If you’re wondering how to clean stainless steel pans and pots, then keep reading to discover the easy method on how to clean stainless steel cookware that has yellow spots, burn marks, and other discolorations. This post is sponsored by Bar Keepers Friend but all opinions and love it are my own.
Nowadays, stainless steel cookware is the preferred choice in many kitchens, from restaurants manned by celebrity chefs or in homes where the chef is a full-time housewife.
Stainless steel pans are desirable for a variety of reasons, things like they are very durable, are non-porous, are easy to clean (you’ll see how in a minute), don’t require seasoning, don’t react with foods, are lighter weight, have a pretty mirror-like finish, and are even reasonably priced.
However, the biggest disadvantage to stainless steel pots and pans is that food sticks to them, especially foods like eggs, tofu, fish, and lean meat.
Stainless steel pans can also discolor and have weird rainbow colors (which can be fixed! I’ll show you below).
Stainless steel cookware needs proper cleaning techniques to ensure that its surface remains shiny, silver, and ready to use.
Over the years, users of stainless steel cookware have discovered certain tricks that can make the task of cleaning these kitchen cooking utensils easier.
If you are one of the many people having problems cleaning stainless steel cookware, here is a simple guide that should make your life in the kitchen easier and simpler.
How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans
Unfortunately, stainless steel pans can be very difficult to clean because they are so delicate.
There are several things you should not do when cleaning stainless steel pans, and other things to know before we get started:
- You cannot use scouring pads or steel wool to clean stainless steel pans because they often leave permanent scratches or marks on the stainless steel surfaces, dulling its beautiful shine.
- Never use harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia to clean stainless steel pans. These harsh cleaners will only discolor and damage your cookware.
- You shouldn’t clean stainless steel pots under very hot water because it might discolor the stainless steel.
- Air drying can leave water spots that are very difficult to buff or polish, so always be sure to dry them after cleaning.
For everyday cleaning, you should be able to use just any ordinary mild dish detergent and a sponge or cloth to clean stainless steel cookware.
But, when stainless steel cookware starts to get chalky white streaks or spots on the surface (this is a calcium deposit accumulated over time), burnt-on food, yellow and brown sticky spots, or rainbow discolorations, dish soap is not going to cut it!
Several years ago now, I found an amazing product called Bar Keepers Friend that is now my go-to for cleaning stainless steel pans and pots (and so much more).
I used Bar Keepers Friend on my stainless steel pizza pan with seriously shocking and amazing results:
Bar Keepers Friend ingredients are not harsh chemicals yet work amazingly hard for you! There isn’t a ton of elbow grease required to get stainless steel pans shiny again.
I found Bar Keepers Friend does a great job to remove the chalky calcium deposits (and other problems), but if you’re worried about the calcium buil-up, you can soak the stainless steel cookware in vinegar before cleaning as described below.
Supplies Needed for Cleaning Stainless Steel Pans
- Bar Keepers Friend Cookware Cleanser & Polish (but any powder version works – learn where to buy Bar Keepers Friend)
- Scratch-Free Sponge (I used this one but the Scrub Daddy is a great option too!)
- Microfiber Cloth
Again, do not to use any abrasive scrubbers like steel wool pads that can leave scratches on the surface. The best tool to clean a stainless steel pan is a sponge or soft cloth.
I would also put down a cloth to protect your work surface if it is not compatible with Bar Keepers Friend. (Though I do have a great tutorial on how to clean granite countertops too!)
You can watch my video on how to clean stainless steel pans, or keep reading for the written instructions.
Directions on How to Clean Stainless Steel Pan
- Rinse and wet the stainless steel pan.
Rinse out any food leftovers from the pan (if there are any still), then get the surface wet with water by running it under the sink.
- Sprinkle Bar Keepers Friend Cookware Cleanser & Polish onto the stainless steel pan.
You don’t need a lot. You can spread it gently with a soft cloth or sponge so the whole surface has some.
- Let sit for 1-5 minutes.
Wet and wringe your scratch-free sponge with water, then start scrubbing the stainless steel pan. Scrub until all discoloration, burnt stainless steel areas, and cloudy films are removed.
Once the stainless steel pan is clean, rinse under warm water in the sink. If any spots remain, repeat the cleaning process above for that area.
- Dry with a microfiber cloth.
Note: if you don’t have any Bar Keepers Friend on hand, or are impatient for it to arrive, you can use natural materials like baking soda and water to scrub the pots clean, but it may take longer and require more elbow grease.
How to Polish Stainless Steel Pots
If you want to give the stainless steel cookware its iconic gleaming clean look, be sure to dry it with a microfiber cloth rather than letting it air dry.
The great thing about Bar Keepers Friend is that it is a cleanser and polish in one! No need to polish it with a paste made from water and baking soda.
I also tried it out on a pan with a stainless steel rainbow.
The bottom of my copper bottom Revereware pot had several circles of stainless steel rainbow discolorations. I used the same method above and it was able to remove it too!
How to Clean a Burnt Stainless Steel Pan
As stainless steel does not provide a stick-free cooking environment like Teflon, you will sometimes get burnt residue stuck to the bottom of the cookware.
If you have this problem, soak the cookware in a mixture of hot (but not boiling) water and baking soda for several hours before washing it.
Then repeat the process listed above.
I used Bar Keepers Friend previously to clean a burnt pot bottom (that was copper) and while it did take more elbow grease than regular marks and discolorations, it did come off!
I hope you enjoyed learning how to clean stainless steel pots and pans!
For more great cleaning tutorials, check out these great posts too:
- How to Clean Gas Stove Tops
- How to Clean Shower Heads
- How to Clean Copper Sink
- How to Get Rid of Black Mold in Showers
- Best Way to Clean Glass Cooktop
Want More Parenting, Penny Pinching, and Simple Living Tips?
Subscribe and get my best advice delivered right to your inbox. As a thank you, you'll receive these three laundry room printables for FREE.