How To Clean a Nonstick Pan

published Aug 8, 2018
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I’ve had this one little Calphalon nonstick pan since college. In those early days, it was the perfect size for toasting garlic in olive oil to eat over spaghetti, my favorite budget meal. Now, I’m more likely to use it in the morning to fry an egg for one of my kids. And after more than a decade of use, it’s still mostly nonstick, although I can see some signs of wear — a few scratches from the occasional metal-edged utensil (whoops!), some chips along the edges from tossing it into the cabinet (whoops again!). We have some newer nonstick pans in our arsenal, but I still come back to this one most of the time.

I’d like to think that it’s lasted this long because I’ve taken such good care of it, but I have a feeling that was mostly by accident. For at least the first five years I had it, when I was a less responsible housekeeper than I am now, I didn’t have a dishwasher, so I inadvertently avoided one big mistake: You should never put nonstick cookware in the dishwasher because the high heat and harsh detergents can damage both the nonstick interior and the anodized exterior. (Note: Some newer nonstick cookware is actually dishwasher-safe, but avoiding the dishwasher is a good rule of thumb unless you’re absolutely sure.)

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

For the most part, I never used metal utensils on it. I always hand-washed it, and I always waited until it was totally cool before cleaning it. I should have actually been oiling it, like a cast iron skillet, but it’s never too late. In fact, I just started and it already seems to be working!

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Wait for the pan to cool: Let the pan cool completely, as putting a hot pan in cold water can warp it through thermal shock. (Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

How To Clean a Nonstick Pan

What You’ll Need

  • Water
  • Gentle liquid dish soap, like Dawn
  • Non-abrasive sponge or soft-bristle brush
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Paper towel


  1. Wait for the pan to cool: Let the pan cool completely, as putting a hot pan in cold water can warp it through thermal shock.
  2. Scrub the pan: Squirt the dish soap onto your sponge or brush and gently rub the surface in a circular motion. Never use an abrasive scrubber or one made of metal because it can scratch the coating. And don’t use a harsh cleanser (like oven cleaners, bleach, or liquid household cleaners used for floors or porcelain) to clean the pan because that can damage the surface, too.
  3. Don’t forget the outside of the pan: Repeat for the outside of the cookware. (And the handle!)
  4. Rinse: Run the pan under the water to rinse off the soap and see if you’ve got any remaining residue left.
  5. Tackle burnt spots: If some stubborn spots remain, sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt onto the area, add a splash of water to make a paste, and use your sponge to gently dislodge it. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as you don’t want to scratch the coating. Then rinse and dry the pan.
  6. Season the pan: To condition the pan once it’s dry, rub the surface with a dab of vegetable oil (less than a teaspoon)and a paper towel, then use another clean paper towel to wipe off the excess.


  • To dry your nonstick skillet, either let it sit upside down on a dish rack or use a clean cloth to dry it by hand.
  • If your nonstick pan is extremely scratched, flaking, or no longer actually seems to be nonstick, it’s time to get a new one. We have an idea on the one you should get: This Is The Best Nonstick Pan Your Kitchen Needs