Shiny Stainless Steel Pans Are in Your Future

Stainless steel is a popular material used in kitchen utensils and cookware. Stainless steel utensils give a kitchen a modern look and can look like new for years after installation, while stainless steel cookware is known for its heat retention and durability. As with most household items, the best way to keep stainless steel cookware looking new is to clean it after each use. Burnt layers of grease are much more difficult to remove from pots and pans and in some cases may never completely come off.

It may seem like a daunting task, but cleaning stainless steel pans is actually simpler than cleaning stainless steel utensils (no need to wipe with grain here) and luckily, our experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Care and Cleaning Lab have find the best way to do it in the shortest possible time. Use a stainless steel cleaner that has been tested by experts and follow the steps below to keep your cookware in top condition.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans After Daily Use

The best way to clean stainless steel pots and pans after daily use is with plain dish soap and warm water. If you have stubborn stains or bits of food that require a little more effort, follow the steps below to remove them quickly.

What do you need

  • Dish soap
  • Non-abrasive sponge
  1. Scrape all food residue from the skillet. Use a wooden spoon to carefully remove any sticking bits while the pan is still warm, but not hot.
  2. If there are still food residues stuck to the pan, soak the pan with hot water. Once the pot has cooled completely, place it in a large pot of hot water or fill the sink with hot water and let the pot soak for at least 30 minutes. Any remaining food residue must be loosened.
  3. Rub the pan with a non-scratch sponge. Dip a sponge into the soapy water solution and thoroughly scrub the inside and outside of the pot.

Expert tip: For particularly stubborn bits, fill a pot with water, place it on the stove and simmer for a few minutes to loosen stubborn or burnt food.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans with Burnt Stains

You may be inclined to immediately use a heavy-duty scouring pad or steel wool pad to remove the heavy scorch stains from your pots and pans, but you may be doing more harm than good. These products are often too abrasive for stainless steel and can damage the surface of the pan.

The safest way to restore the luster of stained stainless steel pans is to use a stainless steel cookware cleaner. If you use a store-bought cleaner, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions and make sure the product you use is safe to use on cookware, not just stainless steel. Some stainless steel tool cleaners often leave a protective film that is not safe for food.

What do you need

  • Stainless steel cookware cleaner or baking soda
  • Scratch-resistant sponge
  1. Add water to a pot or pan, place it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Let the water boil for a few minutes then turn off the heat and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any food stuck to the pot.
  2. Make a paste with your favorite stainless steel cleaning powder or baking soda and water. Let the pot cool completely, then pour a little cleaner or baking soda right in the pot and add enough water to form a paste.
  3. Use a sponge to spread the paste and scrub the pan. Unlike stainless steel, you don’t need to scrub the cookware against the grain. Rub in a circular motion and spread the paste all over the pan.
  4. Rinse and dry the skillet thoroughly. Once you are happy with your scrubbing, rinse the pasta from your pan well and dry it with a towel to prevent water spots.
person washing dirty frying pan under kitchen sink faucet

Alex Wilson//Getty’s image

Can you damage stainless steel pans?

Stainless steel pans can be scratched if not cleaned properly or discolored if not cleaned thoroughly. They can withstand more abrasive cleaning methods than stainless steel utensils, but there are still some things you shouldn’t use to clean them. Steel wool pads and other highly abrasive cleaning products can scratch the surface of the pan and damage the delicate finish. Oven cleaners, grill cleaners and products containing bleach should not be used on stainless steel cookware as they are too harsh.

The same goes for using vinegar to clean stainless steel pans. Vinegar is too acidic and can damage the appearance of stainless steel. If you must use vinegar, dilute it with at least equal parts water and don’t leave it in the pot. The safest option is always to start with the gentlest approach — non-abrasive dish soap and sponge — and work your way up to slightly more abrasive products as needed. Cold water running over a hot stainless steel pan can also cause ingredients to warp and lose their shape.

Tips to Keep Stainless Steel Pans Like New

  • Use a lower heat setting to prevent food from burning in your skillet and causing discoloration.
  • If you have a gas stove, use one that is the same size or smaller than the bottom of the pot. If the flames reach the sides of your pan, the surface could be damaged.
  • Try to remove stains as they occur to prevent buildup. It is more difficult to remove multiple layers of burnt grease than it is to remove just one stain at a time.
  • Let your stainless steel pots and pans cool completely before running them under cold water. Otherwise, you run the risk of warping the material.
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Home Care & Cleaning Laboratory Review Analyst

Jodhaira (she) is a product review analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Home Care & Cleaning Lab, where she tests and writes about homewares, cleaning products, and cleaning tips. Prior to joining GH in 2021, he graduated from Hofstra University with a bachelor’s degree in forensic science and spent two years as an analyst in an environmental laboratory in Queens.

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