How To Clean A Non Stick Skillet & Banish Burnt On Food

No non stick skillet surface lasts forever, but good care and maintenance will extend its lifespan dramatically.

In this guide I’m going to cover the best way to go about this. The first three steps should be fine for daily clean up, but you can try more aggressive methods for tackling burnt on food.

How To Clean A Non Stick Skillet

  1. Act fast. The sooner you clean the pan, the easier it will be.
  2. Start with hot soapy water and plenty of – gently applied – elbow grease.
  3. Use soft cleaning cloths – never abrasive ones.
  4. Try baking soda if there are still problems.
  5. Try the vinegar method if the problem persists.

In the rest of this article, I’m going to explore each of these steps in much greater depth.

(If you want to explore more of my cookware content, take a look at the home cookware guide I have on the site.)

Cleaning A Non Stick Skillet

Before we start, there’s one important thing to know about caring for non stick cookware.

You really shouldn’t put them in the dishwasher.

I know, I know, it’s tempting to let the machine do the hard work!

The problem here is that the heat, humidity and detergent that constantly circulates in a dishwasher will erode that non stick coating.

Don’t get me wrong, even the best non stick pans have a shelf life of just a few years under normal circumstances.

Dishwashing reduces that lifespan even further though, and the costs of maintaining your cookware collection will go up considerably.

When it comes to non stick skillets, hand-washing just comes with the territory.

Act Fast

The best time to wash a skillet is right after it’s cool enough to handle. The next best time is right now!

The faster you can clean your skillet, the easier the job will be overall. Food debris should fall off very easily, and you’ll avoid any gunk building up on the surface too.

You don’t need anything fancy in your kitchen here, just standard dish soap, a gentle cleaning cloth, and a little hot water.

Avoid Abrasive Sponges

The advice about keeping your non stick skillet out of the dishwasher goes double when it comes to using abrasive cleaning pads.

Anything with a scratchy surface texture risks damaging that non-stick surface. Once that begins flaking, it’s a downward spiral.

Try the soft side of a scouring sponge, or a soft cleaning cloth for best results. If you’re using anti-grease dish soap and hot water, you’ll be able to tackle 90% of the grime just fine this way.

A cookware collection hanging from a rack, with a green leafy plant nearby

How To Clean A Burnt Non Stick Skillet

What if things have got really bad though, and you need to remove burnt on food?

The easiest way to clean a burnt non stick skillet is to use a paste made from equal parts water and bicarbonate of soda.

Once you’ve made this cleaning paste, use a soft cleaning sponge to apply it to the problematic areas.

Leave the skillet to sit for around 15 minutes, and then rinse it thoroughly under running water.

At the very least that should get the worst of the burned food off, and leave you with the regular washing up job.

How To Clean Non Stick Pans With Baking Soda & Vinegar

This is a slightly more aggressive version of the method used above. If it hasn’t done the job though, you can try this approach next.

First, put the pan on your stovetop and fill it with warm water until the problematic parts of the surface are just covered.

Next, add a small glass of white wine vinegar to the water, and stir the contents until they’re fully mixed.

Heat the pan and let the contents simmer for around 10 minutes.

After this, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda. The reaction between the vinegar and the baking soda will help force the burnt bits off food off the cooking surface.

After a few minutes, turn the stove off and leave the pan to cool completely.

Once the pan has cooled down, pour the baking soda, water and vinegar solution down the drain.

You can now rinse off and clean the pan as you normally would.

How To Clean A Non Stick Pan The First Time

Once you’ve unpacked your new non stick pan, it’s recommended you give it a good clean before using it for the first time. 

This will make sure none of the packaging materials are lingering on the surface after transit and delivery.

You don’t need to do anything more complicated than a standard wash though.

Use hot water, a little kitchen dish soap, and then rinse the pan well. Next, dry it with a soft towel and put it into storage (see my cast iron storage guide if you’re working with this material).

Wrapping Up 

Act quickly after cooking and your non stick skillet should be easy enough to clean with just hot water and dish soap.

Always start with that simple approach, and then move onto the baking soda / vinegar methods if you’ve got a real mess on your hands!

If the outside of your cast iron skillet is dirty, I’ve got a guide to fixing that too.

Happy cooking!