How to Clean A Burnt Pot or Pan: Cleaning Hacks

It happens to the best of us. You’re cooking in your favorite pot or pan, and the phone rings, or your kid starts crying, or your favorite episode of Survivor comes on, and you get distracted. And before you know it, your food and your pot are ruined. 

I often get asked how to clean a burnt pot. The truth is, there is more than one way to clean burnt pots, and the best way for you will depend on what your pot is made of and how you burnt it. Sometimes cleaning with vinegar or cleaning with baking soda will be your best bet. Other times, dishwashing tablets might just be the solution! 

So let’s get into all the ways to clean a burnt pot, so you can make the right decisions and save your pots! Before you start cleaning thoroughly with any of these methods, I recommend testing a small patch on your pot. Some materials don’t respond well to certain cleaning methods and products, so it’s always good to test a new product on a small area. 

The Boiling Water Method

Believe it or not, boiling water alone can actually treat burnt pots. So before you spend ten minutes frustratedly scrubbing a burnt pot to no avail, try this method. 

Scrub the pot to remove as much of the burnt area as possible. Then, fill with boiling water. You want enough to cover the burnt area plus a little more. Bring this to a boil and let boil for about five minutes. Then dump out the water and scrub with the most abrasive sponge or scouring pad appropriate for your pot. For mild char, boiling water will soften the areas and allow you to scrub better. 

A pot on the stove full of pasta.

Cleaning With Vinegar 

Vinegar is an excellent natural cleaner. I’ve talked about it so much already on Clean My Space. If you haven’t seen any of those articles, I recommend checking out 7 Clever Ways to Clean With Vinegar. 

You can often rescue a mildly scorched pan with vinegar and water alone! Pretty crazy! First, remove as much of the burnt food as possible and scrub well. Then, pour equal parts vinegar and water into your pot. You want enough to cover the burnt area completely, plus a little more. Bring your vinegar and water to a boil and let boil on high for five minutes. The acidity of the vinegar should loosen stubborn stains. 

After five minutes, let cool. You can keep the vinegar and water mixture in the pot as it cools, then dump it out and scrub well. 

Cleaning With Vinegar And Baking Soda

Sometimes vinegar alone isn’t enough, but you still want to stick to natural cleaning products or items you already have at home in your pantry. That’s where baking soda comes in. Like vinegar, baking soda is an excellent natural cleaner, and I have tons of articles on how you can clean with baking soda, including Cleaning With Baking Soda is Awesome!

If you need some extra help cleaning your burnt pan, break out the baking soda along with the vinegar. Once again, remove as much of the burnt food as possible beforehand. Then, fill your pot with vinegar (not diluted) so that it covers all burnt areas. Bring this to a boil, then turn down the heat and let simmer for a few minutes. 

Remove your pot from the heat, and when the vinegar cools slightly, add three tablespoons of baking soda (or more for a large pot). The baking soda will react to the vinegar by fizzing up, so I recommend doing this part in the sink. When the fizzing stops, dump the liquid. 

Give your pot a thorough scrub. If you come across any stubborn spots, you can toss in a little baking soda and use it to scrub again. 

A dirty pan and sponge

Dishwasher Tablets to the Rescue

Dishwasher tablets and dishwasher detergents are created specifically to break down food. That’s what makes them so great at tackling stubborn pot burns. But don’t just throw your pot in the dishwasher with a tablet; try this hack instead.  

Scrub as much of the burnt area off as possible. Then, fill your pot with enough water to cover the burnt parts. Add a dishwasher tablet or one tablespoon of detergent. Bring this to a boil and then simmer for ten minutes. Dump the water and scrub thoroughly. If there are still stains after the first round, repeat until clean. 

How To Clean A Burnt Pot

Accidentally burning a pot is super frustrating. Luckily, there are many methods you can use to save your pots. Always remember to test an area before using a cleaning product on the full item. This goes for any cleaning you do on any surface!

If you have a foolproof method for cleaning pots, let us know in the comments. How do you rescue your burnt pots? Or have you had any kitchen disasters that can’t be saved?

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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.


  1. My mother always cleaned a burned pot with Cream of Tarter. She added to enough water to cover the burnt area, and about a tsp/Tbsp. or more of Cream of Tarter. Bring to a boil, simmer for a few minutes – let sit to cool, then scrub the pot clean. You can find Cream of Tarter in grocery stores where the spices are.

  2. I’ve found that Bon Ami powder works amazingly. Makes the job pretty simple, without being as harsh or hard on your pots and pans as Barkeepers Friend.

  3. Hi Melissa, for years I have cleaned burnt pots by also removing as much of the burnt debris as I can and the adding about 1/2 -1 inch of water above the burnt area and sprinkling the burnt area with baking soda; bring it to a boil and then turn it off. When the pot cools off, the burnt area almost always comes off with ease and maybe a little scrubbing with a sponge and more baking soda. It is sometimes effective even if I don’t remove a lot of the burnt debris but I use a bit more baking soda.


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