How To Clean Your Pots And Pans

6 cookware cleaning tricks for 6 types of cookware.

Everybody does it. It’s your typical weeknight scenario: You spent all that time prepping and cooking dinner, and when it was finally done, you hastily abandoned your post in the kitchen and ran off to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Pots and pans lay in wait on the stovetop, slowly cooling and congealing. The shimmering oil and grease splatters glisten, and the starches and dairy bits begin to dry, clinging onto your cookware with superhuman strength. While you're relishing in the results of that new recipe you’ve conquered, your cookware is becoming crusty, dusty and cold.

As you might’ve guessed, we’ve got a few cookware cleaning tips. Listen up.

We’d like to cordially introduce you to our favorite pot and pan (and all dishes, really) cleaner: Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray. It’s ideal for larger pots and pans that can’t be fully submerged to soak in your sink. You just spray down your soiled cookware—no need to even rinse first! The dirtier your pan is, the longer you can let it sit, giving those concentrated suds time to break down the caked-on food and grime. Then just wipe the soap off with a wet sponge or dishcloth, and rinse with hot water. Watch all that gunk just wash away down the drain.

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Plus, it’s worth noting that some pots and pans are dishwasher safe—check the manufacturer instructions. If that’s the case, skip the sink altogether, and just throw your dirty cookware in the dishwasher with Cascade Platinum ActionPacs. These power-packed packs clean tough, burnt-on messes in just one cycle without prewashing. Seriously!

If you’re looking for other tips and tricks for cleaning pots and pans, look no further. Here are 6 different methods for 6 different types of cookware.

How to clean nonstick pots and pans

  • Best to be careful with nonstick pots and pans because it’s easy to scratch the nonstick coating off if you’re too aggressive with your clean, rendering them borderline useless.
  • The good news about nonstick pans is that messes don’t generally stick too horribly and can be washed away with dish soap.
  • We suggest using a concentrated dish soap and a regular sponge or nylon scrubber (don’t use steel wool).
  • If soap and water isn’t doing the trick, try boiling water in the pot or pan for about 20 minutes, and then wash and rinse as normal.

How to clean ceramic pots and pans

  • Ceramic cookware is great, but sometimes the bottom of the pot will stain. While this is less offensive than a burnt interior (after all, it’s not affecting the flavor of your food, but could cause unpleasant smokiness throughout your kitchen each time it touches the heat), it’s still not great for the longevity of your pots or pans.
  • Try Dawn Powerwash. It can lift those stains and factory reset your pots and pans, making them good as new. No elbow grease necessary. Save that elbow grease for elsewhere.
  • You should never use steel wood on ceramic surfaces, but you can use a gentle abrasive like baking soda.
    • Let your ceramic pot or pan soak in soapy water for 30 minutes.
    • Remove from water, and sprinkle some baking soda on a damp sponge, using it to scrub the pot or pan in small circular motions to dislodge those stubborn bits of remaining food or grease.
  • If you’re still dealing with staining:
    • Cover the bottom of the pan with a light coating of hydrogen peroxide.
    • Let it sit for 30 minutes.
    • Wash with dish soap and warm water, and dry as normal.

How to clean stainless steel pots and pans

  • Stainless steel cookware can accumulate grease stains or spots over time, especially on the outside. The good news is that they’re tougher than nonstick and ceramic and can take more abrasion.
  • You can use abrasive cleanser powder on stainless steel. Always be sure to read and follow the package instructions on ready-made cleaners.
  • Baking soda is a great natural alternative to an abrasive cleanser.
    • Sprinkle baking soda on the surface of your pots and pans, and add a little water to make a paste.
    • Scrub away.
    • Wash with dish soap, and rinse with warm water.
    • If the mess is really bad, try letting the paste sit and work its magic for about 20 minutes before scrubbing off.

How to clean aluminum pots and pans

  • Using an acidic cleaning solution is a great option for aluminum surfaces, especially if you’re seeing chalky white stuff. It’s just aluminum oxidation, which occurs when the aluminum surface is exposed to air, acidic foods or even from washing it in the dishwasher. Aluminum oxidation is also the reason aluminum is so corrosion-resistant..
    • Fill the pot or pan with water, and add 2 tablespoons of either distilled white vinegar, lemon juice or cream of tartar (choose one–not all!).
    • Bring the pot over to the stove, and boil the acid mixture for 20 minutes.
    • Drain the pot—be careful, it’s hot!
    • Let it cool, and then wash with dish soap and warm water.

How to clean cast iron pots and pans

  • Rule number one of cast iron: Don’t wash with soap! Dish soap will strip away that hard-earned nonstick coating you’ve curated over the years.
  • Instead, try adding a couple tablespoons of oil and kosher salt to the pan and scrubbing that around with a paper towel to loosen food particles.
  • If you cook with cast iron a lot, it’s worth investing in a chain-mail scrubber. With this handy tool, you won’t have to waste excess salt and oil every time you use your cast iron cookware.

How to clean copper pots and pans

  • Clean the inside of a copper pan the same way you’d clean a nonstick or ceramic pan (you don’t want to be too abrasive).
  • Try out Dawn Powerwash for effective results without having to put in too much time and energy. Use that energy to clean your stovetop or load the dishwasher with all those other dirty dishes.
  • Use dish soap and warm water with a regular sponge or nylon scrubber.
  • You should never use steel wool on copper surfaces, but you can use a gentle abrasive like baking soda.
    • Let your copper cookware soak in soapy water for 30 minutes.
    • Remove from water, and sprinkle some baking soda on a damp sponge, using it to scrub the pot or pan in small circular motions to dislodge those stubborn bits of remaining food or grease.
  • If soap and water isn’t doing the trick, try boiling water in the copper pot or pan for about 20 minutes, and then wash and rinse as normal.
  • The very thing that makes copper pots and pans so beautiful and luxe is also their most annoyingly high-maintenance trait: the copper coating. Copper reacts to oxygen and slowly becomes tarnished over time. The best way to combat this is with an acid (similar to aluminum).
    • Cut a lemon in half, dip the cut side in kosher salt and then give the outside of your pot or pan a good scrub. The lemon will return the shiny look of the copper, and the salt will remove any rogue food bits or stains.

How to prevent tough grime on pots and pans

The best cleaning advice we can give you, regardless of what material your pots and pans are made of, is to get them soaking as soon as possible. When they’ve cooled, toss them straight into the sink to soak in warm water or coating them with a generous spray of Dawn Powerwash. The longer that food, grime and grease is allowed to harden up on them, the more challenging it will be to remove. Do you future self a favor, and get that cookware on the road to revitalization shortly after using. Think of it as the final step to cooking dinner. Then you get a hall pass to fully relax and enjoy your meal.

We’ve also got a few more suggestions for how to best wash the rest of your dishes, if you’re in the mood for a deep dive down the rabbit hole of informative dishwashing tricks.

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