Here I cover the ins and outs of cleaning a slow cooker with a ceramic bowl (AKA crock pot). This includes how to clean a crock pot with burnt on food, how to clean the crock pot base, the lid, and how to deal with smells, stains, and grease residue, as well as how to clean a crock pot without removable stoneware liner (older style).
Modern crock pots (also referred to as slow cookers) have three parts: the lid, the cooker base, and a removable stoneware liner or pot. In older types, the stoneware inner pot is fixed to the base and can’t be cleaned separately.
The removable crock pot inner pot and lid are generally dishwasher safe and so can go in the automatic washer for cleanup. The rest, such as the heating base and the older fixed types can not and need hand cleaning.
You may in any case find the dishwasher leaves the stoneware inner pot with residue inside and you’ll need to do some hand cleaning to remove what remains for a sparkling clean.
Most crock pots come with an instruction manual that includes brief steps on cleaning and maintaining the slow cooker. But you’ll find more helpful information here.
Why worry about deep cleaning of your crockpot
Here are three reasons or goals…
- Good hygiene in the kitchen – healthy eating
- A crock pot looking like new has tabletop appeal
- A versatile easy-to-maintain appliance satisfies
No doubt there are more reasons, but the first goal alone is important enough in today’s health-focused world.
This is how to clean your crockpot and what you need
First take account of the state of your crock pot and what needs cleaning.
Inspect your crockpot for cleaning
Does it have a removable slow cooker stoneware pot? If you have a stoneware crock pot stuck in the base (older style type) you won’t be able to separate the base for cleaning – but I have that covered in a section below.
Take the removable stoneware liner out and look at the inside of the metal base containing the heating element. Is it cruddy? Sometimes we overlook this part of the crock pot when it comes time for cleanup.
The appliance will probably continue to work with the grime in the base. But it is best to clean it anyway for hygiene reasons, to help keep creepy crawlies out of your kitchen, and to keep your crock pot performing at its best.
The same applies to the lid and the rim of the crockpot. Check for build up of grime in the grooves and crevices.
What about the removable pot? Is it stained? Are there white residue marks remaining on the surface?
The following deals with how to have your crock pot sparkling from top to bottom and inside out.
(Some people refer to stoneware and others to ceramic when talking about the pot. I use these interchangeably in this article. The same goes for crock pot -‘Crock Pot‘ being a brand name of a slow cooker – and a slow cooker with ceramic insert.)
What you need
I mention these supplies:
- baking soda
- Bar Keepers Cleanser & Polish (recommended but optional)
- soft cloth or sponge x 2
- magic cleaning sponge (optional)
- dish detergent
- warm water
- non-abrasive pot scourer
- hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice
The best way to clean your crock pot
The best way… is to first check company instructions.
What I mean is you should first check the instruction manual for your specific crock pot or slow cooker, which can vary in the materials used. There may be plastic, glass, aluminum, stainless steel, or other parts that need different treatment.
Here’s the deal…
It’s not a good idea to void the company’s warranty, for example, by using a cleaning method unsuitable for the material type in the product.
Next, it’s best to routinely clean the crock pot inside and out after each use to make it a simple process to achieve the goals mentioned above.
Let’s start with how to clean crock pot heating element base and then move on to how to clean crock pot insert and then the issues like staining and white residue…
How to clean crock pot base
The slow cooker base contains the heating element over which the removable stoneware pot sits (if you have the modern style). This is the metal part that you plug-in, so (did I mention the warranty) NEVER submerge this component in water.
Inside the slow cooker base, you might find the occasional crock pot messes have resulted in burnt-on residue.
Even with the best care taken during the cooking process, messing of inside the base does happen.
Things that cause this…
The condensation under the lid that forms during the cooking process runs down the side of the pot as you lift the lid. Sometimes when you’re stirring or spooning out the contents, there’s that tiniest spillage of cooking liquid that seeps down into the base.
Cleaning crock pot base
The slow cooker base is generally made of aluminum or sometimes stainless steel and can get dark burnt-on residue from crock pot overflow or drips and spillages just like any cookware.
How to clean a crock pot base? For how to clean the inside of a crock pot base, I prefer to use baking soda with some water or even better, Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish, and scrub with a pot sponge and a little bit of elbow grease to clean inside the heating element base and then wiping a few times with a damp cloth or paper towel to remove the loosened grime. I then allow it to dry.
Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish will remove the residue and as an all-rounder cleaner is a useful product in the kitchen for rejuvenating cookware, stainless steel finishes, and more. It’s available at Amazon, also in liquid form with a non-scratch scouring scrubber included — see what users say here.
For how to clean the inside of a crock pot base, I also found simply rubbing the inside with a Magic Cleaner Sponge removes most burnt-on residue.
A method you’ll find recommended elsewhere involves using ammonia. I prefer to steer away from ammonia because of its odor and corrosive nature. But if you don’t mind it and you feel you need something stronger, then you can check out Jillee’s approach that ‘lets the fumes do the work’ (or part of it – her second step involves scrubbing with hydrogen peroxide).
For cleaning the outside of the crock pot base, wipe it over with a damp cloth or sponge soaked in vinegar or simply soapy water.
Here’s the best approach: Each time, after you’ve used the crock pot and the heating element has cooled, give the inside and outside of the metal base a wipe to remove drips and spillages. This will eliminate the need to go into approaches of using an oven cleaner or other harsh methods and will keep your appliance in top condition.
Next, how to clean crock pot stoneware liner with burnt-on food…
How to clean crock pot with burnt-on food
To clean a crock pot with burnt-on food, you could try a special stoneware cleaner but I found the best way is to simply soak the removable stoneware inner pot and then hand wash it an hour or so later. I prefer this cleanup method over using an abrasive cleaner that may etch the surface of the inner pot exposing it to stubborn stains and making it harder to clean next time around.
How to clean ceramic bowl of a crock pot
How to clean crock pot liner? This is how to wash crock-pot stoneware bowl with burnt-on food…Fill the pot to just above the line of the burnt food with hot water, add a squirt of dish detergent, and let it soak for at least 30 min. I leave mine for an hour or so, and sometimes overnight. Then I use a non-scratch scouring pad with the soapy water to scrub away the food particles from the sides and bottom of the pot, rinse and then dry.
If you find some hard to move residue remaining, do a final scrub with baking soda and then rinse and dry for a sparkling clean finish.
You shouldn’t need to use a harsh cleaner or abrasive scourer and it’s a good idea to avoid using sharp knives or utensils to clean a burnt crock pot. These sharp or abrasive instruments can scratch the surface and lead to staining of your pot with use over time and it will be harder to get a sparkling finish as a result.
Note: When cleaning also avoid sudden temperature changes e.g. cold to hot or vice versa, to avoid potential cracks.
How to clean a crock pot without removable stoneware
Cleaning a crock pot that has the stoneware inner pot fixed to the base means you need to hand clean the pot without submerging it in water. Just adapt the cleaning process given above without placing the unit in water. That is, add water and detergent to soak the burnt-on food before scrubbing it with a non-scratch scourer to remove the food. Empty the soiled water and then fill with fresh water a couple of times and empty to rinse, and then dry.
When I had one of these, I found placing the unit beside the sink on the benchtop is best for cleaning. I would use a dish towel or sponge beneath it to collect any overflow from the cleaning process.
More tips for cleaning crock-pot stoneware liner
Sometimes you might have stains or residue after dry cooking in a slow cooker or a ring of baked on crust left from a meal cooked with liquid.
Cleaning the mess sooner rather than later will make life easier for you. The longer you leave the burnt on food and residue the harder it will be to remove.
Spillage or crust, if left, will dry and harden, making it harder to shift.
Make it a habit, after enjoying your slow cooker meal, to remove and store left overs and then don’t wait…do the soaking (at least), then the necessary cleanup of the inner pot.
How to clean a crock pot with vinegar
Vinegar is great for removing odors and can be used to wipe down outside and inside the metal heating base of the crock pot. It’s also useful to cut through and remove any remaining film of grease left after cleaning.
How to get the smell out of a crock pot? A tip for how to get rid of smell in crock pot is to wipe it inside and out with white vinegar. You can also try lemon juice. (Baking soda also eliminates odors.)
Apart from this, I prefer to use baking soda and dish detergent to remove the burnt-on residue in the crock pot.
Removing crock pot stains
How to get stains out of white crock pot? To remove stubborn crock pot stains, especially if the inner ceramic pot is white, after you have rubbed it with baking soda and rinsed it, try wiping the surface with a damp cloth soaked in hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice. Leave for an hour or so. This will bleach the stains, and leave the surface sparkling clean and sanitized.
I found this worked on mine.
Removing white residue in slow cooker
White residue on your slow cooker ceramic pot can appear after washing it in the dishwasher. This is one of the drawbacks of using a dishwasher to clean your removable stoneware liner.
Once again, you can use baking soda mixed with a little cold water in a small bowl to form a paste and give the inside of the pot a scrub to remove the white residue.
Crock pot single use liners
Some people prefer to use slow cooker liners that you can dispose of after the cooking process to avoid this problem of burnt-on food. For more on these, see my article on the pros and cons of slow cooker liners. I also cover some alternatives that you may find helpful.
How to clean crock pot lid
The typical crock pot lid is dishwasher safe but it is also easy to clean. I simply hand wash mine in warm soapy water and rinse or I may place it in the dishwasher for a hot wash.
Check the rim and lid of your pot
Make sure to check you’ve cleaned around the grooves and indents of the crockpot rim and the lid of your pot where you can easily miss and grime will accumulate.
Can you put slow cooker in dishwasher?
Is a crock pot porous?
How do I remove smell from crock pot lid?
How to remove grease from crock-pot?
Cleaning a crock pot is not that hard and is one of the reasons I enjoy using these slow cookers. Maintaining a clean crock pot inside out and top to bottom makes for good hygiene in the kitchen and will have you enjoying your crock pot for years to come.