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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

How to Clean Cookie Sheets without Effort or Toxicity



baking sheet with red heart cookies on it
We all “heart” making treats for our loved ones. But how do you clean a cookie sheet easily? Keep reading.

Let’s face it–we all use our cookie sheets (or baking sheets, or cooking sheets, if you prefer) pretty regularly.

They’re regularly used in our kitchen, not only for baking cookies, but for cooking all kinds of things: brisket, roasted vegetables, baked pears, croutons: the list goes on and on.

The humble cookie sheet certainly gets double- or triple-duty pretty often.

The problem is, though, that over time, cookie sheets can really get downright dirty with accumulated layers of baked-on grease and food spills.

Soap and water just won’t cut it for getting rid of those ugly stains and residue build-up, either. But take heart: this doesn’t mean that cleaning them has to be a chore.

We have several suggestions on how to clean and restore any type of cookie sheet–aluminum, stainless steel, aluminized steel, and nonstick–and even make them look as good as new!

The key is using the right ingredients that are safe to use on the type of cookie sheets you have. The best thing? These ingredients are pretty much kitchen staples that you already have in your cupboard. Keep reading and find the best way to clean off those dirty cookie sheets easily and (with one exception) without toxicity.

Are you cleaning aluminum baking sheets exclusively? Check out our informative How to Clean Aluminum Baking Sheets article.

How Should You Clean Your Cookie Sheets?

Before we get started on how to clean cookie sheets, you need to know which method works best for the type of cookie sheet you have.

Your cookie sheet may be made of aluminum, stainless steel, nonstick, or aluminized steel. Simply refer to the list below to see which method is safe to use on your baking sheets.

  • Aluminum–baking soda and vinegar, baking soda and aluminum foil, cream of tartar and vinegar
  • Stainless Steel–baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and aluminum foil, baking soda and vinegar, baking soda and aluminum foil, oven cleaner and steel wool
  • Nonstick–baking soda and vinegar, cream of tartar and vinegar
  • Aluminized Steel–baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and aluminum foil, baking soda and vinegar, baking soda and aluminum foil, oven cleaner and steel wool

How to Clean Your Cookie Sheets

You often use cookie sheets for baking cookies and roasting vegetables (and that’s just a start of their list of duties). They are one of the most used and abused kitchen items out there. As such, they can accumulate residue and unsightly stains over time.

The prospect of cleaning dirty pan sheets may be preventing you from enjoying baking. Luckily, there are different methods to fight off grease, baked-on residue, and even rust. Just enjoy baking (and eating) cookies after you let the various techniques do their magic.

Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide

These two popular and inexpensive cupboard staples can get your burned cookie sheets looking like new again. Hydrogen peroxide is a natural cleaning agent and the baking soda can alkalize it to loosen the dirt like no dish detergent can.

The combination is made more potent by another factor–time. You must be ready to wait it out anywhere from 2 to 8 hours for you to get the reward of seeing the stubborn dirt being removed for good. However, if you go this route of cleaning your sheets, you do avoid having to do any heavy scrubbing.


  • Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda all over the cookie sheet. Pour enough hydrogen peroxide to cover the baking soda. Then sprinkle another layer of baking soda.
  • Let it sit for 2-3 hours (8 hours for really stubborn baked-on food) to let the mixture work its magic on the residue. The longer the cookie sheet soaks, the more the residue will loosen and come off.
  • Wipe it away with a cloth. No heavy scrubbing is required.
  • If there are still stains remaining, repeat the process. If the backside of the cookie sheet also needs cleaning, repeat the process on it.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Vinegar contains acetic acid and is often used to remove stains, mold, and rust. Baking soda is a gentle abrasive that not only cleans, but also deodorizes. You can combine them to get rid of those extra stubborn burnt-on stains on your cookie sheets.


  • Plug your sink’s drain and fill sink with hot water. Mix equal parts baking soda and white vinegar. You will see the combination create a fizz, and this reaction is what will help loosen the residue. Pour the solution into the water.
  • Submerge your cookie sheet and let it soak for at least 30 minutes to make your work a bit easier. After it has soaked, scrub using a scouring pad or the scrubby side of a sponge.
  • Once you have worked off the stains and burns, wash the cookie sheet with regular soap and water. Then dry immediately to prevent rusting.

Baking soda and vinegar can also be used to clean non-stick cookie sheets.


  • Combine 2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 cup vinegar and pour over the cookie sheet.
  • Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes to loosen the stuck-on food debris so you can wipe it clean easily. Then, wash the cookie sheet with a mild dish and water.
white bowl of baking soda with wooden scoop on wooden table
Baking soda is a natural ingredient for homemade cleaning recipes. Why? It causes dirt and grease to dissolve in water and its slight abrasive quality makes it a gentle scrubber.

Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil

The next method is best for stainless steel or aluminum sheet pans. (Take heed, though: this isn’t a good way to clean stainless steel or aluminum pans that are painted or have a nonstick coating.) You can use the aluminum foil as an inexpensive scrubber for the other methods on our list, also.


  • Sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda on the baking sheet. Add a small amount of water to make a paste. Let it sit for about one hour.
  • Take a bunch of aluminum foil and make it into a ball. Use it to scrub your cookie sheets. You will be surprised at how good it is in removing the toughest stains.
  • If needed, reapply baking soda throughout the cleaning process to make the aluminum foil a little more abrasive.

Cream of Tartar and Vinegar

Cream of tartar is much more than just a cooking ingredient. Many know it as an alternative to household bleach. As such, it is often used in place of bleach, like when you are cleaning and removing stains. It is also used as a mild abrasive.

A cream of tartar and vinegar paste can loosen burnt food from any baking pan. It can act as a mild scouring agent and buffing agent that not only cleans, but shines the surface of the pan.


  • Mix equal parts of cream of tartar and vinegar to make a paste. Using a cloth, apply to cookie sheets. The paste can be used for nonstick pans also.
  • Allow to sit overnight. In the morning, wipe the pan with a cloth.

You can also boil the mixture:

  • For heavier buildup, mix ½ cup of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar with one quart of water. Boil the solution in the pan for at least 10 minutes.
  • Be sure to completely cover the burned surface. Prepare more of the solution using the same ratio if necessary. Let it sit to cool.
  • Remove the water and scrub the baking pan with hot, soapy water.

Oven Cleaner and Steel Wool

A note about this method: this is not necessarily a non-toxic method, but if you are desperate to clean your baking pans, it is an effective one.

A regular can of oven cleaner can eat away baked-on grease and food spills. Just be careful, though, when you’re using it: oven cleaner is basically lye in aerosol form. It can cause burns if it gets in contact with your skin; you must wear gloves as a precaution.

Also, you may want to stow your cookie sheet inside the oven after spraying it with the oven cleaner to best contain the fumes. If it’s warm enough outside, you can spray and leave your baking sheet outside during the time the oven cleaner is doing its work on the pan.

Finally, use an oven cleaner and steel wool to clean stainless steel and treated aluminum baking pans only. The two mixed together are just too abrasive for baking sheets made of other materials.


  • Spray the oven cleaner from at least 9 inches on the cookie sheet. Let it stand for 30 minutes.
  • Put the cookie sheet in the sink and run warm water over it. Use steel wool to scrub away the remaining gunk.
  • Rinse well with warm soapy water.

Which is the Best Technique to Clean Cookie Sheets?

The best technique to clean baking pans and cookie sheets is using baking soda and vinegar. I tried soaking the pans with it for more than 30 minutes and used some elbow grease for about 15 minutes. Nearly all the burnt-on food and grime disappeared. Maybe if I scrubbed for 5 more minutes, the remaining stains would have disappeared as well.

I would give this method 5 stars if not for the scrubbing (lots of it!) needed to make all the baked-on gunk disappear. So, I’m giving it 4 stars instead.

Coming in a very close second would be the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda method. This actually would have been my top pick if not for the long wait of 8 hours for it to fully work. However, the burnt gunk was truly lifted by then, resulting in a lot less time actually scrubbing the pan. I give it 3 ½ stars.

My number three pick would be the cream of tartar and vinegar combination. I find this combination better at buffing the sheets than cleaning them. If you use it as a cleaner, you also need to wait for 8 hours for it to do its magic. It gets 3 stars.

Also getting 3 stars is the baking soda and aluminum foil method, because a cleaner doesn’t come as inexpensive as this. Better yet, it works!

Coming in last would be the oven cleaner and steel wool method. It’s included only if nothing else works–but at least one of the other, more natural and non-toxic methods should clean your baking sheet just fine. I give it 1 star.

Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Cookie Sheets

Once you have successfully cleaned and restored the shine of your cookie sheets, you can keep them that way through proper maintenance. We know you surely don’t want another round of a cleaning process that entails heavy scrubbing and hours of waiting again. Here are some tips to avoid that between deep cleanings:

  • Line your baking pan with aluminum foil before using it whenever you’re going to cook something that will leave a mess behind. You can throw the dirty foil away after cooking and keep the pan pristine.
  • Wash your sheet pan as soon as it has cooled down after using it. The longer that grime sits on it, the harder it is to clean.
  • Dry a baking sheet thoroughly after washing to prevent water spots, rust, and hard calcium spots from developing.
  • Don’t put aluminum baking sheets through the dishwasher. Aluminum can react with dishwasher detergent that can damage the pan’s finish and cause a permanent stain.


Believe it or not, there is hope for your worst dirty and burnt cookie sheets. You can try different non-toxic techniques to get rid of their baked-on gunk before you decide to throw them away. Save those old pans!

No matter the material of your baking sheet, there’s a good way to clean it. It’s up to you how long you’re willing to wait for the ingredients to set in or how much scrubbing you are prepared to do. Remember that the longer the soaking, the less scrubbing is needed, and vice-versa.

You need to maintain that mirror-like shine on your pan once you have been successful in cleaning it and even getting it to look like new. It’s important to use aluminum foil or parchment paper to line your baking pan each time you use it. Nothing can make your sheets and pans dirty if they’re protected.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make cookie sheets look new again?

Pairing cream of tartar and vinegar will not only clean baking sheets but it can restore their shine as well. However, you have to be patient since the process will take eight hours, at least!

To start, you sprinkle cream of tartar on an even layer across the baking sheet’s surface. Pour enough white vinegar over the cream of tartar to wet it. You can use a spray bottle for the vinegar to make things easier. Then, allow the tartar and vinegar mixture to dry for at least 8 hours.

After the long wait, use a wet sponge and give it some elbow grease. Rinse with warm water. Repeat the cleaning process if needed.

There is another technique to make your old sheet pans look as if you just bought them. All you will need is hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and heavy-duty sponges. It follows more or less the same process as the tartar and vinegar method. Unfortunately, it requires the same amount of time to do it, too.

How do you clean a baking pan in 5 minutes?

If you’re short on time to clean baking sheets, you can use baking soda and aluminum foil to clean it in 5 minutes.

All you have to do is sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda on the baking sheet and add enough water to create a paste. Although it will be better to let the baking powder to sit for about an hour, you can skip this since you don’t have the time for it.

Take a bunch of foil to make as a ball. Use this as a scrubber on your baking pan.

This method is not only the fastest to do in a crunch, but it probably is the most inexpensive, too. Besides, who doesn’t have baking soda and foil in their pantry?

Can you use oven cleaner to clean cookie sheets?

Yes, especially since an oven cleaner is very effective in getting rid of baked-on grease and spills. You just need to do some necessary precautions while using it.

The first is you have to wear gloves since it can cause burns on the skin.

An oven cleaner can only be used on stainless steel and treated aluminum baking pans. It may be too abrasive for pans made from different materials.

This cleaning product has a very pungent smell that you might want to stow your cookie sheets in the oven to contain the smell during the cleaning process. Or, you could spray them outside and leave the baking pans there while the cleaner is setting.

How do you clean a cookie sheet with vinegar and baking soda?

To use the vinegar and baking soda method to clean a cookie sheet, you first mix equal parts baking soda and vinegar. Fill your plugged sink with hot water and pour the solution into the water.

Submerge the cookie sheet and allow it to soak for more than 30 minutes to loosen the stuck-on residue. Scrub with a scouring pad and, once you get all the residue off, wash the cookie sheet with regular soap and water. Dry it immediately to prevent water spots and rust.

How do you clean a badly stained cookie sheet?

Use the cream and tartar and vinegar method for a badly stained cookie sheet. The cream of tartar is mildly abrasive and can be used for removing stains. When mixed with vinegar, they can loosen and lift the stuck-on burnt food. The paste can then act as a scouring and buffing agent to clean and shine the cookie sheet’s surface.

To use, mix ½ cup of vinegar with 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar. Add onto one quart of water. Bring to a boil. Pour over the cookie sheet and be sure to completely cover the entire surface. Wash with hot and soapy water.

Can I clean my cookie sheets in a self-cleaning oven?

You can use the self-cleaning feature of an oven to clean your cookie sheets. This could be your last resort if nothing else seems to work.

You simply have to arrange your cookie sheets in the oven and set the temperature at 500°F. After a few hours, you will see the gunk incinerate into white dust that is easily cleaned off. Once the cookie sheets have cooled, wash them with mild soap and dry.

I would suggest though that you check your oven first before trying this method. Some ovens cannot perform the self-clean cycle unless you remove the racks. Also, not all sheet pans can withstand the very high temperature inside the oven. This hack does work well, however, with commercial-grade aluminum baking pans.

Additional Resources

Image Credits via Flickr: ozmafan; aqua.mech

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Rhonda Richardson, Editor

Rhonda grew up with parents who gardened, hunted, fished, canned, and preserved food. Her mother was a professional cook and Rhonda credits her teaching everything from how to make homemade biscuits and gravy to what kind of meals to serve for different occasions. In the kitchen, Rhonda uses a mix of old-fashioned country cooking and up-to-date fads in the kitchen, often experimenting with replacing higher-calorie or fat ingredients with healthier options that still retain the delicious flavors of the originals.

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