The Easiest Way to Clean a Burnt Pot or Pan

3 Materials
10 Minutes

I hate doing the, REALLY hate it. But there's one thing that makes doing the dishes truly unbearable and that's when food gets burnt to the bottom of a pan. Instead of fighting and scraping the pan til it's spotless, here's my favorite method for cleaning stainless steel pots and pans. All it takes is a few cut up lemons and water. The acid in the lemon and the boiling water get off all the really tough gunk, plus the lemons get rid of any burnt smell and replace it with a sweet citrus scent.

Here's a pot that has been burnt to heck. You don't even want to know what I was trying to cook! Let's just say that I needed a super powered cleaner, and a fresh scent would definitely help.

Step 1: Chop Up Two Lemons

I cut my lemons into eights, but you can cut them into quarters or slices, as long as you end up with enough pieces to cover the bottom of the pan.

Step 2: Add Water

I added enough water to cover the whole burnt bottom of the pan. It's no use trying to cover the lemons - they float! As long as the burnt area is covered, the lemons will do their job.

Step 3: Bring to a Boil

I brought the water to a rolling boil. You can even see the burnt specks coming off the bottom of the pot as the lemons swam around.

Step 4: Let Water Cool & Dump It Out

After I dumped out the lemons and dirty water, I was left with a thin brown layer on the bottom of the pot. All I had to do was scrub it lightly with a brush, and all the leftover grime fell away.

Step 5: Rinse out Your Pot

A few rinses later, and my crud-caked pot was good as new! Now, wasn't that easier than scrubbing with steel wool til your fingers are raw?

It's hard to believe, but that really is the same pot! This is one magic trick I will definitely be doing again.

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Have a question about this project?

29 questions
  • Sherry Draine Hannah
    on Jun 23, 2016

    What about the outside bottom?

    • Dana
      on Jun 23, 2016

      Sprinkle some bicarb (baking soda) on the bottom and use a green scotch bright scrubbing pad the scratchy ones, and lots of elbow grease. Comes up a treat.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Nov 13, 2016

      Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide takes that off.

  • User
    on Jun 23, 2016

    Does it work with citric or malic acid?

  • Olg5766573
    on Jun 23, 2016

    Will this work if you wait a day or two???

    • Jodi
      on Jun 23, 2016

      Yes, another alternative is to boil the water with Citric Acid/Lemon Salt (use your discretion as to the amount, but ranging from 3 - 8 tbs approx. depending on pot size, etc) can always repeat.. or add extra LemonSalt i the middle. Lemon Salt (aka Citric Acid is found i any grocery, usually near the spices). Good luck! Ps. the used hot water at the end can be poured into another bowl or the like that you'd like cleaner and as it cools it helps to clean the utensil too.

    • Jodi
      on Jun 23, 2016

      (I mean, yes, it works no-matter how long the pot has been standing... I've had the WORST case scenarios on my hands, trust me )

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Nov 13, 2016

      Yes it will

  • Dl.5660408
    on Jun 23, 2016

    How long do you let it boil?

  • Martha
    on Jun 24, 2016

    Do you think this will work to clean stove top drip pans? Put them in a pan with water and lemons.You know, those pans under burners on stove the top. My drip pans have seen better days. The husband has been spilling food on them and just keeps cooking .

    • MsCaliLady
      on Jun 24, 2016

      Why not give it a try? Nothing to lose. You might also try making a baking soda and water paste and let it sit for twenty minutes before scrubbing.

    • Brdgl1963
      on Jun 24, 2016

      Drip pans were the bane of my existence. I saw on a cleaning show lay them side by side in a black garbage bag outside, put paper towels or a piece of newspaper and spray them with ammonia. Soak them. Fasten the bag and leave them to bake in the sun for a while. I honestly forgot them while I was cleaning the laundry room. Take them out, use rubber gloves, and check the gunk for movement. It should just shove aside. Rinse under the outdoor faucet and tie the trash bag shut for disposal. I cleaned my racks, and broiler pan and other crusty things. I have arthritis and fybromyalgia and my scrubbing isn't what it used to be.

    • Wilma Castillo
      on Jun 24, 2016

      I clean my drip pans with oven cleaner.Hated to scrub those pans and they are not cheap.But Oven cleaner does the job for me now

    • Car3787789
      on Jun 25, 2016

      I use the ammonia as above. It works like a charm. So easy.

    • Karen
      on Jun 26, 2016

      Put them in a large Baggie with ammonia overnight That will clean them according to another helpful hint in Pinterest

    • Karen
      on Jun 26, 2016

      Put them in a large Baggie with ammonia overnight That will clean them according to another helpful hint in Pinterest

    • Sandra
      on Sep 10, 2016

      Don't forget to use these methods for the grills on your BBQ

    • Sylvie
      on Sep 16, 2016

      Vous pouvez aussi essayer le bicarbonate et ajoutez juste assez de vinaigre pour faire une pâte et en étendre sur la surface brûlee. Laisser reposer pendant environ quinze minutes. La crasse s'enlevera toué seule.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Nov 13, 2016

      Yes it will

    • Mary Hofstra
      on Jan 19, 2017

      You don't need very much ammonia! The item you're cleaning doesn't have to be wet with the ammonia. It's the fumes from the ammonia that's doing the cleaning🤗! And you really should keep the bag with the ammonia & the item in a well ventilated area or outside. If it's cold outside, keep it in the garage. Or wait for a warmer day.

  • Gloria Ponce
    on Jun 25, 2016

    Will limes work too?

    • Alan
      on Jun 28, 2016

      You don't need anything just plain clean water will do fine, just put it in the pot and bring it up to the boil and it will just simply dissapear, try it and see for your self, I've done it several times, it is extremely hard to make Jam with a rolling boil without burning the bottom of the pan.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Nov 13, 2016


    • Gail
      on Feb 2, 2017

      I add a small squirt of Dawn dish soap to my water. Boil , then cool. Works wonders.

    • Ma_pa_jackrabbit
      on Feb 3, 2017

      Baking soda, water and boil. My Grama and my mother did this. It works like a dream.

  • Cissy Olie
    on Jul 3, 2016

    what can I use to clean an oven that hasn't been done in years?

    • Ire9364745
      on Jul 31, 2016

      For a magnetron oven I use a bowl filled with vinegar and let The magnetron do it's thing on maximum for 10 minutes.( awful vinegar fumes so be sure to ventilate well) Leave to cool down and wipe away the sides with a clean cloth until no more "brown stuff" comes off. Maybe this could work for a conventional oven too.

    • Rosie
      on Aug 6, 2016

      Take the oven apart and put the parts into a large stable trash bag. Pour a bottle of ammonia into it and seal it closed. Leave it in the bathtub overnight and it will come right off with steel wool and minimum scrubbing.

    • Bobbie
      on Aug 11, 2016

      I do what Rosie suggested only I live in warm climate so I just put mine outdoors and if the ammonia leakes through a tear in the bag the fumes are not so overbearing. I have always had good luck with this ammonia trick.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Nov 13, 2016


    • Zar15730562
      on Jan 18, 2017

      I like ur way to clean burnt pots. thank u

    • Pallet Man
      on Feb 2, 2017

      A paste of baking soda and water smeared on the oven grime and kept wet with a misting sprayer will dissolve the grime. Give it time to work. A warm oven is easiest to clean. The same will work in the pot and be cheaper than using lemons. The caustic soda (water and baking soda) will dissolve more than the citric acid will. Plus, you can store baking soda for those times rather than a drive to the store to buy lemons.

    • Betty
      on Feb 3, 2017

      I use baking soda. Sprinkle in bottom pf pot, put in small amount of water(-enough to cover bottom). Put on stove and bring to boil. Turn off and let pot sit for awhile. Comes right off and look at the $ saved from buying all those lemons(they are expensive here).

    • Bleuizes
      on Feb 3, 2017

      Thank you for the baking soda idea, I'm allergic to amonia and thought for a second, "Itl never be clean!" Lol

    • Tweety
      on Feb 3, 2017

      I love the lemon idea , because not only does it do a great job , it just makes your home smell fresh & clean again. ( as opposed to smoky & burnt ) I always toss my used lemons in the garbage disposal as well.

    • Beverly Hirsch
      on Feb 19, 2017

      It's true that the baking soda DOES give the house a "smokey" smell for a short while. I just used it yesterday for a pot with a lot of rice stuck on it. I boiled it for about ten minutes, then left it to soak in the mixture overnight. Everything came off this morning with very little scrubbing. The pot was stainless, I would NEVER use this on an old fashioned iron or aluminum pot. The smokey smell only lasted a short while, and wasn't really bad anyhow.

  • Aryeh Kaufman
    on Dec 20, 2016

    Can I use lemon juice if I don't have any lemons or limes?

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Dec 20, 2016

      Yes, or anything acidic, like vinegar

    • Runa Hellinga
      on Feb 2, 2017

      So, if vinegar works, won't that be much cheaper than using whole lemons?

    • C Van Houten
      on Feb 2, 2017

      Some folks can't stand the smell of vinegar, such as my husband. :D

    • Marilyn
      on Feb 2, 2017

      Lemons are too expensive where I live I would opt for vinegar.

    • Kim
      on Feb 3, 2017

      You don't need lemons, just water. This process is the same as deglazing the pan.

    • Renata
      on Feb 4, 2017

      I also just use water but the lemon idea would smell a lot better so I will try it next time, but I will really try hard for there not to be a next time, lol

    • Jgr17404425
      on Jun 13, 2017

      Hot water and Dawn Dish liquid will do same.
  • 00819081123
    on Feb 3, 2017

    How do I clean and oven?

  • Sharon
    on Mar 18, 2017

    How can I print this or any of the pins ?

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Mar 20, 2017

      You can copy and paste the page?

    • Diane McKnight
      on Jan 3, 2018

      I highlight the article, copy it (Ctrl+C), go to Word and paste it (Ctrl+V). Once in Word (or whatever word processing program you use, you can delete what you don't need or add notes.
    • Linda Sikut
      on Jan 3, 2018

      Also some printers (or operating systems, I'm not sure which) allow you to highlight what you want to print, then use to copy. Follow that with and your printer box will come up. Sometimes there is a check off box that says "Print selection". Mine when away when I got a new printer, but you might have it.
  • Kathy Thornton
    on Sep 13, 2017

    what about burns on outside of pot?
    • Darlene D Dixon
      on Dec 9, 2017

      Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda!
    • Patti
      on Jan 3, 2018

      Ive never tried lemons. I use baking soda. Sprinkle a thick layer to cover botter of pan and add a little water, let it sit overnight and the burnt on residue lifts off, just like with the lemons.
    • Linda Sikut
      on Jan 3, 2018

      I've also used baking soda, but my mother taught me to use regular dish soap and water then bring it to a boil and simmer a while. You can actually see the black bits floating in the water. The issue with that is that hot dish soap doesn't smell good. I love the lemon idea. I would guess that vinegar would work too, but it would stink, as well. If you look online, there are many similar methods to what has been said in the comments so pick your favorite and go for it instead of scrubbing. Like I said, I really love the lemon idea - mostly because it would smell so much better!
    • Jas31664171
      on Jan 3, 2018

      I have soaked the bottom of the pan for
      several hrs with a dishwasher soap.
      Lightly scrubed and all came off
  • Pamela Davis
    on Jan 3, 2018

    Can you use lemon juice instead of lemons?
    • Anna Anima Mundi
      on Jan 3, 2018

      It would be worth a try....although the cut-up lemons with peels would also release lemon oil, which also has its own cleansing properties.
  • P Dolby
    on Jan 3, 2018

    Does the pan burn everything you put in it after you have cleaned it?
    • Ddn29938586
      on Jan 3, 2018

      Y es
    • P Dolby
      on Jan 3, 2018

      Yep - finally threw mine away after too many times of ruining food. Bummer
    • Denise Ferree
      on Jan 3, 2018

      Season the pot, use vegetable oil on a paper towel and wipe before you use, just like we used to do with Tfal. All stainless pots should be seasoned first before each use-it will keep the pot like new. I have pots that are over 40 years old and work like new.
  • Bijoux
    on Jan 3, 2018

    How do you remove the brown stuff that is on underside of a big pan?
    • Pati
      on Jan 3, 2018

      Use acid as well. Lemon, vinegar, even ketchup.
    • Debbie Anders
      on Jan 3, 2018

      I use a Mr. Clean eraser. Works on anything and everything! Love them
    • Kay
      on Jan 4, 2018

      I just use Bi Card of Soda. Bring water to the boil, add 1-2 heap tea spoons of soda. Turn stove temp down to low, and simmer 5-10 mins. Come back, loosen gunk with wooden spoon. Tip water out, and wash as usual. Deoending on how burnt, the pot is, you may need to repeat, the process. Kay Adelaide Australia
  • Anita
    on Jan 3, 2018

    Will this work on sediment from hard water?
  • Connie Gurley
    on Jan 4, 2018

    twill this work on the outside of the pans?
    • PJ
      on Jan 4, 2018

      the only way to get the lemons to boil is to immerse the pan in a bigger pan. Put the water and lemons in the bigger pan.
  • Joyce Rice
    on Jan 16, 2018

    How to clean the outside of the pot? Looks like burnt grease spots.
    • Glory
      on Jan 20, 2018

      Get some Bar Keepers Friend. You will wonder how you ever got along without it in your life. 😇
    • Paula
      on Aug 19, 2018

      Why couldn't you put the pan in a larger pan with the water and lemon juice?

  • Tona
    on Feb 5, 2018

    I have a griddle that needs cleaning, how do I do this with that?
  • Leia Sahdala
    on Apr 23, 2018

    Can limes work as well as lemons to remove burnt on food?

  • Fav22473512
    on Oct 9, 2018

    Will Limes or Oranges work?

  • Rose M
    on Jan 22, 2019

    What can I use to clean off stains from my cookie sheets?

  • Zayra Reasor
    on Jan 25, 2019

    Can I use oranges also?

  • Flora Canaie
    on Jan 29, 2019

    Can I use normal lime.

    • Clair A. Gervais
      on Feb 9, 2019

      White vinegar works real good and it's cheaper. 1/1 vinegar and h2o, boil then simmer. Same instructions.

  • Marilyn Wojtas
    on Feb 9, 2019

    How to get burnt grease off the bottom outside of pans?

    • Clair A. Gervais
      on Feb 9, 2019

      I had a 2 quart pan that was awful, and I just kept using it like that, so it was really burnt on. In a larger pan, I put 1 cup vinegar and a little more than a cup of h2o, placed the the solution boiled, then simmer about 10 minutes, and the burnt on outside of pan was easily cleaned!! Do it for inside burnt on grime too, cheaper than using those lemons.

    • Drp6149
      on Feb 9, 2019

      This is a waste of lemon - which are not cheap - since it is probably the acid - put enough water in the pan to cover the burnt stuff - bring to a boil and add 1/4 C vinegar and 1 Tbsp Dove dish soap - simmer for at least 30 minutes and easily scrape out the burnt stuff. The other method I use is to add water to cover the burnt stuff and depending on the size of the pan add 2-4 Tbsp of vinegar and 2-4 Tbsp of bleach (put a lid on as this smells) and simmer for at least 30 minutes and easily scrape out the burnt stuff. If it's really badly burnt it may take a second round of the same. Then take the lemons and make lemonade and enjoy it while the pan is simmering the burnt stuff loose.

    • Mary Lou Morin
      on Feb 11, 2019

      I'd use baking soda in a paste form. Just mix in enough water to make a paste. Should work.

  • Joy
    on Feb 9, 2019

    Can I use this in a coated pot ? I know some things will take the coating off..

    • Granny Laura
      on Feb 9, 2019

      I have coated pots too but I don't use lemons, they're very expensive where I live. To clean messes like this (on any pan that has burnt gunk in the bottom) I do this: wipe out any excess grease, pour in about 1 tbsp. of blue Dawn & add water to about 2 inches deep. Bring to a boil on the stove, reduce to simmer for a few minutes then dump the dirty water. Rinse with cool water and you'll see a lot of the gunk go down the drain. Make sure there's almost no water in the pot, add a couple tbsps. of baking soda and a little more blue Dawn then use your slightly wet, safe-for-coated-pans scrubbie to remove the remaining junk. Add more baking soda and a tiny bit of water if needed. This is a tad more work than the lemon method but it's easy for me even though I have arthritis in my wrists. Baking soda is a very gentle abrasive but it's also quite effective, especially if combined with Dawn. And if my glass baking dishes start to develop that black grunge on them, the combo of Dawn, baking soda and a slightly wet scrubbie (no boiling), works wonders for these too. And best of all, baking soda is very inexpensive.

      By the way, this combo will also get scum out of bathtubs & showers too - no hard scrubbing required. It also gets grease off of stove tops, range hoods, microwaves - I could go on and on. Try it.

  • Evelyn Milne
    on Feb 9, 2019

    Wouldn't boiling cleaning vinegar do the same thing but cheaper?

    • Sherry
      on Feb 9, 2019

      Yes it would...and cheaper too

    • Judy G
      on Feb 9, 2019

      Baking soda works too

    • Barb
      on Feb 9, 2019

      I've used a fabric softener sheet as well.

    • Sylvia Candler
      on Feb 9, 2019

      I use coca-cola or whatever soda you have on hand. You don't even have to boil it. Just pour it in and let it soak overnight. Works like a charm every time. It saved one of my expensive stainless pans that I thought was a total loss!

    • Jackie Anderson
      on Nov 24, 2019

      I use a fabric softerner sheet for any tough baked on food to get off, even left pan with stuck on food. Just hot water, softerner sheet, let set for abit. Fresh hit water, soap and whew easy.

      Another easy task, wet cloth, little soap in microwave for 15+- seconds, dirty splatter softens and wipes right off.

  • Wilda
    on Feb 13, 2019

    Pan cleaned after burnt. Still discolored. Will this make the pot shine again? How do you get the sides to shine?

  • Sarah Lopez
    on Oct 18, 2019

    Can you use limes as a replacement for lemons?

  • Lin Kisslinger
    on Feb 20, 2020

    what about using it on other surfaces of pots and pans?

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