablespoon of washing-up liquid into the pan and cover the bottom of it with an inch or so of hot water. Place a dryer sheet over the water and press it down with your hands so that it becomes completely submerged. Leave the pan to soak for at least an hour before rinsing it out and rubbing away any lingering burnt bits with a pan scourer or brush.  

8. Cleaning pans with raw potato and salt

If you want to remove burnt-on spill marks on the sides of your pan caused by sauces or soups boiling over, take a large potato, cut it in half and pour salt on the cut side. Rub this into the burn marks to loosen the particles. Add more salt as necessary and rinse and clean the pan thoroughly afterwards. 

9. Cleaning pots and pans with lemon and salt 

Cover the area that needs attention with coarse salt, then cut a lemon in half and squeeze it directly onto the salt. The result should be a thick mixture with the consistency of paste.  Use a soft dish cloth to rub the stained area. If there are still areas marked with residue after this, let the salt and lemon mixture sit on the stain for a couple of hours before scrubbing again and rinsing.    

Find 18 ways to use lemon to clean your home in our guide.

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Lesley Hannaford Hill is a homes, property and interiors writer of some repute. She started writing on Best magazine back in the 1990s and has since worked for many women's and interiors magazines, writing about everything from property prices to home improvement. She is know for her witty style and broad knowledge. On a personal level, she has renovated flats and houses and has built her own home on the plot where her parents' self-build once stood.