How to Clean the Bottom of a Fry Pan—5 Different Ways

They’ll be display-worthy again in no time.

August 18, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

You just installed the pot rack or peg board of your dreams and are ready to make all your Julia Child fantasies come to life, mazel! The problem? You need to clean the bottoms of the fry pans. When it comes time to hang all of your trusty cookware, you might notice that the underside of your favorite pans (which are usually relegated to the bottom cabinet) have been scorched and stained within an inch of their lives.

There’s good news: you can likely remove a lot—if not all—of this gunk with one or more of the below methods, which apply to stainless steel, nonstick (which usually have an aluminum or steel base), copper, and most cast-iron pans. Patience is key here—since the marks on the bottom of your pan are likely ones that have been heated and reheated, they’ll be stubborn. But don’t give up hope until you’ve tried scrubbing ‘em clean, and if they still have some scuffs? Consider it a testament to a love of cooking. We sure do!

Bar Keeper’s Friend

Ah, the holy grail of stainless steel polishing: Bar Keeper’s Friend. You’ve probably seen the magic it works on sinks, appliances, and hardware, so of course, it’s one of the best ways to clean the bottom of a pan, too. Melissa Maker of Clean My Space, recommends letting a paste of three parts BKF and one part water sit for about 10 minutes, then scrub in circular motions with a non-abrasive sponge. “The stains lift off beautifully,” she says, “I think I heard angels singing…may have been the cat upstairs, but also could have been an angel, really.”

Ketchup…Yes, Ketchup

Ketchup is probably best known for its ability to get copper and sterling silver back to their original shine, thanks to its acidity. If your copper or stainless steel pan is in need of a clean or a polish (and you don’t have a lemon and kosher salt on hand), this is a great hack for using the common condiment. Bear in mind that this won’t remove super stuck-on stains, but it will impart a slight sheen. Spread the ketchup around on the affected area, let it sit for about 10 to 20 minutes, then give it a good scrub with a cloth or sponge.

Baking Soda Paste

According to Maker, a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water is all you really need to get the bottom of your pan cleaned. Apply this paste and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes, then scrub away with a non-scratch sponge. “Some elbow grease was required to do it,” she says, but “most marks came off, and the results are nice on both stainless steel and cast iron pan bottoms.” Just know that you’ll likely need to re-season a non-enameled cast iron after a deep clean like this.

A Dryer Sheet?

This method is technically intended for the inside of a pan with burnt-up bits leftover from an overzealous sear, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try on the outside of a pan. Food52 contributor Karen Lo swears by this dryer sheet hack; instead of putting the dryer sheet inside the pan with water, fill your sink up with enough warm water to cover the pan, add a dryer sheet, and let it soak. “Depending on the level of destruction,” Lo says, “you can go for as little as 15 to 20 minutes, or let it hang out overnight, but by the time you return, you’ll be able to sponge that scorched mess right off!”

Boil with Hydrogen Peroxide

Food52 contributor Camryn Rabideau actually found this suggestion from a reader. It’s easy to do when the stains are on the inside of the pan, however, if you’re trying to clean the bottom of a small skillet, submerge it in a large stockpot or deep skillet and fill with as much hydrogen peroxide as needed to reach the stains. Place it on the stove over high heat to boil. “You’ll probably want to open a window,” Rabideau suggests, “as this can start to smell. Once boiling, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes, and the stains should come off with minimal effort.”

Our Favorite Frying Pans Right Now

If the bottom of your pan is stained beyond repair or you would simply like to add to your cookware collection, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favorite frying pans in our shop right now.

This article was updated in August 2023 to include more of our favorite cookware.

Share your go-to cleaning tips with us 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.


clarkargus December 29, 2022
Be cautious using Barkeepers Friend on enamel. I used it one time on my Staub dutch oven and the beautiful green enamel was permanently etched by the BK powder.
Natalie T. December 16, 2022
Grab Green has a product that works for stuck on and burnt food inside a pan. It's called Cookware & Bakeware Cleaner Pods. It's available on Amazon and is easy to use, smells good, and greatly reduces scrubbing!
Louie L. December 11, 2022
My go-to for removing varnish from my stainless steel, non-stick, or enameled cast iron pans is Easy-Off Fume-Free Oven Cleaner in the blue spray can. It is lye-free and no gloves are required. It's safe on stainless, anodized aluminum, and enameled cast iron, but it will remove seasoning from carbon steel and natural cast iron, so avoid it there. Simply spray, walk away for a couple hours, then wash and dry normally. Works equally well on the inside and outside, and in conjunction with a toothbrush, can even get the buildup around handles and rivets. For regular cleaning though, BKF and a Scotchbrite pad removes most mineral and other discolorations.
Sharon T. December 11, 2022
For greasy pans with stuck on gobs of food when you don't want grease in your sink and yes -- you are a good citizen and you compost! Sprinkle baking soda liberally over the entire surface of the pan and then spray with the magic cleaning solution of water, vinegar and a few drops of soap like Dawn. It will bubble up and turn into a thick coating. Leave overnight. Then take a couple of paper towels or paper napkins (recycled paper, I hope) and you should be able to lift off most of the gunk and drop it into your compost. Keep on rubbing and most of the time, you'll find you can actually clean the pan completely. However, you can always finish off with a little soap and water and wipe it dry.
NJBernstein December 10, 2022
This article inspires me to try using a dryer sheet or 2 or 3 in a hot water soak for greasy, nasty stove grates. Have done this with dishwasher detergent pods to reasonably good effect --It will be interesting to see whether dryer sheets do any better.
vickie December 10, 2022
Oven cleaner works every time. Spray it on your pans ( even non stick). Leave overnight and wipe off in the morning.
ceiababes December 28, 2022
Any recommendations on the best brand of oven cleaner? :)
chirp December 10, 2022
My favorite is kosher salt and a lemon rind (any citrus rind). I gently warm the the pan on the cooktop, sprinkle a small handful of coarse salt, then I use the lemon rind as I would a scrubbing pan. It works better than anything I have ever used. And it’s ecological and economical.
Douglas M. December 10, 2022
An ancient (136 year-old) remedy is Bon Ami powder cleanser. It's a mixture of calcium carbonate, feldspar (yes, the mineral), soda ash, sodium bicarbonate and a surfactant. It's only mildly abrasive and will not scratch nor is it rough on your skin. Another good choice for stains inside pots and pans is denture cleaning tablets added to hot water.