How to Clean Cookie Sheets (Goodbye Grime!)

Bar Keeper's Friend is always your friend.

November 14, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

We’re partial to the lived-in, well-loved look of a sheet pan, but if your pans are verging on unusable as opposed to “rustic,” it might be time to give them a deep clean. After years of use, baking sheets eventually build up layers of burnt-on oils, grease, and just bits of food, which become tougher with each bake to remove. The good news? Stains on your baking sheets shouldn’t affect how your cookies bake or vegetables roast. The only bad news is that they don’t make for an appetizing presentation (win some, lose some).

If you’re ready to tackle your needs-some-love sheets, try one (or all!) of the below methods to get them right back into shape (for the most part) before holiday baking is upon you.

Check Your Sheet Material Before Cleaning

Not all cookie sheets are created equal, and they’re certainly not all made from the same material. Standard aluminum baking sheets, like cult-fave Nordic Ware’s half sheets, and steel exterior pans, like Williams Sonoma’s Thermo-Clad stainless steel bakeware are going to be the strongest, most long-lasting option (read: can hold up to some aggressive cleaning). If you have nonstick baking sheets, like Great Jones’ aluminized steel Holy Sheet or Caraway’s ceramic bakeware, they require gentler care than standard steel or aluminum baking sheets. A non-stick coating, no matter what variety (ceramic, Teflon, enameled cast iron), doesn’t play well with abrasive cleaning tools or sharp utensils, so definitely skip steel wool or scratchy sponges.

A Bit on General Sheet Pan Care

  • Avoid the dishwasher. We know, we know it’s more time-consuming to hand wash, but doing so will help to prolong the life of your sheet pans, be they aluminum, steel, or nonstick. According to Nordic Ware of their aluminum sheet pans (which we’d consider some of the most durable), “dishwasher use is not advised, as discoloration will occur due to the cleaning agents used in automatic dishwasher detergent.” If you do happen to pop one in for a cycle, “this discoloration is merely cosmetic and will not affect baking properties or safety of the pan.”
  • For nonstick pans, Great Jones advises that you “always grease with butter or oil, or line with parchment paper to maintain the coating’s nonstick qualities.” Knives and other utensils with sharp edges will damage pretty much any cooking surface, but you should be particularly cautious with nonstick baking sheets. Instead of a metal spatula, opt for a “soft wooden, silicone, plastic, or nylon product,” Caraway advises, and don’t cut baked goods while they’re in the pan.
  • According to Caraway’s website, they recommend letting your bakeware cool completely before running cold water over its surface to avoid thermal shock (meaning the nonstick coating might crack—yikes!). They add that while bakeware can withstand extreme temperatures, sudden and significant changes can reduce their lifespan.

Baking Soda, Hot Water, and Dish Soap (Aluminum, Steel, Nonstick)

Listen, we all like to take the easy way out from time to time, especially when it comes to cleaning. Melissa Maker, of Clean My Space, recommends soaking a sheet pan for at least one hour and up to overnight, depending on how stained it is with hot water, one tablespoon of baking soda, and a few drops of dish soap. Come morning, you should be able to easily scrub away any stuck-on food bits or stains with a non-abrasive sponge.

Baking Soda Paste (Aluminum, Steel, Nonstick)

There’s not much a baking soda paste can’t do, and Great Jones, purveyors of nonstick bakeware, agree. “To remove stains,” they suggest, “create a paste by mixing baking soda and a splash of water. Scrub the paste into the stains with a soft sponge, rinse with warm water, and repeat.”

Baking Soda & Vinegar (Aluminum, Steel, Nonstick)

Caraway, makers of ceramic nonstick bakeware, suggest a combination of bubbling baking soda and vinegar to lift stuck-on food from baking sheets. Cover a cookie sheet with two tablespoons of baking soda and one cup of vinegar, then letting the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Once most of the mess has been lifted, clean the baking sheet as you normally would with dish soap and hot water.

Bar Keeper’s Friend (Aluminum, Steel)

You know it, you love it. And if you don’t know it, you’re going to want to get acquainted. Bar Keeper’s Friend is pretty much the ultimate when it comes to giving cookware a like-new luster, especially stainless steel and aluminum. Just wet the baking sheet down with water, sprinkle over some BKF, and go to work with a sponge—you should see results right away. If you need some extra power, let the BKF sit for 10-20 minutes before you scrub, and you’ll be amazed by how well it lifts away years of grime.

What's your go-to method for cleaning cookie sheets? Let us know in the comments below!
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When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.


Cookie December 4, 2022
For baked on gunk, including roasters, and sheet pans/cookie sheets, put the pan on flat surface (if it won't fit in the sink), sprinkle very generously with Oxyclean powder -- no substitute brands -- and pour in boiling, or very hot water. The water must be very hot. Wait a couple hours, the longer the better. It works on absolutely everything, you'll be surprised.
GigiR November 24, 2022
Whatever the terminology, that pan might need the ultra treatment. I have successfully removed baked on oil by covering the inside of the pan with dryer sheets and pouring hot water boiling right from the kettle to fill the pan w dryer sheets. Let soak for a long time. It’s as ready as it’s ever going to be when you can start to budge the baked on oil with
a steel wool pad. Then, scrub away. It worked for my pans. Hope it works for yours.
[email protected] November 18, 2022
Although I’ve never resorted to this method on a sheet pan yet, the miraculous “save” that has spared several beloved charred and gunked pans from the garbage bin has been boiling water and a dishwasher tablet. Simply cover and let sit for a few minutes. Grime rinses away like a miracle!
Pamela November 17, 2022
I have the blue cookie sheet with the blue silicone mat. Like all my silpat mats, I can’t get them cleaned, especially if there was a butter based item baked on it. Any suggestions? I’ve tried soaking…doesn’t work.
Cybele December 4, 2022
FWIW, I use baking soda and vinegar to de-slime my silpat and other silicone mats.
Smaug November 15, 2022
A sheet pan is not a cookie sheet
Terri S. November 17, 2022
Feel better now?
Smaug November 17, 2022
Better than what? I might feel better if food writers weren't so incredibly sloppy with language.
Smaug November 18, 2022
Also it should be noted that personal attacks, however lame, are contrary to both Food52 policy and common courtesy.