How To Clean Burnt Pots & Scorched Pans

updated Sep 22, 2022
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If you’ve ever experienced the pain of a burnt frying pan, I bring good news: You can put away your rubber gloves and rest your weary arms. I have found a solution to cleaning scorched pots and pans that is chemical-free, cuts scrubbing time in half, and lets you keep your pan. Cheers!

What You Need


  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 1 cup of water (give or take depending on the size of your pan)
  • A burnt stainless steel pan that was left empty and unattended on a heated hot plate (oops!)
  • A scouring pad, because I can’t find any way to avoid it entirely (this one has a convenient handle)
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If you’ve ever experienced the pain of a burnt pan I bring good news… (Image credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy)


1. Place the pan on the stovetop and fill the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of water.

2. Add the vinegar.

3. Bring the pan to a boil. (It should be looking a bit cleaner already.)

4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda. Expect fizz!

Apartment Therapy Cleaning Tip: Many readers have commented that they experienced “dramatic fizz” that required a lot of clean-up. To avoid this, you can pour out the vinegar and then add the baking soda.

5. Empty the pan and scour with your scouring tool; if necessary, you can add an extra bit of dry baking soda.

6. If there are any super stubborn marks that don’t come off with scouring, make a paste of baking soda and a couple of drops of water. Leave the paste on the marks for a while and return to clean as normal.

7. Ta-da! Now you can put your feet up and enjoy the many hours you saved yourself standing over the sink.

Additional Notes:

I’m almost ashamed to say this is not my first time burning a frying pan (hopefully, it is my last), and you can get them clean with just baking soda, water, and a scourer if you’re super committed. But this boiling process is much, much easier. I’ve also been told that this works really well for baked-on food and grime, especially milk.

Some Other Methods to Try

We haven’t vetted these, but here are the best reader tips from the comments:

  • Go to Amazon and look for “Carbon Off.” I have clean cookie sheets, pots, pans, and lots of other things because of it. It’s like paint stripper — wear gloves.
  • We keep a bottle of cheap fabric softener around. Putting a small amount in the pan with some hot water and let it sit for 15 minutes or so, makes for less scrubbing.
  • Put some water with regular washing powder in the burnt pan and bring it to boil and then let it simmer a bit. Works like magic.
  • I use cheap non-diet cola — I just pour in about an inch and let it cook down as far as I can before the liquid disappears. The sugar softens the burned stuff and the acidity helps pull it up. Works on baking sheets too. Vinegar would do the same but value brand cola is cheaper around here!
  • I do this with water and Dawn and bring to a boil for a few minutes. SOS pads take off the rest.

Edited from a post originally published on 3.02.2011 — TW