How to Clean Nonstick Pans to Make Them Last for Years

With proper care and cleaning, nonstick cookware will last for years. Use these tips on how to clean nonstick pans to maintain their slick surface and keep them damage-free.

If you want your nonstick pans to last, it's important to take good care of them. Nonstick cookware is often coated with ceramic or a material called 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.

someone cleaning a nonstick pan with soap in kitchen sink
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How to Clean Nonstick Pans

Many nonstick pans are labeled as dishwasher-safe, but you'll have the best results over time 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.

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.

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

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, make sure you wash it to remove any residue from the packaging. Use hot, soapy water and thoroughly dry it, then season the pan before cooking with it. Similar to the process for cast-iron skillets, seasoning nonstick cookware evens out any imperfections or pores in the coating, and it'll 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.

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

2. Use the right cooking utensils.

Today's nonstick pans are more durable than those of the past, 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 definitely 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.

You can help the nonstick coating last longer by sticking to low and medium heat when you're cooking. 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; it should always have oil, water, or food in it before you turn 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 a lot of 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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