How To Clean The Bottom Of Pots & Pans To Make Them Look New

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Without taking meticulous care to clean the bottom of your pots and pans after each and every use, they’ll undoubtedly pick up some grime, discoloration, and staining. Fortunately, no matter how blackened and marred the underside of your cookware may be, there are solutions that’ll have it looking almost as good as new with very little effort at all. No matter which method you pick, always start with the gentlest option for your cookware, and if that doesn’t work, proceed to harsher cleaning products and stronger methods.

Key Takeaways

  • While most cleaning methods apply to all cookware, there are certain cleaners that are simply too harsh for particular materials. Confirm whether or not your choice of cleaner works safely by using the cleaning agent suitability table below, and when in doubt, always test on a small inconspicuous area before cleaning the entire pot or pan. 
  • The majority of people find the greatest success with the least effort and the lowest risk of damage when using baking soda and either water or vinegar. Make a thick baking soda paste and give the pot or pan a coating. Let it stand for a few hours or preferably overnight. Stubborn marks may need even longer and a midway reapplication of paste. Use either baking soda and vinegar or baking soda and water and a mildly abrasive cleaning brush to scrub the grime and discoloration away. Baking soda is safe for everything except copper. 
  • If a sponge or cleaning pad just isn’t cutting it, scrub your cookware with a crumpled-up piece of aluminum foil instead. It isn’t as abrasive as steel wool or a rough scouring pad and does an excellent job at shining up badly marked pots and pans. 

Cleaning Agent Suitability Chart

Non-Stick CookwareStainless Steel CookwareCeramic CookwareCopper CookwareAluminum CookwareCast Iron & Carbon Steel Cookware
VinegarSuitability depends on type and quality of the non-stick coatingSuitableSuitableNot recommended, may damage the copperSuitableSuitable, use sparingly as vinegar is acidic
Baking SodaSuitableSuitableSuitableNot recommended, may damage the copperSuitableSuitable
Lemon JuiceSuitableSuitableSuitableSuitable for removing stains, but may not be effective on tarnishSuitableSuitable, but may strip seasoning if used excessively
SaltSuitable, but use sparingly as salt may scratch the coatingSuitable, but use a soft sponge or cloth to prevent scratchingSuitableSuitable, but may scratch the copperSuitableSuitable, but may strip seasoning if used excessively
Bar Keepers FriendNot recommended, may damage the coatingSuitable, but use a soft sponge or cloth to prevent scratchingSuitable, but use sparingly as it may damage the coatingSuitable, but may strip the patinaSuitable, but use sparingly as it may cause pitting or discolorationSuitable, but may strip seasoning if used excessively
Oven CleanerNot recommended, may damage the coatingSuitable, but use sparinglyNot recommended, may damage the coatingNot recommended, may damage the copperNot recommended, may cause pitting or discolorationSuitable, but use sparingly as it may strip seasoning
RhubarbSuitable for removing stainsSuitable, but may cause discoloration if left too longNot recommended, may damage the coatingSuitable for removing tarnish, but may not be effective on stainsNot recommended, may cause pitting or discolorationSuitable
Cream of TartarSuitableSuitableSuitableSuitable for removing tarnish, but may not be effective on stainsSuitableSuitable
AmmoniaNot recommended, may damage the coatingSuitable, but use in a well-ventilated area and avoid contact with skinNot recommended, may damage the coatingNot recommended, may cause discoloration or damage the copperNot recommended, may cause pitting or discolorationSuitable, but use sparingly as it may strip seasoning
Ketchup/Tomato PasteSuitable for removing stainsNot recommended, may cause discolorationSuitable for removing stainsSuitable for removing tarnish, but may not be effective on stainsNot recommended, may cause pitting or discolorationNot recommended, may strip seasoning
Worcestershire SauceSuitable for removing stainsNot recommended, may cause discolorationSuitable for removing stainsSuitable for removing tarnish, but may not be effective on stainsNot recommended, may cause pitting or discolorationNot recommended, may strip seasoning
Magic EraserSuitable, but use with caution as it may scratch the coatingSuitable, but use with caution as it may scratch the surfaceSuitable, but may scratch the coatingNot recommended, may scratch the copperNot recommended, may cause pitting or discolorationSuitable, but may strip seasoning if used excessively
Hydrogen PeroxideSuitable for removing stainsSuitable, but may cause discoloration if left too longNot recommendedNot recommendedSuitable for removing stainsNot recommended

Please Note: Table assumes contact with both the inner surface and underside of the cookware in question.

How To Clean The Bottom Of Pots & Pans

We have arranged our cleaning methods from the gentlest to the most abrasive. Always use the gentlest method possible before proceeding to a harsher form of cleaning. Many methods are interchangeable with other types of cookware other than the material stated, but when warned, avoid as advised to prevent damage. Any method stated is safe for use both inside and outside of any pots and pans in need of cleaning. To learn  how to get rid of grease instead of cleaning the underside, don’t miss our guide to removing burned grease from the bottom of pots & pans. We’ve got everything you need to know to make the job easy. 

Non-Stick Cookware Cleaning Methods

Even though you’re cleaning the bottom of your non-stick cookware, we advise sticking to materials that are unlikely to damage the non-stick coating anyway, just in case contact is made during cleaning. Also, many types of cookware come featuring the same coating everywhere. 

Baking Soda And Water

Create a paste by mixing equal parts of baking soda and water in a small bowl until you have a thick, spreadable consistency. Apply the paste to the bottom of the pot or pan and let it sit for a few hours. For really badly marked pans, you can leave it for a few days. The baking soda will help to loosen any grime or stains, making them easier to remove. Once ready, use a soft sponge or brush to scrub the surface adding more baking soda as necessary. Once you’ve finished scrubbing, rinse the pot or pan with warm water and dry it thoroughly with a soft towel. This cleaning method is gentle enough to use regularly.

Vinegar, Baking Soda, And Water

Mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a pot or pan and let it simmer on the stove for a few minutes. Decant this into a tray, scatter a generous helping of baking soda, and place the pot or pan being cleaned atop the granules into the warmed solution. The heat will help to activate the vinegar, bicarb, and water mixture, which will loosen any stickiness or stains. After a variable period depending on the marks ranging from half an hour to a few hours, gently scrub the surface with a sponge or cleaning pad until it comes clean. Rinse with warm water and dry well. This is another great cleaning method for regular use but don’t use vinegar on aluminum for prolonged periods or cast iron, or it’ll damage your cookware. 

Magic Eraser

Magic erasers are made of a porous melamine foam material that is designed to remove tough stains and grime without scratching surfaces, making them an ideal choice for cleaning non-stick cookware. Wet a magic eraser with water and gently scrub the bottom of the pot or pan. The magic eraser’s foam will help to lift and remove any food particles or stains, making it easier to clean the surface. Give the outside of your pot or pan a good scrub and once you’re done, rinse and dry. The magic eraser cleaning method is effective and gentle enough to use regularly, but it’s important to remember that magic erasers should not be used on non-stick cookware that has a damaged or peeling coating as a quick-fix while cleaning the outside, as this will most likely cause further damage. We recommend testing the magic eraser on a small, inconspicuous area of the cookware first to ensure that it does not cause any damage or discoloration.

Toothpaste

Toothpaste is an unexpected yet effective cleaning agent for non-stick cookware. The mild abrasive properties of toothpaste make it effective at removing stains and food particles from the surface of the cookware without damaging the non-stick coating. If a choice is available, pick a mildly abrasive toothpaste over a smooth one when cleaning the bottom of a pot, and pick the latter when opting for toothpaste to clean the inside. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to the bottom of the pan and spread it evenly. Allow it to sit for at least two hours, and then scrub it clean with a soft-bristled brush like a toothbrush. After just a little effort, the black should lift away easily. Rinse with warm water and dry once done.

Stainless Steel Cookware Cleaning Methods

Getting the black and any marring off stainless steel cookware is a breeze. There’s no coating to worry about, and all one has to do is take care to avoid scratches. This means getting yourself a gentle cleaning pad or sponge and using any of the following methods to shine up the outside of your pots and pans. 

Baking Soda And Water

Create a paste by mixing baking soda and water together in a small bowl until you have a thick, spreadable consistency. Apply the paste to the bottom of the pot or pan, making sure to cover any stained or dirty areas with extra saturation. Let the paste sit on the surface of the cookware for at least an hour, allowing it to work its magic and loosen the grime. After you think the paste has done its work at loosening the grime, use a soft sponge or brush to scrub the surface of the cookware. Be sure to use gentle pressure and avoid scrubbing too hard, as this can scratch the stainless steel. 

Lemon Juice And Baking Soda Or Salt

Cut a lemon in half and dip it in baking soda or salt, being sure to give it a generous coating. Use the lemon half to gently scrub the bottom of the pot or pan. If lemon juice isn’t available, please feel free to use white or brown vinegar instead. Reapply baking soda or salt as necessary. A great way to conserve lemons is to cut away a well-worn slice before continuing scrubbing if bad staining or build-up prevails. The lemon juice and baking soda will work together better than salt to break down any grime or discoloration on the surface of the cookware.

Rhubarb

The high oxalic acid content of rhubarb makes it an effective natural cleaning agent. Cut the ends off a few rhubarb stalks and chop them up. Either boil them inside the cookware you want to clean or boil up the rhubarb with a little water and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. If cleaning the outside of a pot or pan, pour this liquid into a vessel big enough to hold the cookware being cleaned. Place the cookware and let it soak for an hour or two at the most when cleaning away black marks that form underneath. Scrub away the stains using a scrub brush or scouring pad, then wash, rinse, and dry. 

Bar Keepers Friend

Bar Keepers Friend is a powerful and effective cleaning product that is specifically designed for use on stainless steel cookware. It contains a special blend of surfactants and abrasives that work together to remove even the toughest stains and grime from the cookware’s surface. Start by sprinkling Bar Keepers Friend on the bottom of the pot or pan. Add a little bit of water to the powder to create a thick, spreadable paste. Apply the paste to your cookware, wait one minute only, and then use a soft sponge or brush to gently scrub the surface clean. Remember, Bar Keepers Friend is a potent cleaning agent unsuitable for non-stick or cast iron cookware, as it can damage the surface of these materials. Always be sure to use gentle pressure when cleaning stainless steel. We recommend performing a surface test on a small area first to confirm that it won’t do any damage. 

Oven Cleaner

Oven cleaner is a powerful cleaning product designed to remove stubborn stains and grime from various surfaces, including stainless steel cookware. Keep in mind oven cleaner can be very harsh and should only be used as a last resort. To use oven cleaner on stainless steel cookware, start by putting on gloves and eye protection to protect yourself from the harsh chemicals. Spray the oven cleaner directly onto the bottom of the pan, making sure to cover any stained or dirty areas. Let the oven cleaner sit on the surface of the cookware for the amount of time specified on the manufacturer’s instructions which varies according to the brand of oven cleaner. Once you’ve finished scrubbing, rinse the cookware thoroughly with warm water, making sure to remove all of the oven cleaner. Dry the cookware thoroughly with a soft towel.

Ceramic Cookware Cleaning Methods

If you’re tired of trying to scrub away stubborn stains on your cookware, it might be time to give ceramic pots and pans a try. They make clean-up a breeze as compared to other materials. Ceramic cookware is also far less likely to incur terrible black marks than other varieties. 

Baking Soda And Water

Mix a paste with baking soda and water until a spreadable consistency is reached. Apply liberally to the bottom of your pot or pan, saturating any heavily stained or dirty areas. Let the paste sit for a few minutes, and then gently scrub the surface using a soft sponge or mildly abrasive brush while always only using gentle pressure to prevent scratch. Rinse and dry while safely turning to this method for regular cleaning. 

Vinegar And Water

All it takes to clean ceramic cookware is soaking the cookware in a solution of vinegar, and water poured into a sink or tray deep enough to submerge the pot or pan. Most of the stains and grime will loosen within a few minutes. Let the pot or pan cool down, then scrub gently with a soft sponge or brush before rinsing with clean, warm water and drying. Some individuals are averse to the smell of vinegar, but it is a highly effective natural cleaning agent, and the smell dissipates within just a few minutes. 

Magic Eraser

Wet your magic eraser and scrub your ceramic cookware to have it clean in no time. Certain ceramics are more delicate than others, so be sure to do a surface test on a small, inconspicuous area of the cookware first. Once confirmed to be safe, a magic eraser is generally gentle enough to be used for regular cleaning. 

Tin Foil And Baking Soda

Crumple up a ball of tin foil and sprinkle it with a good quantity of baking soda. Use the tinfoil ball to scrub the surface of your ceramic cookware clean. Be sure to rinse and dry well to avoid streaks. While gentle enough for most ceramic cookware, more delicate, cheaper surfaces can incur damage, so test on a small region of the cookware first. This abrasive method of cleaning does a great job of removing stubborn stains and grime. 

Hydrogen Peroxide And Baking Soda

The bleaching effect of hydrogen peroxide works wonderfully for removing stubborn food particles, stains, and deeply-set grime. Make a thick paste from hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, and use this to scrub your ceramic cookware. If this doesn’t get rid of your stains or grime, just pour half an inch or less of hydrogen peroxide into your sink or a deep tray. Add half a cup of boiling water and submerge the cookware. Give it half an hour to an hour to soak. Scrub with a brush or sponge coated with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, and rinse thoroughly before drying. This will get rid of almost anything. 

Copper Cookware Cleaning Methods

Copper cookware is a beautiful addition to any kitchen, but it can be tricky to keep clean and shiny. Fortunately, there are many effective cleaning methods that can help to restore the luster and shine of your copper cookware.

Salt And Vinegar

Make a paste using equal parts salt and vinegar. If vinegar is not available, feel free to use lemon juice instead. Apply the paste liberally to the bottom of your copper pot or pan and allow it to sit for a few minutes to a few hours, depending on what you’re cleaning. Use a sponge or brush to gently scrub away grime, stains, and tarnish. Be gentle, as you don’t want to scratch the surface. Once done, rinse well and dry with a soft towel. 

Lemon And Salt

Using lemon and salt to clean copper cookware is a simple and effective way to restore the shine and luster of your copper pots and pans. Lemons are naturally acidic and contain citric acid, which can help to remove stains and tarnish from the surface of the copper, while salt acts as an abrasive. Cut a lemon in half, dip it in salt, and gently scrub your copper cookware clean. Rinse and dry. If this doesn’t work, repeat the process using lemon juice and baking soda instead. It works better for stubborn stains and discoloration. 

Ketchup Or Tomato Paste

The mild acidity of tomatoes is perfect for cleaning copper cookware. Apply a generous layer of ketchup or tomato paste to the bottom of your pot or pan. After allowing it to break down stains and tarnish overnight or at least for several hours, scrub clean with a gentle sponge or brush and then rinse and dry. Tomatoes aren’t generally potent enough to cause any harm, but a surface test on a small, inconspicuous area is recommended when trying this for the first time. 

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is made with vinegar, which is a natural acid that can help to break down any stains or tarnish on the surface of the copper. Just apply the Worcestershire sauce to your pot or pan or pour enough into a tray containing the pot or pan and then give it up to a full day to break down the black marks. Scrub gently, and your copper cookware will shine like new. As always, do a surface test if this is the first time you’re trying this method on your copper. 

Cream Of Tartar

Cream of tartar is a powdery, acidic ingredient that is often used in baking to stabilize egg whites and prevent sugar from crystallizing. However, it can also be used as an effective cleaning agent for copper cookware. When mixed with water to form a paste, cream of tartar can help to remove tarnish and stains from the surface of copper pots and pans. Apply, scrub gently, and rinse well before drying. This is one of the best methods for regular cleaning without any risk of damage. 

Aluminum Cookware Cleaning Methods

When it comes to cookware, nothing is quite as shiny and new as a brand-spanking-new aluminum pot or pan. Yet, after a few uses, it can start to look like it’s been through a war. Here’s how to keep your aluminum cookware looking as good as the day you bought it.

Baking Soda and Water

A thick paste made with equal parts baking soda and water is abrasive enough to clean stubborn stains and food waste but gentle enough to never scratch the surface of aluminum. Apply the paste and give it at least two hours to work away at the grime when cleaning the underside of cookware. Cleaning the inner cooking surface only takes 10 to 15 minutes. Scrub away the residue with a sponge or brush, and be sure to be gentle to avoid scratches. Give it a good rinse and dry well. If this doesn’t work, make a paste from baking soda and vinegar instead, but never let it sit on aluminum for more than an hour or two at the most before scrubbing clean.

Vinegar And Water

There’s no chance of damaging aluminum cookware with vinegar and water. Just boil up equal parts and decant the solution into something large enough to hold your pot or pan (a sink or baking tray often works). Soak the cookware for at least an half an hour to an hour, but for stubborn stains, you’ll need two to three, but no more. Too long of a soak, and the aluminum will discolor. Once cool enough to scrub or a longer period has passed, scrub away the loosened residue, then rinse and dry. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how well plain old vinegar works for removing stuck-on food waste. 

Salt And Vinegar

Mix equal parts salt and vinegar to create a paste. Apply the paste to the bottom of the pan and let it sit for an hour or two. After you feel the food waste or grime has softened enough, use a non-abrasive sponge or cloth to scrub the surface of the pan. Rinse thoroughly and dry well. Stick to gentle brushes or a sponge and avoid metal scrubbers and steel wool pads to avoid damage. If heavily soiled or badly stained, simply repeat the process or use baking soda in place of salt. 

Cream Of Tartar And Water

Cream of tartar is an excellent ingredient for cleaning aluminum cookware because it is non-toxic, gentle on the metal, and effective at removing stains and discoloration. Mix cream of tartar and water together to create a paste with a consistency similar to toothpaste. Apply the paste to your cookware and let it sit overnight or longer. Scrub the paste-covered surface with a soft sponge or brush until all the residue and discoloration are gone. 

Ammonia And Water

Cleaning aluminum cookware with ammonia and water is a method that requires extra caution, but it can be effective for removing tough stains and grime. Mix equal parts ammonia and water in a large plastic bag. Place the pan inside the bag and make sure it is fully submerged in the solution. Seal the bag tightly and let it soak for several hours or even overnight. After the soaking period is complete, use a non-abrasive sponge or cloth to scrub away any remaining stains. It is important to use gloves and work in a well-ventilated area when using ammonia, as it can be harmful if inhaled or if it comes into contact with skin. Rinse the pan thoroughly with warm water and dry with a clean towel. This method can be repeated as needed for heavily soiled cookware. Never use ammonia on non-stick or coated cookware of any kind. 

Cast Iron & Carbon Steel Cookware Cleaning Methods

Cast iron and carbon steel cookware have the potential to outlast the best of cookware, but maintaining their allure takes some elbow grease. Here’s how to clean the burnt-on gunk off your pots and pans. 

Salt

Salt is a great option for removing stuck-on food and grime and the black marks that build up from regular use on cast iron and carbon steel cookware. Coarse salt is recommended as it provides more abrasive power without damaging the seasoning on the cookware. Simply sprinkle the salt liberally onto the bottom of the pan and use a brush or cleaning pad to scrub the surface gently a few minutes to an hour later. Avoid using soap or abrasive cleaners, as they can strip the seasoning from the pan. Once clean, rinse the pan with warm water and dry it immediately with a towel or by heating it on the stovetop to evaporate any remaining moisture. This will help prevent rust and keep the cookware in good condition.

Oil And Salt

The oil and salt method is a great way to clean cast iron and carbon steel cookware without using any harsh chemicals. To start, pour a small amount of oil (such as vegetable or canola oil) onto or into the pan and sprinkle a generous amount of coarse salt on top. Use a paper towel to scrub the salt and oil mixture gently into the surface, focusing on any areas with stubborn food particles or stuck-on stains. The salt helps to lift away the debris, while the oil works to condition the surface of the pan. After scrubbing, rinse the pan with hot water and dry it thoroughly with a towel or by placing it on the stove over low heat. 

Cleaning The Bottom Of Pots & Pans – Frequently Asked Questions

Getting the underside and inside of your pots and pans clean can be quite a taxing task, even with the necessary know-how. If you’ve been left wondering anything about getting them looking brand new, we may have the answers you need here. 

How Often Should I Clean The Bottom Of My Pots And Pans?

If you want to ensure that your pots and pans stay in the best condition possible, we advise cleaning after every use. This ensures that stains don’t have time to set in while effectively removing food particles and built-up residue before it creates layers of grime. We suggest cleaning the bottom of your pots and pans once a week, at the very least, if you’re not willing to go through the effort after each use. 

What Type Of Scrubber Should I Use For Cleaning Pots & Pans?

The safest option is to use a non-abrasive scrubber. This type of scrubber is gentle on cookware surfaces, won’t scratch or damage non-stick coatings, and is suitable for use on a wide range of materials, including stainless steel, ceramic, and copper cookware. You can choose from various types of non-abrasive scrubbers, such as nylon, silicone, and natural bristle brushes. Avoid using harsh scrubbers such as steel wool or abrasive sponges unless you’re cleaning the black off the underside of cookware that won’t budge using any other combination of soaking or scrubbing. Before opting for steel wool, we suggest a crumpled piece of tinfoil instead. It is gentler. 

Can You Use Bar Keepers Friend On Non-Stick Cookware?

No, Bar Keepers Friend should not be used on non-stick cookware. The abrasive nature of the product can damage the non-stick coating, leading to scratches and potentially harmful chemicals leaching into your food. Bar Keepers Friend is safe to use on stainless steel, ceramic, copper, and cast iron & carbon steel cookware.

Will Baking Soda Scratch The Bottom Of My Pot Or Pan?

Baking soda is non-abrasive and generally safe to use on pots and pans without scratching the surface. However, using a scrubber with baking soda may cause scratches or damage to certain materials, such as non-stick coatings or delicate ceramic cookware. It’s always best to check the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning recommendations or test on a small, inconspicuous area before applying baking soda to the entire surface you want to clean.

Can I Use Steel Wool To Clean The Bottom Of My Pot Or Pan?

Steel wool should only be used as a last resort when cleaning the underside of pots and pans. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that will get rid of badly burned on black marks. Just take care to scrub the underside only when using something as abrasive as steel wool, a rugged scouring pad, or a steel brush.


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