How to Clean Nonstick Pans So They Last for Years

With proper care and cleaning, nonstick cookware can last for years. Use these tips to clean nonstick pans to maintain them and keep them damage-free.

If you want your nonstick pans to last, taking good care of them is essential. Nonstick cookware is often coated with ceramic or polytetrafluoroethylene (commonly known as Teflon or PTFE) to create a slick surface that helps food slide right out of the pan. This can make cooking and cleanup a lot easier, but nonstick pans require special care to prevent their surface from scratching, peeling, or warping.

Although you should always read the manufacturer's instructions before cleaning or using your pans (they'll have specific care directions, which can differ between brands), we compiled a few general tips to keep your nonstick pans in top shape. Keep them in mind while you're sautéeing at the stove or frying away, and your nonstick pans will last for years.

How to Clean Nonstick Pans

someone cleaning a nonstick pan with soap in kitchen sink
gilaxia/Getty Images

Many nonstick pans are labeled dishwasher-safe, but you'll have the best results if you handwash them. The hot temperatures and detergents used in the dishwasher can break down the nonstick surface, so washing them in the sink is your best option.

What You Need

  • Mild dish soap
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Baking soda
  • Cooking oil

Step 1: Scrub and Soak with Soapy Water

When cleaning nonstick pans, you should never use abrasive tools such as steel wool, scouring pads, or stiff scrubbing brushes, which can damage the surface. Usually, a quick scrub with mild dish soap and a soft cloth or sponge is enough to clean nonstick pans. For stubborn residue, you might need to soak the pan for a few hours in warm, soapy water before gently scrubbing it clean.

Step 2: Remove Stubborn Messes and Reseason

If you're dealing with burnt oil or food residue stuck on the surface, adding a mild abrasive can help get your nonstick pans clean. Mix a small amount of baking soda with water to form a paste and apply it to the pan. Lightly scrub with a non-abrasive sponge to remove the burnt oil or food, then rinse, dry, and re-season your pan with a swipe of cooking oil.

How to Care for Nonstick Pans

Lifting and turning partially cooked egg mixture while making scrambled eggs.
Scott Little

Follow these tips for day-to-day use to protect your nonstick pans from damage and wear.

1. Wash and season nonstick pans before using.

Before using any brand-new nonstick pan, wash it to remove any residue from the packaging. Use hot, soapy water and thoroughly dry it, then season the pan before cooking. Like the process for cast-iron skillets, seasoning nonstick cookware evens out any imperfections or pores in the coating and will help your pan last longer. You can season nonstick cookware by lightly rubbing cooking oil over the surface, then heating the pan on the stove over medium heat for two or three minutes. Once it cools down, wipe out any excess oil with a paper towel before storing.

2. Use the right cooking utensils.

Today's nonstick pans are more durable than past ones, but you should still treat them gently. Never cut foods with a knife in a nonstick pan (or bakeware), and be careful not to stab or scrape the nonstick surface with any sharp point. Nonstick pans have gotten stronger through the years, but it's still possible to chip the coating if you're not careful. You should typically avoid using metal utensils with nonstick pans. Wooden spoons and silicone utensils should always be safe to use and shouldn't have any sharp edges.

3. Don't overheat nonstick pans.

When cooking, you can help the nonstick coating last longer by sticking to low and medium heat. High heat can damage the coating over time, and at extremely high temperatures (usually around 600 degrees Fahrenheit), Teflon, a popular brand of nonstick coating, can release potentially dangerous fumes. (However, reaching that level of heat on your stovetop is pretty unlikely.)

To protect your nonstick pan, don't heat it while empty; there should always be oil, water, or food in the pan before turning on the burner. This will help the nonstick coating last longer and has the added benefit of serving as a temperature gauge. (Most oils start to smoke at 400 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, so you can guarantee you're cooking at a safe temperature for nonstick coatings by having some in your pan.)

4. Don't use nonstick spray.

It might come as a surprise, but nonstick cooking spray can actually make food stick. Cooking sprays burn at a lower temperature than the nonstick coating, so they can end up damaging your pans. They also create a residue that builds up over time and ruins the nonstick surface. Sticking to some oil or butter to help with browning avoids potentially wrecking your nonstick pans.

With proper care, your nonstick pans can last for years. They make it easy to cook many recipes, including sauteed veggies and skillet-cooked chicken, so you'll want to have at least a couple handy in your kitchen. And not much works better for your morning omelet or homemade scrambled eggs.

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