Food Trends

7 Tricks to Clean Nonstick Pans (Without Ruining Them)

Americans spent $1.4 billion on nonstick cooking tools during 2018. That’s clearly an investment in the no-extra-oil-required equipment. But are you treating your nonstick pans with enough TLC to help them stand the test of time?

Yours could last beyond the typical five-year lifespan if you follow these tips and tricks from Colleen Weeden, senior brand manager of the Meredith Test Kitchen in Des Moines, Iowa and Leslie Reichert, a cleaning coach and the author of The Joy of Green Cleaning.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

1. Skip the dishwasher.

We know: It’s a bit of a hassle to wash by hand. But it’s worth the few extra seconds post-meal prep.

“Read your manufacturer’s care instructions, as many nonstick pans are made from different materials,” Weeden says. “But I don’t think any pan should go in the dishwasher. They last much longer when cleaned by hand.”

The slippery coating that helps your seared salmon slide right out with ease can deteriorates quicker under the high heat and harsh conditions of the hands-off appliance.

“Even if your nonstick pan says ‘dishwasher-safe,’ hot temperatures and harsh detergents will break down the surface,” Reichert says.

2. Clean immediately with hot soapy water.

Think fast. “If you clean the pans right away, most debris will rinse right off,” Reichert says.

The nonstick quality that prevents most food from adhering will also keep the majority of debris from doing so—if you address it immediately.

“Use a gentle dish soap made to cut grease. Wash the entire inside and outside of the pan with soap, water, and a microfiber cloth,” Reichert adds.

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3. Avoid abrasive and metal pads.

Steel wool and even those slightly-less-strong plastic scouring pads can do a number on your pan’s nonstick coating, too.

“Scratchy pads are not good for them,” Weeden says, and Reichert suggests steering clear of stiff scrubbing brushes (such as those with soap dispenser handles and a scouring sponge brush). You shouldn’t need them if you follow the advice above.

“Avoid using anything metal on nonstick surfaces. I like using Skoy cloths and Skoy pads instead,” Reichert says.

4. Remove cooked-on grime with baking soda.

As an alternative to harsh household cleaners (like Comet) that contain corrosive acids, try an all-natural option.“Mix baking soda with water or olive oil until it reaches the consistency of toothpaste. This works great as a green cleaning option and even works to remove burnt-on grease,” Reichert says.

5. Or try a “cleaning cocktail.”

Cookware company Farberware recommends combatting cooked-on schmutz and stains with a “cleaning cocktail.”

  • Add ½ cup vinegar and 1 ½ cups water to your nonstick pan.
  • Cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Allow the “cocktail” to cool.
  • Wash the pan with warm water, gentle dish soap, and a microfiber cloth.

6. Oil up.

Similar to the Tin Man, your cooking tools improve with a little lubrication.

“You don’t need to season like cast iron, but a rub of oil before and after using a nonstick pan can help protect the surface,” Weeden says.

A teaspoon to half-tablespoon per dose should do the trick.

7. Dry thoroughly.

After oiling your pan, dry it completely and store it safely. If you’re stacking the nonstick pan among others, layer a dry, clean washcloth or dish towel (or one of these reusable paper towels!) between each to avoid scratching and surface damage.

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