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How do I Clean Stainless Steel?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Stainless steel is a common material for many types of appliances and tools, especially around the kitchen. The durability of stainless steel makes it ideal for simple cleaning and maintenance efforts, assuming that a few basic guidelines are followed. If you are wondering how to clean stainless steel cookware or appliances and keep them looking new for a long time, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

When it comes to cleaning stainless steel pots and pans, one important thing to remember is that while the material is durable, it is not impervious to damage. For this reason, many harsh chemicals are not ideally suited for cleaning stainless steel. For the most part, a simple process using hot water combined with a mild dishwashing liquid will provide the perfect method to clean stainless steel. Cleaning products that are harsh are likely to dull the luster of the pots and pans, and over time will weaken the steel.

The process used to clean stainless steel may be a little trickier when dealing with food that has burned onto the surface of the steel. While people often make use of steel wool pads to cut through the dried grime, this process has the danger of creating hairline scratches in the body of the pot or pan. Soak the pot in hot water with a small amount of dishwashing liquid instead. A period no longer than thirty minutes is usually enough to loosen the most stubborn food and make it possible to use a non-abrasive nylon pad or sponge to clean the interior and the surface of the pot thoroughly.

One common issue that occurs with just about any type of cookware is allowing the fluid in the pot to boil completely away. The residue can cause the interior of the pot to discolor, as well as begin to break down the integrity of the steel over time. To clean stainless steel pots where salty water or some type of acidic liquid has been allowing the boil away, it may be possible to salvage the pot by using a paste made from baking soda and a small amount of water. Several applications and rinses may be necessary to remove the majority of the discoloration.

In general, one should clean stainless steel using nothing more than hot water, a mild dish detergent, and lots of effort. Regardless of what you’ve been told, never use bleach or ammonia on stainless steel. Silver cleaners are also not good for the steel, as the compound may leave behind a stain. Many people are surprised how clean stainless steel flatware, cookware and appliances become by using these simple cleaning options. Best of all, they are inexpensive and usually found in the kitchen at any given time.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By jlmk — On Feb 04, 2011

I've been cleaning my pots all wrong! I always soak them for longer than a half hour, and love using steel wool pads to get off stuck on food.

It makes sense though, now that I think about it. Why would you want to keep any metal in water for an extended period of time? And, if steel sharpens steel, why wouldn't it scratch it?

Now that I know how to clean stainless steel pot and pans, I'll be taking much better care of mine!

By reader888 — On Feb 01, 2011

I am so glad I found this article! My husband is notorious for boiling the water out of a pot, and I've never known how to get rid of the stain. It just looks so gross, that I don't even want to use the pot anymore. I'll definitely have to try the baking soda paste. Even if the stain doesn't go away entirely, any improvement is better than what I've got now.

By anon28542 — On Mar 18, 2009

How would you clean a stainless steel BBQ that is stained by cat urine?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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