How To Remove Creosote from Pots & Pans While Camping

How To Remove Creosote from Pots And Pans While Camping

Before we look at how to remove the creosote from pots and pans we must first understand why creosote is formed and how it occurs.

Creosote is produced by burning wood or other fossil fuels, more specifically the combustion gases that are created while burning them.

When wood is burned it’s not just ash that is left over but tar, creosote and soot. Collectively they just call it creosote even when it’s in fact actually tar. (confusing)

While camping and cooking using pots and pans over a fire the combustion gases heat up and then condense on the cooler surface of the cookware. Leaving a sticky black mess that can be a nightmare to remove.

Luckily for you we’ve picked up a few tips along the way to help you remove creosote from your pots and pans and even prevent it from happening in the future.

How do you remove creosote from pots & pans?

How To Remove Creosote from Pots And Pans While Camping


Removing creosote from pots and pans doesn’t have to be a mammoth task, there are ways you can do it without scrubbing for hours upon hours. Some people will just choose to ignore the creosote or pop it in a bag after use so the sticky stuff doesn’t get everywhere, however if you’re like me I can’t just ignore it!

  1. Hand Santiser is one of the most popular tips for removing creosote, if you get the gel hand sanitiser it will hold the alcohol in contact with the creosote, let it work for about 25 – 30 minutes then wash it off with dish soap.
  2. Steel wool is one option, although probably one of the most difficult ways to go about it and will require some level of effort and energy. Persevere with the scrubbing and you’ll get most of it off. If you’ve left them to soak previously you won’t have to scrub just as much.
  3. Acetone is a common solvent used in industrial cleaning and as such will be very effective in removing the tar and creosote from your pots and pans.
  4. Leave to soak in numerous chemicals and solutions. There are many things you can leave your cookware to soak in that will help remove the creosote. All chemicals and solutions take time to work. Dishwasher detergent or baking soda work well, dissolve in some hot water, place your pans inside and leave to soak overnight.
  5. Chemical oven cleaning products that contain sodium hydroxide will help remove creosote and fast. Remember to wear gloves though as these chemicals can cause skin burns and irritation.
  6. If you need to clean the creosote from the pots and pans while you’re out camping or backpacking and you haven’t got any room for the above chemicals and solutions then you can use sand and water. The sand in the water will be abrasive and will help work the creosote off your cookware.
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How to prevent creosote building up on your pots & pans?

There are a few handy ways of preventing this annoying sticky black build up on your cookware. Prevention is always better than the cure so they say! So if you implement the following it will save you time in the future and perhaps even money on having to replace your cookware as regularly.

  1. Before using your cookware and exposing them to the fire and flames, take some dish soap/washing up liquid and lightly cover the exterior. Effectively stopping the creosote from sticking to them.
  2. Take some ash from a burnt fire and rub this on the exterior of the pots and pans, as in the previous tip this will help stop the sticky stuff from sticking!
  3. Choose your wood carefully, the condition of the wood you burn for your cooking fire has the largest effect on creosote build up. So dry wood, well seasoned or hardwoods are all much better for cooking as they hold less moisture.

Generally speaking all of the above will help keep your pots and pans in better condition and may in the long run save you money but all will take a little bit of effort.

Nothings ever easy right.

That being said you probably need to decide if going to town on cleaning your cookware is all really worth your time. That time could be spent doing more adventurous and exciting things.

Providing you give them a little wipe after use with the usual cleaning methods like dishwasher soap or wash them in a creek with some sand or a flat rock the stickiness shouldn’t really be all that bad.

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You’re camping after all, nobody wants to eat from shiny new pots and pans. You’re sacrificing a lot of the flavor!

If you have any other good tips on removing creosote from pots and pans or even preventions then feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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