Grove Collaborative
Image of pots and pans

8 tips for cleaning nonstick pots and pans naturally.

Last Updated: October 29, 2021

Nonstick pans are a delicate beast that need a little TLC to stay in your kitchen rotation. Read on to learn how to clean nonstick pans quickly and naturally.

Is it too dramatic to say that one of the greatest inventions of all time is the nonstick pan? It’s the go-to for sublime fried eggs, marvelously fluffy pancakes, and divine seared salmon.

But nonstick cookware is a delicate beast that needs a little TLC to stay in your kitchen rotation. To get the most out of your nonstick, read on to learn how to clean Teflon pans quickly and naturally.

First, what is nonstick coating made of?

Nonstick pans are made with a material called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), more commonly known as Teflon.

Teflon is nonreactive and nearly frictionless, so it’s easy to clean, and it requires very little oil or butter, which makes it a convenient and healthy option for cookware.

Illustration of skull and cross bones.

Are nonstick pans toxic?

Teflon is safe to use up to 570℉ — at higher temperatures, the coating starts to break down and toxic fumes are released into the air. Inhaling these fumes could lead to polymer fume fever, aka Teflon flu.

In most cases, people who become sick are exposed to overheated Teflon pans for hours before experiencing symptoms.

Nonstick pans used to be made with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a suspected carcinogen. Since 2015, PFOA has been phased out of use in the USA and is no longer used in nonstick cookware.

Grove Tip

When should you replace your nonstick cookware?

Replace your nonstick pans every five years or when the coating starts to flake off. Ingesting these flakes in small amounts isn’t harmful to you — but it definitely reduces the quality of your nonstick cookware.

If you have very old (pre-2015) nonstick cookware, best replace it now, in case it’s made with PFOA.

Stop sending plastic to our oceans!

Image of Seventh Generation Zero Plastic line

Up to 12 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year (that's 24 billion pounds)

At Grove, we want to be part of the solution, not the problem. We believe using plastic isn’t sustainable — period. Now it's time for you to take action too.

Over the next five years, we're removing plastic from every product we make and sell, like Seventh Generation natural household products. We’re committed to rethinking our products, transitioning our packaging, and leading our industry with full transparency.

8 tips for cleaning nonstick pots and pans naturally

No matter what type of nonstick cookware you’ve got — saucepan, frying pan, or nonstick griddle — we’ve got eight sweet tips to keep your pans in top-shelf condition and easy to clean after each use.

1. Use the right fat

This isn’t exactly a cleaning tip, but using the right fat will ensure easy cleanup later on. Reach for oils that have a high smoke point — avocado oil (520℉), peanut oil (450℉), and sunflower oil (440℉) are all excellent choices.

Fats like olive oil (320℉) and butter (302℉) have low smoke points and are easier to burn, reducing the effectiveness of your nonstick cookware — creating more sticky grease and burnt oil to wash off after dinner.

Handwashing a glass illustration

2. Wash by hand

Even if your nonstick pans say they’re dishwasher safe, the high heat of the dishwasher spray can damage the Teflon coating.

Always clean nonstick pans by hand — it’s quick to do and extends the life of your nonstick products. If you’re really bummed about washing by hand, we’ve got tips to make doing the dishes less of a pain.

Napkin illustration

3. Don’t use abrasive pads

Part of the beauty of Teflon is that it’s a cinch to wash and doesn’t require a lot of scrubbing. Avoid abrasive pads, including metal scrubbers, steel wool, and scouring sponges, to clean your nonstick cookware — these harsh materials could damage the nonstick coating and cause it to break down more quickly.

Instead, get out a microfiber cloth or soft sponge to do the dirty work.

4. Don’t use metal utensils

Don’t use metal utensils to cook food in your nonstick pans — just like steel wool and abrasive sponges, metal utensils can easily damage the Teflon coating.

Opt instead for recycled plastic or bamboo cooking utensils to save the nonstick coating from scratches and flaking.

5. Don’t soak overnight

Soaking your nonstick pans won’t ruin them, but leaving water in them damages the coating and shortens its lifespan over time.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable and you have to leave pans dirty overnight, but in general, try to wash your nonstick as soon as it’s cooled down.

Yellow checkmarked box illustration

6. Wash nonstick pans properly

First things first, let your pan cool down completely before you wash it — but don’t wait too long! Letting food sit in your nonstick for hours or — gasp! — days isn’t good for the coating.

Use warm water and a sponge or wet cloth to remove any food residue. Add a couple drops of natural dish soap, and give the pan a gentle scrub. Rinse, and dry.

7. Remove burnt oil and sticky grease right away

To clean burnt oil from a nonstick pan, mix equal parts of baking soda and water to form a paste. Cover the bottom of the pan in the paste, and let it sit for 15 minutes.

To get the sticky grease off pans, run them under cold water to remove all of the baking soda residue, and wash as usual.

Skin hydration illustration

8. Oil ‘er up

You don’t need to season nonstick pans like you do with cast iron, but a little bit of lubrication goes a long way to extend the life of your Teflon cookware.

Set the pan on medium heat for 30 to 60 seconds, then take a clean cloth and add a teaspoon of oil with a high smoke point. Rub the oil all over the inside of the pan, remove it from the stove, and let it cool down completely before storing.

Get the info to stick with a handy visual guide on how to clean nonstick pans.

In a hurry to get your nonstick clean?

Grab Green Cookware and Bakeware Cleaning Pods

In a hurry to get your nonstick clean? Try Grab Green Cookware and Bakeware Cleaning Pods . They’re safe to use on nonstick pans and get caked-on grease, grime, and gunk off in five minutes or less. Grove writer Mackenzie tried them, and here’s what happened.

Follow Jonathan Van Ness' lead and try plastic-free natural products from Grove

Read more from Grove.