If you’re asking yourself how to clean and care for stainless steel cookware, then you’ve come to the right place. Follow these tips and tricks, and you will have gleaming, perfect cookware that will last for decades.  

Stainless steel is a versatile and good-looking material in the kitchen. It’s found in kitchens around the world. It has excellent heat retention, it’s non-reactive, and you can find a set for a reasonable price.

It is also relatively easy to take care of, but there are a few things you should be aware of. Here’s how to clean and care for stainless steel cookware.

How do you clean stainless steel cookware?

How do you get burnt food off stainless steel cookware?

While we all want to be aces in the kitchen, even the best of us can get burnt food on the pan’s bottom. Luckily there are a few easy ways we can remove this unsightly reminder of our inattention.

The easiest way is to use boiling water. You start by gently scrubbing the burnt food away using a nonabrasive scrubber. Then put some water and some liquid dish washing liquid in the pot.

Pop the pot on the stove and bring to the boil. When it is boiling, you can easily remove the excess food with a silicon or wooden spatula. Finish off by pouring out the water, rinsing, and drying.

Another method is by using baking soda and vinegar. The acid in the vinegar helps remove more stubborn stains. Cover the base of your pot with water, sufficient to submerge the burnt food residue.

Add vinegar and lead to the boiling point. Once it is bubbling away, remove it from the stove and put two tablespoons of baking soda in there. Stir it all together and then empty the pot. Your nonabrasive scrubber will now be able to lift off the food. Be warned though; this method may break the warranty on your pot or pan.

The cream of tartar, a powdery chemical which is a byproduct of winemaking, can also be used but does take a little longer, though. Mix water with it, cover the burnt-on food with this paste and leave overnight. You can begin rinsing and scrubbing in the morning to dislodge those stubborn stains.

Then there’s the stuff that is made from an aluminum base with a ceramic spray coating. It usually lasts around five years. This type of ceramic cookware is much lighter, though unlike pure ceramic cookware, it can’t handle the dishwasher. 

Pour your juice from lime into the pan and mix with salt. Let it do its magic for a few minutes. Add in more salt and start scrubbing straight away using a nonabrasive sponge. Once the areas effected are clean, rinse, and dry.

Many of these methods can be used to clean other stains, but we’ll go through what works for each type below.

How to clean problem areas

Letting small stains build up to become significant problems can make it seem like an impossible task to return a stainless-steel pot or pan to its previous lustrous glory. They may resist your initial scrubbing or attempts. Don’t, however, give up hope. There is a straightforward step that will eliminate the problem stains built up over constant usage.

Pour some hot water from your tap into your pot, covering the problem areas, with a bit of dishwasher soap and leave to rest for a couple of hours. This will begin to lift the stains off the base or side of your pot, and they can be wiped away. Like always, be sure to rinse out your pan and dry before using it again. You don’t want soapy meals after all.

How to clean burnt stainless steel pans

We all get distracted. Coming home from a hard day of work, we want to relax and switch off. When putting together our dinner, leaving it to cook, we might check social media, watch some TV, even do some chores if we have energy left over. The time slips by.  

A sudden realization, prompted by memory or, in the worst cases, smell, sends us running back to the kitchen. The meal might be saved, but then we have a look at our pot and see a burnt stain. It ruins the sleek look of our expensive pan. You don’t have to buy a new one, though. It can be saved.

There are two methods you can use

First, using a Barkeeper’s Friends, you can make a paste in your pan by mixing a few teaspoons of the handy cleaner with a little water. You can clean burnt areas by scrubbing your pan with this mixture and a nonabrasive sponge.

If you don’t have Barkeeper’s Friend, try mixing one cup of vinegar with a pot of water, filled to cover the burnt areas. Put on the heat to boil and, once it does, add in two tablespoons of baking soda. Like the solution, however, for removing burnt-on bits of food, this may void your warranty. Mix and then empty your pot. 

Scrub your pot with a nonabrasive sponge. Some people recommend doing this excellent steel wool, 0000 grade, for instance, but I’ve always been too nervous to try this. They say that it won’t scratch the pot. I still recommend a soft sponge or dishcloth.

How to clean rainbow discoloration

There is no stain I hate more than the rainbow spots or bands that sometimes build-up on stainless steel cookware. It just ruins the whole look. It makes it look like an oil slick on a hot day and vaguely poisonous. I know it isn’t, but I just do not like cooking with a pot stained in such away.

The best way to protect against these is not to let them happen in the first place. These stains are caused by overheating your pot. The chromium in stainless steel, which reacts with oxygen in the air to form the coating gives stainless steel its name, can grow too thick, showing up as these rainbow ribbons.

These do not affect the cooking qualities or safety of your pan. They are only an appearance thing, one which I hate.

If you are like me, here are a couple of ways to get rid of these types of stain.

Barkeeper’s Friend comes to our rescue once again. Make a paste with a little bit of water and scrub with a nonabrasive sponge. Otherwise, using some diluted vinegar and using a nonabrasive (I keep on repeating that because it is crucial) sponge, scrub the stained area.

How to remove rust spots

Stainless steel shouldn’t rust. It does so only when the protective chromium film is removed, and the pot exposed to oxygen. This is quite rare, but it could happen. And just because your stainless-steel cookware has developed a bit of rust doesn’t mean that you must throw it out.  

But, first, removing the rust. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with two cups of water. Rub that compound on the rusted area. I recommend using an old toothbrush for this. The baking soda will lift the rust from the pot. Once you are done scrubbing, use a wet paper towel to wipe away the orange rust. You can use a rag or something else, but I’d recommend something you aren’t going to use again

Finally, rinse it and then dry your pot.

The chromium film that protects your pot is self-repairing and will build up again if exposed to air. Rust also comes about from exposure to air, well the oxygen in the air if you want to be technical. If the rust returns after a couple of treatments with the baking soda solution, then pot’s time might be up. That will be a decision you will have to make yourself though.

How to clean any water spots

Another type of stain that, like the rainbow spots, doesn’t cause any damage but it just ugly is the water spot one. These are little white marks found at the bottom of a pot. Often these are caused by boiling water too long. Hand drying your cookware will make them less likely. This wipes away the water. By drip-drying your cookware you let the water evaporate. These water spots are the drawback though.

They will appear more often if you live in an area where the tap water is high in mineral content. It is these minerals, rather than the water itself, which is causing these stains. They are deposited on the surface on your pot, giving it the appearance of a spotty teenager.

To remove them, put some club soda in the pot and swirl it around. Rinse it first, then dry with a cloth or tea towel. Now you’ve got spotless pots.

Another method you can try if you don’t have club soda, which is not the same thing as soda water or seltzer remember, is to soak the affected area in vinegar and leave it for a few minutes. Clean out the pot with some hot soapy water and rinse. Spots went!

How to restore stainless steel cookware to make it shine again

Over time your stainless-steel cookware will lose its shine and get dull. No matter if you spent a small fortune on your cookware or picked them up in a deal, it will happen. The shine of stainless steel is one of its appeals; it just looks good in a kitchen. The grime and grease it picks up over a lifetime’s worth of work in a kitchen can be efficiently dealt with, however. Let me tell you how. 

To make things look as good as new use a mixture of baking soda and water. You should form a paste with these two materials and then wipe it over the stainless steel. Use a soft damp cloth for this (and remember it must be nonabrasive).

Rinse off the mixture in lukewarm water, clean with soapy hot water and dry. There you go – your pans and pots are gleaming once again!

Learning how best to clean your pans of everything they pick up is vital to keep them in the best shape possible. But it is equally important to care for them well. Stainless steel cookware can get very expensive. When you drop a lot of money on something, you want it to last. Proper care of stainless steel will ensure it does last a lifetime. And luckily, I’ve got some tips for you.

How to care for stainless steel cookware?

The best practices for caring for stainless steel:

There are various things you can do to make sure some of the situations that might have led you to read some of the cleaning tips can be avoided.

  • 1. Water spots, the mineral residue formed when hard water evaporates and leaves behind all it was carrying, will not be a problem if you hand dry your cookware after each wash. It is often that these stains appear not after cooking (though that can happen) but because we leave things to drip dry.

    After having an enjoyable evening in the kitchen creating a delicious meal then sitting down to enjoy it with a loved one or in front of the latest series you are binge-watching, doing the dishes is a complete chore. Now you want to add something on to that?

    If you want to avoid the hassle of cleaning up water spots, then this is the best way. Plus, there is nothing more off-putting to cooking than coming into a kitchen full of dishes to wash or put away. Think of it as a present to your future self.
  • 2. To keep the surface of your cookware smooth and sleek, don’t add salt to the water before it gets a chance to boil. Salting water is a great way to help food cook, but if you do it too early, it can lead to pitting corrosion. This leaves tiny marks on the bottom of your cookware which can’t be repaired.
  • 3. Heat your pan before adding fat to it. Not only is this a good tip to keep your cookware in the best condition, but it also helps food taste better. It will also help create a nonstick surface, as according to experts, as adding oil or butter to a hot pan will help it become static.
  • 4. Take ingredients out of the refrigerator a good fifteen minutes before you are planning on putting them into a pot. This warms up cold food making it less likely they will stick to the stainless steel. You should also remove excess moisture from ingredients before adding them into your cookware.
  • 5. Don’t blast on high heat to preheat it. This can cause heat damage to both your pan and to lead to overheating, which will make it more likely that food will burn and get stuck to the bottom of your pan.
  • 6. Let your pans and pots cool thoroughly before washing them. The shock of plunging a pan into even very hot water will reduce its temperature rapidly. This can cause warping, which might make the cookware unusable. When you’re done the cooking, leave the dishes alone while you enjoy your food.
  • 7. I’ve been saying it throughout the article, but please remember only ever use nonabrasive sponges or dishcloths when cleaning your stainless-steel cookware. Using abrasive materials, like iron or steel wool, will cause scoring on your pan. That cannot be fixed, so avoid at all costs.

How do you season stainless steel pans?

Seasoning your stainless-steel cookware is done quickly and has some advantages. It will make sticky foods, such as eggs, less likely to stick to the bottom of your pan. There are some disadvantages, however. If you season your pan, using soap to wash it will remove the seasoning. You will also have to reseason it occasionally. If you’re happy with the compromises, here is a quick four-step way to do so:

  • 1. Wash your pan thoroughly. Use some soap; it’s your last chance, wipe and dry.
  • 2. Coat your pan with oil. Use your hands or fingers to make sure all bits of it are covered. You will want to use an oil that has a high smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil has a shallow smoke point, only 325F, so use something like sunflower oil, 440F, or peanut oil, 450F.
  • 3. You can cook the oil in either an oven or on the stove. In the oven, put it in at 350F and leave for an hour. When using a stove, put it on medium heat and take it off when the oil begins to smoke.
  • 4. Let the pot or pan cool until you can handle it. Wipe away any excess oil with a cloth or paper towel. If you are stacking cookware, consider using a paper towel in between each one to avoid metal bases scratching the seasoning.
  • 5. Since you can’t use soap to wash the seasoned pan, use paper towels or a rag to wipe it clean after it has cooled. Oil and salt will remove burnt-on food. You will have to reseason the pan if you need to use soap to remove a stubborn stain.

How do you prepare stainless steel cookware to start using it

You’ve got a shiny, new pan from the shops. Don’t start cooking with it straight away. Wash it out with hot soapy water with a splash of vinegar. This will remove any residue from being handled in a store or from the manufacturing process. Rinse it first. And then dry. Now, it is ready to use.

How do you care for stainless steel cookware class covers and lids

A lot of stainless-steel cookware comes with glass lids and covers. This helps you see the condition of your food without having to lift the lid and letting heat or steam escape.

Regular washing after each use in warm, soapy water is all that’s the need to clean these. If there are more stubborn marks or blemishes, a window cleaner can be used. Remember to rinse afterward, though.

What mistakes to avoid that can ruin your stainless-steel cookware?

There are a few things which will ruin your stainless-steel cookware and that you should never do. First, bleach and stainless steel are not friends. It will stain instead of cleaning your cookware.

Abrasive cleaners can help remove stains from cookware made from other material. Usually, these are liquids containing little particles that will help remove things. Do not use these with stainless steel. They will scratch the surface permanently. This is also your final reminder not to use abrasive sponges or dishcloths.  

Avoid using metal utensils if possible. While it is not a big no-no, they can still damage the base of your pan. Instead, use wooden or silicone utensils.

When scrubbing out your pan, go with the grain. Like cutting meat, it is much easier and won’t scratch the surface. It gets the pot cleaner and helps it keep its distinctive look.

Finally, generally, stainless-steel cookware is beautiful to put in the dishwasher. The humidity, however, could cause some problems. For general use, it is okay, but if you have particularly tough stains, or are concerned about damage, handwashing is the way to go.

The Bottom Line

Stainless steel is an excellent material to cook with. If you treat it right, it will keep its good looks and last over a lifetime. Using these tips to clean and care for your stainless-steel cookware will ensure it does.