Orenda Home Garden_How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans

Stainless Steel Pans: Dos and Don’ts

Is your once-shiny stainless steel cookware now showing discoloured spots and stains? No one wants to cook with a worn-out pot. These tips on how to care for your stainless steel pans should keep them looking new!

When I cook at home, I prefer using stainless steel pans. They work well on high heat and are virtually indestructible. But without proper use and care, over time, your stainless steel cookware would eventually show signs of wear and tear. High-quality stainless steel pans are costly, too. So, read on these dos and don’ts to save money as well as your favourite pots and pans.

How to Care for Stainless Steel Pans

The best way to clean stainless steel pans is easy: handwash them in warm, soapy water then dry them with a soft cloth. But then cooking mishaps happen. Food can get stuck at the bottom, and stains can mark the polished finish. To make sure you and your stainless steel pans share a lasting kitchen relationship, solve common cookware problems with these solutions and tips.

Surface Damage

  • Don’t cut food while it’s still in the pan.

Resist the temptation to check meat doneness or make food pieces smaller with a knife while still in your stainless steel pot. Make sure to use a cutting board to avoid marking or scratching your cookware. Deep scratches on your pan allow dirt build-up and potentially knife damage.

  • Don’t use abrasive cleaners or scrubbers.

Chlorine bleach and oven cleaners can cause more harm than good to your stainless steel pans. These can damage the coating of your cookware and cause other problems like pitting and etching. Use regular dish soap instead.

  • Don’t place it in the dishwasher.

Whether to use a dishwasher or not to clean stainless steel pans has always been debatable. While stainless steel cookware is generally dishwasher-safe, hot water and long washing cycles can damage it over time. It can loosen-up up pot handles, cause erosion and dull its shine. Handwashing your pan is still the best way to go.

  • Do use baking soda to restore its shine.

To keep stainless steel pans shiny, wet the surface with water then sprinkle on some baking soda. Find a soft scouring pad and use it to rub the pan gently. Afterwards, rinse thoroughly and wipe dry.


  • Don’t expose a hot pan in cold water.

Tossing an overheated stainless steel pan in cold water will release hot steam and cause thermal shock. A once flat pan surface may become convex, making it unstable or difficult to cook with on the stovetop. So, before washing, let the pan cool down first then allow it to soak in warm soapy water for a few minutes. This extra step should protect your pan’s shape and make it easier to clean.

Discolouration and Stains

  • Don’t let an empty pan sit on the burner for too long.

Overheating stainless steel cookware can lead to yellow, brown or rainbow-like spots that are hard to scrub off. To avoid these stubborn stains, make sure not to preheat an empty pan for too long. Also, don’t let it boil dry. For stain removal, gently rub vinegar on the affected spot or use the stainless steel pan for cooking tomato-based dishes.

  • Don’t add salt to a pan of cold water.

Are there white spots at the bottom of your stainless steel pot? We call this pitting, and it happens when you salt your cooking or pasta water too soon. Unfortunately, it’s also irreversible. You can avoid this in the future by adding salt to your water once it starts to boil. The hot water should quickly dissolve the salt before it reaches the bottom of your pot.

  • Do use vinegar to remove hard water stains.

White stains may build up on your stainless steel pans after weeks or months of washing them in hard water. This type of water has a high calcium content that causes discolouration and possibly bacterial growth. To solve this, pour ¾ cup of water and ¼ cup of vinegar to your pot (3:1 ratio). Let the mixture boil for a few minutes, allow the pan to cool completely then wash and dry as usual. Vinegar also works wonders when cleaning stainless steel sinks.

  • Do wipe washed pans immediately.

Water spots on pans, while harmless, are unseemly. Avoid these by drying them by hand. I know air drying pots and pans is less time-consuming, but a little care goes a long way!

Sticky Residue

  • Don’t use cooking sprays.

Even our stainless steel pans can get into sticky situations. And this happens if we use them with cooking spray. Emulsifiers in cooking oil spray can create a sticky, hard-to-remove coating. So, use healthy plant-based oil or creamy butter instead. And when you do, make sure to preheat the pan then add the oil when it’s already hot. Preheating should take about two to three minutes.

  •  Do use soft scouring pads for stuck-on food.

Stop yourself from reaching for that steel wool to scrub those stuck-on food bits away. This scrubber will only scratch your pan and potentially void its warranty. What you can do is pour enough soapy water into your pan and let it soak for an hour. Afterwards, put your stainless pan on the stovetop and let it boil for about 15 minutes.  Set it aside to cool completely before gently scrubbing it with a nylon brush or nylon-net scouring pad.

  • Do use baking soda for burnt spots.

If you accidentally burn food on a stainless steel pan, fill it with enough water then boil to loosen the scorched bits. Wash, rinse and dry the pan as usual. For more troublesome spots, you can try either of these solutions:

Make a baking soda paste. Add enough water to three tablespoons of baking soda to create a paste. Apply the paste to the burnt area and let it sit for 15 minutes. Scour and wash to clean.

Use dishwasher detergent. Fill your sink or basin with hot water then add ¼ cup of dishwater detergent. Put the pan in the soapy water and let it soak overnight. Scour and wash as usual. You may have to repeat the process if some burnt marks remain.

Lachlan Grattan

When I finally have the home of my dreams, my garden and home became and oasis and a place of self-expression. I love adding touches around the house to improve the living space and garden area. It’s my shelter, after all, and I want it to be as cozy as possible. I created Orenda Home & Garden as a go-to resource for my readers who wants to get ideas, inspiration or tips to make their home better and more comfortable.