How to Clean a Burnt Wok?

Have you ever left a wok on the stove for too long, only to return and find it burnt? It’s a common scenario that most home cooks can relate to. Burnt woks are not only unappealing to the eye but can also negatively impact the taste of your food.

Cleaning a burnt wok is not as daunting as it might seem. A few household items like vinegar and baking soda can do wonders to restore your wok to its former glory.

You might wonder, why bother cleaning a burnt wok when you can buy a new one? But consider this: A well-maintained wok can last for many years. Regular cleaning not only extends its lifespan but also enhances your culinary experience.

The Science Behind Burnt Wok

What Happens when a Wok Gets Burnt

Leaving your wok unattended on high heat can result in food residue getting stuck and eventually burnt. This leads to the formation of a black, carbonised layer that is tough to clean.

The Dangers of a Neglected Burnt Wok

Ignoring a burnt wok can have serious implications. Over time, the burnt layer can erode, releasing harmful substances into your food. It’s a health risk that you can easily avoid with regular cleaning.

How to Clean a Burnt Wok: A General Approach

Gathering Necessary Materials

To clean a burnt wok, you will need the following:

  • Hot water
  • Dish soap
  • A soft sponge or cloth
  • Non-abrasive scrubbing brush

Step-by-step Process for Cleaning

  • Fill the wok with hot water and a few drops of dish soap.
  • Let it soak for about 15 minutes to soften the burnt layer.
  • Gently scrub the wok using a soft sponge or cloth.

Want some recommendations on which sponge will not hurt your wok? Try MR.SIGA Non-Scratch Cellulose Scrub Sponge. Also, this White Bounty Paper Towel (View on Amazon) is good for absorbing water droplets.

MR.SIGA Non-Scratch Cellulose Scrub Sponge, Dual-Sided Dishwashing Sponge for Kitchen, 12 Pack
MR.SIGA Scrub Sponge
Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels, White, 8 Family Rolls = 20 Regular Rolls, 128 Count (Pack of 8)
White Bounty Paper Towel

Using Vinegar to Clean a Burnt Wok

Why Vinegar Works

Vinegar is more than just a kitchen ingredient; it’s an all-star in the realm of natural cleaning solutions. It contains acetic acid that exhibits potent cleaning properties. Acetic acid reacts with the carbonized, burnt food residues, breaking them down and making them easier to remove. The beauty of using vinegar lies in its affordability, accessibility, and non-toxicity. It is an eco-friendly alternative to harsh cleaning chemicals, posing no threat to your health or the environment.

Detailed Steps to Clean with Vinegar

Cleaning a wok with vinegar requires a simple and straightforward process. Let me walk you through it.

  1. First, empty the wok of any leftover food particles.
  2. Fill the wok with equal parts of water and vinegar. This mixture ensures there’s enough acetic acid to react with the burnt food while minimizing the pungent vinegar smell.
  3. Place the wok on the stove and bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes. This step helps in disintegrating the burnt residue further.
  4. Remove the wok from the heat and let it cool. The mixture should have loosened the stubborn burnt particles.
  5. Once cooled, scrub the wok gently with a non-abrasive brush. The burnt residues should come off easily at this stage.
  6. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and dry your wok completely to avoid rust formation.

Most of the vinegar is gentle with cookware cleaning, including wok. Check Lucy’s White Vinegar (View on Amazon), it has received good reviews.

Lucy's Family Owned - Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 1 Gallon (128 oz) - 5% Acidity (White Vinegar, Gallon)
Lucy’s Vinegar

Using Baking Soda for Cleaning a Wok

The Science of Baking Soda as a Cleaning Agent

Baking soda, scientifically known as sodium bicarbonate, is another household item that can work wonders on your burnt wok. It’s a mild alkali, making it perfect for dissolving grease and grime. When applied to the burnt food residues, it initiates a chemical reaction that loosens these residues from the wok’s surface, thus aiding their easy removal.

How to Clean Wok with Baking Soda: A Step-by-step Guide

Using baking soda to clean a wok is equally simple and effective. Let’s go through the steps.

  1. Start by rinsing your wok with hot water. This step helps soften the burnt residues, prepping them for the cleaning process.
  2. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the affected areas. There’s no precise measurement for this; just ensure the burnt areas are amply covered.
  3. With a damp sponge, start scrubbing the wok. The baking soda will form a paste that aids in scrubbing off the burnt residues. This step may require some elbow grease, but be gentle to avoid scratching the wok’s surface.
  4. Once the residues are off, rinse the wok with warm water. Make sure all the baking soda is washed off to prevent a lingering taste in your next cooking.
  5. Lastly, dry the wok completely to prevent rust.

Any baking soda is fine. I would prefer to recommend you try Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda (View on Amazon).

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda, 8 Ounce (Pack of 3)
Arm & Hammer

Preventing Wok from Getting Burnt

Essential Cooking Techniques

Now that we know how to clean a burnt wok, how about we discuss some techniques to prevent the wok from burning in the first place?

  1. Stir Constantly: Keep your food moving in the wok. This technique not only cooks your food evenly but also prevents it from sticking and burning.
  2. Regulate Heat: Avoid cooking on high heat unless the recipe specifically calls for it. High heat can quickly burn your food, leading to a burnt wok.

Regular Maintenance Tips for Woks

Caring for your wok goes beyond cleaning; it includes regular maintenance. Here are some tips to keep your wok in optimal condition.

  1. Wash After Each Use: Clean your wok immediately after each use. This practice prevents food residues from sticking and burning the next time you cook.
  2. Dry Thoroughly: Always dry your wok completely after washing. Any remaining water can lead to rust.
  3. Oil Your Wok: Oiling your wok after cleaning creates a non-stick layer, making it easier to clean next time.
  4. Store Properly: Keep your wok in a dry, cool place to prevent moisture accumulation and subsequent rusting.
cleaning a kitchen wok

The Impact of Regular Cleaning on Wok Lifespan

The Long-term Benefits of Regular Cleaning

Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule for your wok does more than just keep it shiny. Regular cleaning ensures your wok remains in top shape for the longest time possible, allowing you to enjoy consistent, high-quality cooking results. It also saves you the cost of frequently replacing your wok due to negligence.

How Cleaning Extends the Lifespan of Your Wok

Frequent cleaning prevents the buildup of food particles that could burn and stick to your wok’s surface. This reduces the risk of corrosion and damage to the wok’s surface over time. Furthermore, it ensures that the non-stick patina (the black coating that develops on seasoned woks) remains intact.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a steel wool scrubber to clean a burnt wok?

While a steel wool scrubber can indeed remove burnt residues, it’s not recommended for woks, especially those with a non-stick coating. It’s too abrasive and can damage the wok’s surface. Stick to a non-abrasive scrubbing brush or a soft sponge for the best results.

Is it safe to use vinegar and baking soda together for cleaning a wok?

While vinegar and baking soda are both excellent cleaning agents, combining them isn’t a good idea. They cancel each other out, producing water and carbon dioxide, which doesn’t contribute much to the cleaning process. It’s best to use them separately.

How often should I clean my wok?

You should clean your wok after each use to keep it in optimal condition. However, for deep cleaning with vinegar or baking soda, once a month or whenever you have a burnt wok should suffice.


Cleaning a burnt wok doesn’t have to feel like an uphill task. With everyday household items like vinegar and baking soda, you can easily restore your wok’s luster and extend its lifespan. Moreover, these cleaning methods are not only effective but also safe for both you and the environment.

The benefits of maintaining a clean wok extend beyond the aesthetics. It ensures that your food remains uncontaminated, thus safeguarding your health. It also helps to retain the unique flavors of your dishes that a well-seasoned wok provides.

Remember, the key to a long-lasting wok lies in regular cleaning and maintenance. Treat your wok with care, and it will serve you delicious meals for years to come.

I'm Samantha, the proud founder and heart of With over ten years in the kitchen appliances and cookware sector, I bring a treasure trove of experience to our loyal readers. Beyond just offering professional advice, I am an enthusiastic cook, always ready to share delightful recipes and handy kitchen tips with you.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x