How to Clean the (Burnt) Bottom of a Pot or Pan

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How do I clean burnt grease and scorch marks off the bottom of pots and pans?

This has been a popular question from the Clean My Space community, and clearly, one that needed some research and testing in our advanced cleaning laboratory (…our house).

So, we put your tough question to the test.  If you haven’t done so already, we highly recommend you check out our video and blog post on how to clean the inside of a burnt pot or pan…it’s fantastically easy and requires next to no effort on your part (praise the lord).

In the comments on that video and post, we’ve been asked an alarmingly high amount of times how to clean the bottoms of pots and pans…truth is, we never much thought about it and had no quick fix.  It required some research, but we managed to figure it out.  What we’ve done is investigated 4 popular methods on cleaning the bottom of pots and pans and put them to the test.

The two methods we chose not to use were: cleaning with oven cleaner (it can void your pan’s warranty and is usually pretty harsh, and the same results can be accomplished with other products), and the second is soaking in cola.  We tried this and the results weren’t exciting in the slightest, so we chose to omit it. Feel free to try it out if you have a few spare bottles kicking around though.

So what we did do, was test ketchup, cream of tartar, baking soda and Barkeeper’s Friend.  We used two types of pans, to give you an overview on how everything worked.  I used my Simply Calphalon stainless steel pans, and my Le Creuset cast iron enamelled pans.  This works on any kind of pan, however non-stick pans may be sensitive to Barkeeper’s Friend, so stick to the gentler methods.  Also, despite your deepest, darkest fantasies, please try to avoid placing your pots and pans in the dishwasher.  It can ruin them for good, especially cast iron and non-stick pans.  Always use a non-scratch sponge to do this, especially on the cast iron and non-stick pans!

The video demonstrates the effectiveness of each method.

Ketchup

I applied ketchup to the bottom of the pans, and left it for about 10 minutes.  Apparently this works extremely well on copper-bottom pans, and tomato paste can be used as well (great use for leftovers).  After 10 minutes, I scrubbed with a non-scratch sponge and the results on both pans were not good at all.  Scorch marks and build up were still there, although the stainless steel was a bit brighter.  The cast iron was impervious to the ketchup treatment.  No thanks, not doing this again.  Waste of an excellent condiment otherwise required for potatoes.

Cream of Tartar

I created a paste using about 3 parts cream of tartar to one part water.  The paste was applied to sections of the pan and left for 10 minutes.  Then, it was scrubbed with a  damp, non-scratching sponge.  Nada on the cast iron, and like the ketchup, a bit brighter on the bottom of the stainless steel pan but the scorches and stains were still abound.  Thanks but no thanks, c of t.

 Baking Soda

Well,  you know how much I love baking soda, so us testing it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you.  I applied a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water, and left it on the bottom of the pan for about 10 minutes, then scrubbed with a non-scratch sponge.  Most marks came off and some elbow grease was required to do it, but the results were nice on both the stainless steel and cast iron pan bottoms.  I didn’t see the brightening effect on the stainless steel as I did with the cream of tartar and ketchup, but I am more concerned with the removal of marks so all is good in my hood with baking soda.

Barkeeper’s Friend

This stuff, this stuff…wow.  So, like everything else, I applied a paste of BKF to the bottom of the pan (1 part water, 3 parts BKF), and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Then, took the non-scratch sponge and without really even trying, scrubbed.  The stains lifted off beautifully.  I think I heard angels singing…may have been the cat upstairs, but also could have been an angel, really.  It worked swimmingly on both the stainless steel pan and the cast iron pan and required minimal effort.  This absolutely took the cake and is the winner in my eyes.  I was truly impressed.

The caveat to this whole blog post

If you have a roasted, toasted screwed-up pan bottom, please know that you can try all you like but there’s a good chance you won’t get it cleaned.  I purchased one from a thrift store to see how these methods worked and despite my best effort, no dice.  Some pans are just goners.  Now, these marks and stains don’t actually affect the cooking capabilities your cookware has, it’s more of an aesthetic thing.  With that, I don’t mind mine looking used, I mean, that’s what they are there for!  But, if you do like the look of beautiful pan bottoms, then do this on a regular basis to keep those marks and stains at bay.

Good luck and happy cleaning!

Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.

94 COMMENTS

  1. The Lord’s only excuse is She doesn’t exist. That’s Voltaire updated for the modern world. Thanks for the domestic tip though. Much appreciated.

  2. Hi,

    How do you clean the bottoms of ceramic pans. I cook on low heat but yet the pans take on a burnt
    look with stains difficult to remove.

    What do you recommend?

    Jo

  3. Tried everything out there and more – but what really did it was CLR – Just a little and the bottom of my pans showed a huge difference – escellent product

  4. Used oven cleaner and it worked really well. I saw Barkeepers Friend at Walmart and will get that for sure so I can use that quickly.

  5. For the pan that you bought at the thrift store that you were unable to clean with the Bar Keeper’s Friend;

    Try Oven Cleaner – It may do the trick.

  6. The peroxide paste comment is useful. I think what ever you apply you should consider hitting the base of the pan first. Obviously be careful when cleaning but the heat supports the seperation of the burnt in carbon by a fair percentage.

  7. Bar Keeper’s Friend is also the best thing for cleaning soap scum from shower doors.

    You can get it at hardware stores, Walmart, and grocery stores, including Piggly Wiggly. There is a list of sellers on the Bar Keeper’s Friend website.

    • Don, I LOVE that you use peroxide and baking soda. I read that it would get baked on grease off of cookie sheets. Worked like a charm.

      I also use it on great dishes before regular wash of soap and water. I have a problem now that I’m hoping you can help me with.

      I put some peroxide and baking soda on my dishes and before I could scrub and rinse I was called away for a family emergency. I didn’t get back for a few days. After wipe, rinse, and normal wash routine I still have a greasy film on the dishes that just won’t come off.

      Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
      Tonya

    • While living in Germany, we had most of our kitchen ware (pots, pans) with copper bottoms. Vinegar and salt usually worked like a charm to get them gleaming brightly again! First, I poured on straight vinegar, then sprinkled salt (coarser works better) all over it, took a rough cloth (not metal pad!) and scrubbed where necessary (much of it brightened immediately).

  8. I was surprise as how easy they cleaned, especially with the baking soda which is not expensive. I am retired and my wife is not so I do the cleaning.

  9. I need help! On the bottom of a stainless steel fry pan fabric stuck to it. Food burned in pan, I removed from stove and put the hot pan on a dish drying pad. I can not remove the fabric burned onto the pan. Any suggestions? Your video is excellent. I will try bar keepers friend.

  10. I cook and bake like the time, so I have a lot of opportunities for failures 😉. I use Barkeepers Friend and white vinegar (for its acidity) together. When washing dishes that cannot go in the dishwasher, I sprinkle Barkeepers Friend and spritz some white vinegar that I keep in a spray bottle in or on the pan. I scrub it with a non-scratch pad, then let it sit while I wash the other dishes. By the time I get to the pans, they come out clean and shiny. Test it to see if it works any better than your method. I’ll be interested in the results.

  11. I have use oven cleaner on the bottom of my pots and pans for years. It was the fast and easiest way to clean. Yes over the years I started getting pot holes on the bottoms. So I am going to try the the barkeepers friend if I can find it in a store. Thank you for the tips.

  12. Very helpful. As far as buying pans from thrift stores and cleaning them, I just soak pans in really hot water and bar keepers friend. Bar keepers friend is my saving grace.

  13. How do you clean the bottom of Calaphon (Sp?) and brass? I could have sworn that ketsup was good for brass, but i am uncertain. PLEASE help! the Calaphon is new and wasnt cheap! lol

  14. Glad you tried Bar Keeper’s Friend. I’ve used it for years and think it’s one of the best cleaners. It doesn’t scratch surfaces so we use it on lots of things including our stainless steel kitchen sink. Another old product we have used is Bon Ami; when cleanser is on my list I buy whichever is in the store I visit.

    Love all your videos!

  15. I would love to see more possible ways to use barkeeper’s friend! I’m thinking about purchasing it, but I only ave a small space, therefore I want to limit myself to things I can use for multiple cleaning tasks 🙂

  16. Hey Melissa, long time watcher, first time poster 🙂 I heard that ketchup works better on copper bottom pots and pans, not so well on stainless. I wonder if its an ‘old wives tale’? I myself dont have copper anymore cuz of the upkeep, or would try it myself! Thank you for you inspiration and whit!

  17. Yes! I would LOVE more videos on Bar Keeper’s Friend, as I just recently purchased it for the first time in my life. We’ve been told the liquid Bar Keeper’s Friend works on mineral deposits (from water) on Quartz Countertops. We’ve tried this & so far success. But I worry that it’s too abrasive???

  18. LOVED YOUR VIDEO, BUT YOU FAILED TO TELL US WHERE TO BUY “BAR KEEPERS FRIEND”, I OWNED A BAR AND NEVER EVEN HEARD OF IT. THANK YOU FOR YOUR RESPONSE.

  19. Just wondering… Would you do a segment on pan bottoms that are grooved such as T-fal? My daughter has terrible build up on hers and I’m not sure what to use on them. Thank you!!!

  20. I use oven cleaner,bar keepers friend and metal scouring pads on really baked on grease. Use gloves and turn on fan and elbow grease.

  21. Hi Mel!
    Thanks for this awesome site you have set up!
    I would like to know how to resurrect old brass lamps etc. I dont know how to get the tarnish off, even after using “Brasso”.
    Any clues matey?
    Oh, to get stainless steel pots shiny, (not to remove stains really,) but it does work on grease build up, round the base where it joins the brass bit, just use really hot water on the pans, and steel wool, not the fine stuff, and sunlight soap. Then rinse off with hot water, and while the pot is hot, use a soft cloth to buff. 🙂
    Cheers Mel!
    Chris G on the Sunshine coast in Australia 🙂

  22. that pan that u had.use a good scrub brush soem watter and vinagar with a small pinch of backing powder.Scrub scrub scrub.My pans look great because of that combo.

  23. I burnt the mess out of my great grandmothers pan. A friend suggested applying ammonia and placing in a plastic bag (grocery bag) and leave for a few days. wiped right off. AMAZING!!!!

  24. thanks for giving me the info I need that the manufacturer of my pans didn’t!! I do have a cleaning question that has been bugging me since i moved into my own place… and its driving me nuts.

    I’ve got solid wood bamboo flooring on the ground floor of my house. how would you remove the black stuff that builds up in the tiny scratches on the surface of the bamboo? I’ve tried detergent and wooden floor cleaner so far. I don’t want to risk using hardcore cleaning chemicals in case it totally messes my place up. Any ideas? I can provide photos if you need a better explanation. Batchelor pad is turning into a bunghole.

  25. I’m with you – BKF is by far the best. I do have one good hint about keeping them clean and shinny. It’s really simple: Never cook on a dirty stove top!

    • O h Boy… this is so true! We moved to a new place and it has a glass stove top . I love gas cooking, I hate electric.Well,I figured the stove top will be easy to keep clean… Wrong! Anytime there is a boil over or something splattered on the stove top that has not been meticulously cleaned off it burns on to the bottom of my NEW pots and pans 🙁 I would rather have a stained burner liner than have The bottoms of my new pans all stained up and on display hanging from my pan rack !!

  26. Excellent I have pans 35 yrs old that are stack cooking pans n bottoms are a little beat up am going to try this and take pics thank you!!

  27. Yes, more Bar Keepers Friend. I am the social media director for BKF. I love this video and so glad we received high marks from you.
    You should try the BKF Cookware on the pan from the thrift store. You can find it a Target.

  28. I tried bar keepers friend spray not the powder, it didn’t clean much
    But baking soda removed the 70% burnt marks by…. I hope after continuous use of baking soda the pan will look like new!!! Thanks Melissa

    • The spray is NOT the same product – just a product by the same company. Try the dry scrub – seriously, it will change your life. I use it on everything that needs a good deep cleaning. I only wish it smelled better.l
      😛

  29. For the really badly burned pan, try bar keepers friend, water, and scrub using aluminum foil. Works every time. Really nice web site and very helpful. Thanks!

  30. how to clean hot plates. on ovens my oven is nice and shinny, but the hot plates, well thats another stoty. i do wipe up spills straight away but still cant clean them properly

  31. Two other good products you can test (don’t throw away the thrift store pan!) are Stain Solver (http://www.stainsolver.com/) and Bon Ami.

    Stain solver does take a few hours, not minutes to soak in hot water, and if you go to their website, you’ll see all the crazy stuff they’ve cleaned with it. And it is natural.

    Bon Ami is one like baking soda that is quick to use without hours of soaking.

    Be careful with the Bar Keepers Friend because as it is oxalic acid, it can damage different finishes and surfaces as it is very strong. Thanks for the good info!

  32. Barkeeper’s Friend is my absolute favorite cleaner of all time (contains oxalic acid, which is incidentally the same acid in Rhubarb). Always amazing on anything metal due to the chemical reactions, but I have found it a lifesaver in dealing with hard water stains and build up–nothing else I have tried even comes close. Especially great on removing hard water droplet etching from glass shower doors even if, like myself, you “forgot” to clean and squeegee them for a year. It’s like cleaning with magic.

    I discovered your site about a month ago and have been more excited about cleaning lately than any other time in my life. Thanks for making it fun! 🙂

    • I started a house cleaning business for myself and always looking for less chemical cleanings where I don’t have to inhale the fumes. Ill try the beekeepers stuff on those glass doors. Thanks for the tip.

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