5 methods on how to clean stainless steel cookware [Updated 2022]


Stainless steel utensils are essential in your kitchen. They’re durable and excellent heat distributors. That’s why I used to have them almost every day on the stove.

The problem is, stainless isn’t non-stick. This means that they can easily stick and burn whenever I wasn’t careful enough.

It’s not easy to find quality stainless steel cookware these days. That’s why I had to find a way to keep them shiny and clean. After hours of searching, I’ve found the best remedies!

If you want to know how to clean stainless steel cookware without scratching it, stick around for some answers!

Things you’re Going to Need for This Project

Here’s a complete list of everything you’re going to need to get this project done.

For Mild Stains:

For Water Spots:

For Tough Stains and Burnt Food Bits:

For Discolored Cookware:

For Burn Marks

How to Clean Mild Stainless Steel Cookware Stains?

Let’s start with basic stains on your stainless steel pans. One thing you should know is that the easiest way to remove stains from your stainless steel cookware is by cleaning them right away.

By doing this, you don’t let the food remains dry onto the stainless steel surface. These dried bits of food become much harder to get rid of.

Not only will it take you forever to clean them, but they also scorch your stainless steel with time. As you’re going to learn later, cleaning a burned stainless cookware is a bit trickier than your average stains.

Before heading into the steps, you need to know that stainless steel cookware is usually dishwasher-friendly. However, the dishwasher may not be able to thoroughly get rid of the remaining foot bit. That’s why it’s better to get it done with your hands.

Dealing with Hot Water

While washing the dishes, it’s always better to use hot water. It helps in softening the mild mess that’s sticking to the cooking pan surface.

You won’t damage your stainless steel cookware if you use hot water while cleaning it. However, submerging a stainless steel pan directly into cold water might cause it to warp or chip.

It’s recommended to clean your stainless steel cookware quickly, but it’s also important that you let it cool down a bit in the air before cleaning. Luckily, stainless steel is a good heat conductor so cooling down shouldn’t take a long time in a ventilated kitchen.

Breaking up All the Food Remains

To get things going, you have to get rid of food remains so they don’t stick to your pan. Start by pouring out any excess oils or liquids left in the stainless steel cookware.

After that, use a silicone spatula to wipe what’s left in the pan. This includes all the easier bits of food that’ aren’t sticking yet.

After cleaning the wet food remains, you can use the dish brush to make sure that nothing is sticking to your stainless steel pan.

Soaping and Washing

Once you’re done with all the food bits in your stainless steel pans, it’s time to use a non-abrasive scrubbing sponge to clean the dirty pan.

Avoid using any abrasive scouring pads or steel wool whenever possible. They can easily leave scratches on the stainless steel surface. Instead, use a sponge or a non-abrasive scouring pad with some drops of dish soap.

Using a sponge might require some extra effort while cleaning. However, it’s a better option if you want your stainless steel cookware to remain free of scratch marks in the long run.

Start by scrubbing the outsides of the pan first. This way, you can help it grease-free while cleaning the insides. This gives you a steady hold and a better performance while scrubbing.

Scrubbing is best in a continuous circular motion. You should repeat as much as needed until the stainless steel is shiny again.

Drying the Stainless Steel Cookware

Once your stainless steel cookware is cleaned thoroughly, you should dry them up. Drying is essential to prevent the formation of water spots inside your cooking pans. These chalky spots result from the buildup of calcium residue in water.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Cookware from Water Spots?

As you know, water spots result from the high concentration of calcium in the water. To minimize their formation, you have to dry the stainless steel cookware once you’re done washing it.

However, some stubborn water spots still reappear even if you dried the stainless steel immediately. So here are some methods to get rid of them.

Using Double Drying Method

The easiest way to prevent the formation of water spots is by double drying. In this method, instead of using one microfiber cloth, you use two.

First, you bring a wet microfiber cleaning cloth and you run it over along the washed stainless steel pans. After that, you bring a new dry microfiber cloth and you dry the stainless steel with it.

This way, you remove all the extra moisture that dries up to leave a chalky residue on your cooking utensils.

Using Vinegar Solution

If the double drying method doesn’t work for your stubborn spots, you can use a diluted solution of vinegar. Add one part vinegar to about 2 or 3 parts water to prepare the solution. You then add the solution to the pan and boil it.

After boiling for about a minute, let the pan cool off, then wash and dry it using the double drying method.

Combine Vinegar with Baking Soda

If you’re worried about boiling a solution of vinegar, you can use the cold method. Add one teaspoon of baking soda to half a cup of vinegar to prepare the cleaning solution.

Bring a microfiber towel and dip it in the solution then wipe the water spots with the towel.

Once it’s gone, rinse the cookware under warm water to get rid of the vinegar and baking soda traces. After drying the stainless steel cookware, the water spots shouldn’t reappear this time.

How to Clean Tough Stainless Steel Cookware Stains?

If you depend heavily on your stainless steel cookware, you’re bound to encounter some tough stains, and that’s alright. Even the most professional cooks can stumble across stubborn food bits that are sticking to their stainless steel pans.

If the stains aren’t coming off with simple methods, this means that the crusted food is sticking to your pan. In that case, you need a different approach to bring your stainless steel pots to their original shine.

Here’s a complete list of the best ways to get rid of stuck-on or burned food.

Soaking the Cookware in Dishwasher Detergents

Let’s start with the easiest method so we can clear it out of the way. If you have stainless steel cookware that has stuck-on food bit, you should do the following.

Preparing the Sink

First, you need to fill up your sink with hot water. The water should be between 60 to 80 °C  (140 to 180 °F). This temperature can burn your skin, so you need to be cautious while working around the sink.

Once the sink is ready, pour about ¼ to ½  cup of dishwasher detergent to the water. You can steer it gently with any long-handled spatula or a wooden spoon.

Soaking the Dirty Stainless Steel Pan

After preparing the dishwasher detergent bath, you should put the stainless steel cookware into the bath and leave it to soak. You can leave it anywhere from a couple of hours to soaking it overnight. The more the better.

Remember to be extremely careful while putting the pan into the water to avoid getting injured or burned. For an extra safety measure, you can use the dishwashing gloves.

After Soaking

When it’s time to take out the stainless steel cookware, it shouldn’t be so hot and you can easily do it with your hands. Once you take it out, drain the water and scrub the pan with a scouring pad.

This’ll remove most of the stuck-on food bits if not all of them. After you’re done, rinse it with warm water thoroughly then dry to prevent water spots.

It’s a highly effective method that doesn’t require many materials. However, its main downside is that it takes a lot of time, effort and kitchen space to be done.

Boiling the Crusted Food Bits off the Pan with Detergents

This method is the simplest and easiest one to perform. To maximize its efficiency, you should scrub as much crusted food bits as you can with the scrubbing pad.

After you’ve done your best, fill the stainless steel cookware with some water. Make sure that all the stubborn food bits are submerged in water. Pour ¼ cup of dish soap or dishwasher detergent to the water and bring it to a boil.

When the mix starts boiling, you can use a spatula to remove the stuck food without breaking a sweat. Once again, you need to be extremely cautious while dealing with boiling water. Try to be steady and careful not to splash the water out of the pot.

Cleaning the Tough Stains with Vinegar and Baking Soda

The mighty mix of vinegar and baking soda is back. This time, you’re going to use them to clean the tough stains that don’t come off with simple scrubbing.

Unlike the water spots mix, this time you need a fresh reaction for the maximum effect. So here’s what you’re going to do:

  1. Fill up the stainless steel cookware with a sufficient amount of water to fully submerge the tough stains
  2. Fill an 8-ounce cup with white vinegar and add it to the water
  3. Heat up the vinegar solution and bring it to a boil
  4. When the water starts boiling, add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda to the mix
  5. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, mix the solution for 1 or 2 minutes
  6. You can gently scrape the food bits off with the spatula
  7. Turn off the heat and pour the mix out of the cooking utensil carefully
  8. Use the scrubber to scrape off the remaining burned bits (don’t use steel wool)
  9. Rinse the stainless steel with warm water and double dry it to eliminate water spots

Using Coarse Salt and Lemon Juice to Remove Burnt Stains

Here’s another method that gives excellent results for many users. The secret is that lemon juice produces the acidity required to break down the crusted food. The coarse salt works by friction that scrubs away all stuck-on food.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Add a ¼ cup of fresh lemon to a ¼ cup of coarse salt into the pan
  2. Let them sit for about 15 minutes
  3. Sprinkle some salt over the mix and scrub it with a non-abrasive sponge or scouring pad
  4. Rinse with warm water and double dry the stainless steel cookware

Using Cream of Tartar for Burnt Food Bits

I know you probably don’t have it in your cupboard. However, it’s surprisingly affordable and does a great job. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Mix ¼ to ⅓ cup cream of tartar with enough amount of water to form a paste consistency
  2. Apply the paste to the difficult stains in your pot or pan and let it sit overnight
  3. Scrub it paste with a scouring pad
  4. Rinse and double dry the stainless steel

How to Clean Discoloration or Burn Marks on Stainless Steel?

If you subject the pan to high temperatures, it may get burnt or discolored. Usually, it gives a rainbow hue from overheating.

Using Tomato Sauce and Vinegar

You can fix this discoloration by applying mild acids to the cookware. Simply leave the discolored mark in a past of tomato sauce or vinegar overnight.

After rinsing and drying, you’ll find that your pot regained its silvery color again.

Using Salt to Remove the Inner Burn Marks

Sometimes, after removing burnt bits of food, you may find some burn marks on the inside of the pan. Here’s how to get rid of them:

  1. Submerge the burn marks in water and bring it to a boil
  2. Once it starts boiling, turn off the heat
  3. Add 5 tablespoons of salt
  4. Leave it for 2 to 3 hours
  5. Empty the pan
  6. Rinse and dry

Using Baking Soda to Remove the Outer Burn Marks

If you want to get rid of the layer of dark burns on the bottom of the cookware, you can use baking soda. You can either use dry baking soda or a paste of baking soda and water.

Simply apply the paste or powder on cookware and rub it until the burn marks vanish. After that, rinse and dry it as usual.


Whether you’re suffering from a mild, tough, or even a burn mark, you can find a way to clean it in this guide.

So there you have it, a complete guide on how to clean stainless steel cookware efficiently. By following this guide, you can rest assured that your stainless steel utensils are going to serve you for years to come.

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