How to Clean and Care for a Nonstick Pan

Wondering how to clean a nonstick pan? We're tackling your toughest questions.

Just like a good set of knives, the nonstick pan is a kitchen essential. Let’s say you used our guide to find the perfect skillet and can’t imagine scrambling eggs with anything else. How do you keep that beloved pan in tip-top shape?

Here’s what you need to know about how to clean a nonstick pan!

How do you clean a burnt nonstick pan?

Hand-wash your nonstick pan after each use with mild soap and water. Don’t put it in the dishwasher, even if the manufacturer claims the pan is dishwasher safe. Harsh dishwasher detergents and scorching-hot water can cause the pan’s nonstick coating to deteriorate. Instead, use warm water and a brush or sponge to gently scrub your pan. (Here’s how to know when you should replace those cleaning tools.)

Test Kitchen tip: Avoid scouring pads and steel wool, which will scratch and damage the nonstick coating.

How do you get burnt food off a nonstick pan?

Oops! You got distracted while you were making a skillet dinner and now your nonstick pan is covered in a stubborn burnt mess. You can save it, though. Here’s how:

  • Put your pan back on the stovetop.
  • Fill it with ¼ cup of baking soda and 2 to 3 inches of water.
  • Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Let the baking soda-water mixture cool, and then wash your pan like normal with soap and warm water. It should be clean and back to its nonstick glory!

How do you make a nonstick pan nonstick again?

When you’ve had a nonstick pan for a few years, you might notice a sticky buildup. If your food is starting to stick, don’t replace it quite yet. Vinegar to the rescue! Bring one part vinegar and two parts water to a simmer, and then cool and wash with soap. This should take care of all the sticky residue that has built up on the pan over time.

Test Kitchen tip: Don’t use cooking sprays on your nonstick pan. Most brands contain soy lecithin, which leaves a sticky buildup.

What kind of cooking utensils should I use with a nonstick pan?

Step away from the metal tongs! You want to avoid scratching the nonstick surface at all costs—and that means no metal utensils. Use only wooden or heatproof silicone utensils when cooking with your nonstick pan. (Both are on our list of 21 essential kitchen tools.) Before you flip those contest-winning pancakes, make sure your spatula is the right material, too.

Is it OK to use high heat with a nonstick pan?

The quick answer is no, do not use high heat with a nonstick pan. Keep your burner on medium or low to protect the pan’s surface. High heat can warp the coating and ruin the pan. Keep in mind most nonstick pans should never go in the oven.

When should you replace a nonstick pan?

Unfortunately, nonstick pans do not last as long as some other types of cookware. If your pan is sticky even after cleaning, the coating is flaking off or the interior is badly scratched, then it’s time for a new one. Your nonstick pan should last about 5 years when it’s properly maintained.

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Erica Young
Erica is a freelance lifestyle writer with a bachelor's degree in Journalism. Her favorite recipes are quick, easy and something her kids will actually eat. When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, roaming the aisles at Target or nursing her third Diet Coke of the day.