The other day I was cooking milk rice and forgot about it so it burned a little on the bottom. This lower layer was very hard to clean. A lot of websites recommend boiling water in the pot with baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate) or citric acid to dissolve the burned residue and make it easier to clean the pot. I tried this but it did not help. I doubt there is even a chemical reaction between these reagents that would help in any way.

Is this another myth or is there scientific basis for given recommendation?

  • $\begingroup$ Not sure about acid, but soda does help sometimes, and that's for a reason. $\endgroup$ Dec 25, 2015 at 8:19

3 Answers 3


The hotter the water, the more likely it will be to remove burnt-on starch. Not only does $\ce{NaHCO3}$ raise the boiling point of the water, but it also helps saponify fats (actually, "washing soda", $\ce{Na2CO3}$ would be better).

However, you still need to do a lot of scrubbing afterwards to remove the carbonized layer.

  • $\begingroup$ 1.) I suppose the carbonized layer is by far the hardest part to remove so this is what sodium bicobonate and acid should work on. 2.) Isn't burnt-on-starch the same as carbonized layer. Your answer implies them to be different, if I understand it correctly. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2015 at 6:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 1. Use either sodium bicarbonate or acid, not both at once. 2. You can't clean the hard bottom layer off until you remove the partially burnt porridge. 3. No, the alkali will not significantly remove pure baked-on carbon -- use abrasive & elbow grease. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2015 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ Then is there any significant advantage to using NaHCO3 instead of regular dish liquid to solve the fats? If there isn't then the recommendation is non-effective and a myth. Since as you already stated removing the carbonized layer does not become easier with NaHCO3 or acid. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2015 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ Boiling with liquid detergent will cover the stove in foam. If you prefer, use detergent for dish washing machines, which is alkaline and does not foam. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2015 at 23:05

Since an abrasive action is required to remove the burnt protein material after a significant amount of baking soda is covered, I suggest using a stiff plastic scraper and pressure to lift layers of the adhered material. The peeling tensions, shear, of a dry stiff material help with removal.

I found that a 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick application of baking soda with a spray of water without stirring or puddling of water encourage the ions to migrate and bond at the metal interface.

After the application is dried, a spray of water will encourage more ions to combined at the metal interface.

We might view this as a way of drying the burnt material like we might dry meat. The tension and bonding at the metal surface is releasing and favoring the burnt protein structure.

So the adhesion of the protein to the material surface is altered by changing the properties of the Burt material to create more stress or tension or contraction by shortening the bonds of the protein and changing the bond strength at metal or ceramic surface.

Adding water relieves the stress. So a dry mechanical scraper acts like a knife lifting encouraging the dry tensile material to pull away from the pan.

Take the wet pan with no liquid in it. Coat the bottom area with thick Baking Soda Spray mist the baking soda with water Let dry for 4 hrs Spray mist with water again Let dry over night Scrape the dry material with a strong force of a hard plastic kitchen scraper blade Persist with strong force from clean surface across material coating.

This applies to stainless steel counters and stoves enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to ChemSE. Initially I assumed putting three times the same image into the reply was an accident. Reading your answer now leads me to the speculation you either were distracted, stressed or/and tired. If so, stay safe in your doing now, and be welcome to polish your answer in about a day. $\endgroup$
    – Buttonwood
    Dec 18, 2019 at 21:24

Soaking burnt on food with baking soda - I do it all the time! I think boiling the pot is counter productive. Just let it sit covered with water and baking soda - lots of baking soda. It's very cheap. B Putting the pot back on the stove just heats the burnt food more potentially making it even harder to remove. Just soak it - overnight for a serious build up. You still might have to abrasively remove the last of the residue. I just cleaned a Pyrex casserole from dinner that had cheese scalloped potatoes burnt all around the top edge. Soaked it in q larger bowl covered with a water and a generous shake of baking soda. A few hours later it all came off with very little effort.


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