March 12th, 2012

How to Clean Stainless Steel Pots and Pans

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Groovy Green Livin How to clean stainless steel

Stainless steel is where it’s at in my kitchen. I’ve really been working hard to make my kitchen a “Teflon Free Zone”. The Teflon pots and pans are being swapped out on an as needed basis. The Teflon cooking utensils have slowly been replaced by their wooden and stainless steel counterparts.  I finally tossed the scratched and scary non-stick cookie sheets and replaced them with stainless steel cookie sheets from ESP. Love them (as much as anyone can love a cookie sheet).

My quest for a few cast iron pans is still on, but for now stainless steel is where it’s at in my kitchen.  Our family is a family filled with wannabe cooks. I am not Julia Child by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like to cook. My husband is an amazing cook and my three boys have expressed an interest in cooking. Let’s just say they can scramble a mean egg and make toast the perfect shade of brown.

Suffice it to say, our stainless steel pots and pans are constantly in use.  As you probably know, stainless steel pots and pans are not non-stick. There are times when things don’t stick, but with my kids cooking the pans are generally covered with ‘stuff’ that doesn’t want to come off.

A little TIP for cooking with stainless steel: heat the pan first and then add cold cooking oil.

How to clean stainless steel pots and pans the green way

For the past umpteen years I’ve been using good ol’ fashioned elbow grease to clean our stainless steel pots and pans. I usually let the pans soak overnight and then in the morning wash with hot, soapy water.  I never wash the pans in the dishwasher-this could damage the stainless steel finish.

Friends of ours were visiting a few weekends ago and we cooked dinner together. One of the pans took a beating and was a challenge to clean even after soaking overnight. We decided to look into a few other ways to clean stainless steel.

  1. Cover the bottom of the pan with vinegar. Sprinkle in some baking soda. My kids love to watch the interaction between the vinegar and baking soda-they will fizz and bubble. Let the mixture sit for 2-3 minutes. Rinse it out and wash.
  2. Heat the pan after use and then pour in hot water. Once the water is hot use a wooden cooking spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen and remove excess food.  After you’ve loosened most of the food, dump the water from the pan and wash in warm, soapy water. Don’t put hot stainless steel into cold water in the sink-this could warp the pan.
  3. Fill the dirty pot or pan with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let it cool to the touch, then wash thoroughly with hot, soapy water and dry.
  4. For tough stainless steel stains and burns: Mix together equal parts baking soda and water to form a paste. Apply it to the burned or stained area. Allow the paste to sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing it away with sponge or a clean cloth. Wash the pot with warm, soapy water or poor in a cup of vinegar and sprinkle in baking soda. Add a half cup of water, and allow it to simmer on the stove for at least 20 minutes. Pour the mixture out and scrub the pot clean.

How do you clean stainless steel pots and pans?

photo credit: Cooks & Kitchens via photopin cc

This week I’ve linked up to The Green Backs Gal and I Thought I Knew Mama.

62 Responses to “How to Clean Stainless Steel Pots and Pans”

  1. I got fired up about stainless steel pan a while ago and got a nice one. It’s great for stir-frying vegetables, but I cannot, for the life of me, make an omelet, a pancake, or anything else remotely sticky in it without making a terrible mess. So I end up using my old non-stick pan, which should be safe at the temperatures I use it.

    Love my stainless steel pots, though. They’re not hard to clean as long as I’m diligent about stirring. I tried baking soda and vinegar the last time some lentils got stuck to the bottom, and it worked quite nicely.

  2. I recommend any of the BarKeepers friend products. They use oxalic acid (found in spinach and rhubarb) as their cleaning agent, no harsh chemicals… They have a special pot ‘n pan formula. (

  3. I use Barkeepers Friend but I have to admit that I have saved one teflon pan for eggs. I eat an egg white omelet almost everyday and could not stand making it in my stainless steel pans.

  4. Thanks for the tips!

    Usually soaking seems to do the trick on ours. For some reason I seem to have a lot of problems cleaning them after cooking eggs though. I will have to try one of your methods.

    I still have one teflon pan that I can’t seem to bring myself to get rid of. It is a large round grill pan and works perfectly to make several grilled cheese sandwiches.

  5. I second the “barkeepers friend” recommendation. It’s also great on stainless steel appliances. We mostly use Bon Ami for really tough jobs. And, if I were you I wouldn’t delay another second on the cast iron pan. I’ve seen them at re-sale shops too. Our collection now includes a smaller omelet pan and a grill pan. Can’t live without ’em. cheers.

  6. Hi Jennifer, I hear you on the pancake disaster in a stainless pan. We make pancakes a lot. I’ve found that the first batch sticks, but after that the pancakes slide right out of the pan. Not sure why?? Maybe the oil is the right temp. Have you tried heating the pan first and then adding the oil?

  7. Hi Kim, I’ve never used BarKeepers friend products. I took a quick look at their site and at your post. I can’t find an ingredient list. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  8. Hi Marsha, eggs are definitely tough to clean out of a stainless pan. Try heating the pan first and then adding the oil. To clean boil water and add vinegar and baking soda. Let me know if that works.

  9. I know Karen-I need to jump on the cast iron pan. I’m also interested in more info on Barkeepers friend products. I haven’t used them before.

  10. I don’t think you’re alone Stefanie. Most people seem to save that one last non-stick pan for eggs and pancakes. Have you tried cast iron?

  11. We’ve converted to cooking pancakes in a well-seasoned cast iron pan – with just a touch of oil, works great!

  12. Lori, have you found a good electric stainless steel kettle with no plastic parts?

  13. Personally, I love my stainless steel pots and pans, but they are NOT fun to clean….properly. However, I was pleasantly surprised the first time I made pancakes – they were actually the easiest clean-up I’ve had with those pans. The heat is definitely key. I will say, though, that my very favorite pan in my kitchen is my cast iron skillet. I can’t live without that thing.

  14. Hi Annette,

    You are pushing me closer to that cast iron pan! I’m on the lookout.

  15. Annette-I have a Breville stainless steel electric kettle. It does have a plastic handle and a few bits of plastic around the lid.

  16. Cleaning my stainless steel pan is the bain of my existence. I spent hours researching how to cook and clean the thing. Neither is very simple.

    Wanted to get one before I got an entire set.

    I am going to mess with some ceramic pans next to see if they work out better.

  17. Hi Cathy, I’m on a quest for a cast iron skillet. Our pancakes come out relatively easily after the first batch-not sure why??

  18. Norwex Cleaning Paste! Ingredients: Marble Flour, Chalk, natural soap, and traces of coconut oil … and can be used for so much more! Great on soap scum and caked-on dirt and grime. I invite you to visit my website ( for more information about this outstanding company and its amazing product line … all designed to radically reduce our collective use of chemicals in personal care and cleaning. Microfiber cloths that remove 99.9 percent of bacteria from surfaces using only WATER … with micro (not nano) silver embedded directly into the fibre to inhibit bacterial growth within the cloths … I hope you’ll take a look!

  19. Hi Mike, It is so much easier to clean stainless if you heat water in the pan after cooking. It changed everything for me. Give it a try.

  20. Lemon juice gets out those heat rings.

  21. Yes! A great project to do with the kids- a great bunch of lessons for them. I’ve been looking for a way to get ride of the burn marks. Thanks for the info!

  22. (Oxalic acid is the active ingredient)… from the company history:
    Basically, the owner noticed his pots were really clean after cooking rhubarb and went on to discover why.

  23. Thanks Anna! Great suggestion.

  24. You’re welcome Jennifer!

  25. Thanks for sharing Kim.

  26. For no logical reason, I get a little anxious about using Barkeeper’s products on food serving/prep pieces. I save it as a last resort after all the other methods have failed.

  27. […] steal pans after finding this great article on How to Clean Stainless Steal Pots and Pans on Groovy Green Living Blog that I pinned on my Green Living Pinterest Board!  Hope it helps […]

  28. Great topic Lori!

    So far I’ve lucked out and haven’t had difficulty cleaning my stainless steel pans after getting rid of my non-stick pans. I simply don’t let the pans cool down too much before cleaning them. But I’ll refer back to this page if/when I run in to trouble!

  29. Thanks for offering these tips. How often can you put baking soda on the bottom without damaging the lining?

  30. Great question. I can only answer from experience-I use baking soda to clean my stainless and have never had a problem.

  31. Hi Andrea, I generally don’t have a problem. When I cook eggs and pancakes the pan is a mess!

  32. We cook with stainless steel when on river trips. We have found that if you dump a handful of sand in the bottom the caked on burned on food comes right off with a scotch bright pad. Not sure how practical it is to keep sand around the house for this purpose, and sand down the drain repeatedly would be a problem I would think…

  33. Hi Alethea, Thanks for the great tip. I think you’re right-bringing sand into the house to clean probably wouldn’t make sense, but using it on camping trips or for any outdoor cooking is a fantastic idea. Thanks!

  34. I haven’t had any difficulty cleaning my stainless steel pots and pans so far. Usually I clean them by the old way – soaking my pot/pan in hot water with soap for at least half an hour before cleaning. My pan got burned sometimes but I was able to clean it without causing any damage. To clean stubborn stains I use bar keepers friend as well. Love cooking with my stainless steel.

  35. Hi Mimi, I haven’t tried using Bar Keepers but several readers suggested it. I’ve been heating the pan and then scrubbing and it works well. I also love cooking with stainless steel. Thanks for stopping by!

  36. […] are stainless steel, which I started accumulating as wedding gifts. I finally figured out how to clean stainless steel without scrubbing for […]

  37. […] All-Clad Stainless Steel 12-Inch Fry Pan. We use this pan so much that I never put it away. My kids love to cook eggs, french toast and pancakes. Cleaning stainless steel is a breeze if you follow these simple instructions. […]

  38. […] but will work wonders in your sink and on smaller appliances. Use this technique on your stainless steel pots and pans. Place the leftover flour in your compost […]

  39. […] Over time I’ll keep adding more and more to the list. A few of my favorites have included how to clean stainless steel pots and pans and stainless steel appliances. Here are three more cooking tips that have really rocked my […]

  40. […] water in your pans before cleaning them. This will help remove residue and debris from the […]

  41. Stainless steel cookware can be boiled in hot water . For this purpose devices are stacked in a bowl , then filled with water and add salt or soda . After 15 minutes of boiling, and tableware simply need to rinse in cold water .
    You can use vinegar , which is applied to the sponge , and that rubbed cookware stainless steel . This way you can remove plaque with utensils or other items made ​​of stainless steel .
    StainlessSteel Cookware recently posted..Tips for cleaning stainless steel cookwareMy Profile

  42. […] in pretty bad shape after this mishap. After a bit of elbow grease the pan looks as good as new. HERE are some of my tips for cleaning stainless steel pots and […]

  43. […] your stainless steel cookware can be tricky. Soaking after use and before scrubbing is a must. HERE is a simple way to clean stainless […]

  44. […] your stainless steel cookware can be tricky. Soaking after use and before scrubbing is a must. HERE is a simple way to clean stainless […]

  45. Great tips. Thank you so much

  46. Really useful tips for cleaning stainless steel. I have never used any of them but now I have a pot that is hard to clean and I need some help. Thank you!

  47. Really useful tips! I love natural cleaning solutions and I often clean using vinegar, so I am sure that it will work just great!

  48. […] Stainless steel and cast iron are at the top of my list for safe baking alternatives to Teflon and other non-stick options. […]

  49. To reduce the issue of eggs and pan cakes sticking: put a thin coating of oil over the cooking surface of the pan, heat on low temperature until the pan just starts to smoke. Turn off and remove pan from heat to cool.once pan is cool, heat and cook on a low temperature. I temper the pan while prepping to cook. The pan is generally about ready to use when I’m finished peeping

  50. Do you season your pans? There’s a great video out there somewhere which gave me a brand new love of my stainless steel pans. I high heat the pan, or medium rather, then drop coconut oil in till it smokes. Remove from heat, let it cool, pour out oil and wipe around with a paper towel. Also need to heat the pan for a few minutes before putting food in. Eggs always slide out without sticking. Sometimes I do this when cooking if needed. Heat pan, drop oil, remove from heat swishing it around and wipe with paper towel without touching the hot pan, back to the flame, food in and cook. Non stick. Good luck!

  51. I have a couple of stainless roaster steamer pans I use on my charcoal grill for turkeys and ribs because I want to save the juices for gravy and sauce. They get terribly stained and impossible to clean and none to good looking to serve on the table.
    I have tried all the methods suggested on websites , Weber cleaner, vinegar , vinegar and baking soda and all combinations, soaking overnight, dishwasher detergent and etc.
    I decided to try to find my own. First of all I didn’t want to use abrasives to scour the pans and make them more difficult to clean in the future. Here’s the list that didn’t work, Paint stripper, orange oil stripper , Citrus King pure orange oil degreaser, naphtha, alcohol, borax, boric acid, dishwasher solution, kerosene and everything else I had in my garage.
    Looking over my chemical cabinet I came across “Tile Lab” Heavy Duty Cleaner and Stripper”
    I used to remove ceramic tile haze when I put down my porcelain tile floors. Gave it a try and with a short soak voila the stains and burnt grease wiped away with virtually no scrubbing. My Stainless pans look almost brand new with no scratches. It comes in a yellow container and I think I bought it at Home Depot. Not knowing what is in it I gave it a finish detergent wash and rinse to remove any residue.

  52. Just make sure you are using organic Non GMO vinegar and baking soda. Otherwise you are bringing in more chemicals to your pots and pans.

  53. Good point Courtney. Thanks!

  54. DON’T DO IT. The ceramic pans are the worst pans I’ve ever purchased. I am a personal chef so I am always trying the latest cookware. Love, love, love the stainless with bat keepers as my cleaning agent

  55. Bought some nice stainless cookware and got a stain from frying eggs. Not wanting to use elbow grease or steel wool, I used white vinegar and baking soda as you suggested. Scrubbed briefly with a sponge/scrubber, rinsed and it is gone! It now hangs hansomely next to it’s fellow pan unblemished, gleaming under the ceiling lights. Thanks for the tips!

  56. So glad it worked for you Doug!

  57. I use ENJO Fibers and water, amazing results!!!

  58. I’ve used my new stainless steel stockpot for the first time, had the heat low & couldn’t believe the staining with just spagetti bolognaise oh dear! thanks for comments I’ll try vinegar & bicarb…….my ceramic stockpot with a very heavy base I had for years, can’t seem to buy the quality now without paying a fortune.

  59. Heat and cheap booze. Works like a charm with a stainless steel scraper.

  60. I use Amway scrub buds (a fine stainless steel mesh scrubber) and water to get rid of anything baked on. Then I use a tiny bit of RevereWare Copper and Stainless Steel cleaner to clean the rest. That also gets rid of blue heat marks, but I recently discovered that a little bit of lemon juice does that, too.

  61. […] Good news! It looks as though many of us are making the switch to safer pots and pans. Cast iron is an old favorite for many of us. I’ve been gradually making the switch to safer pots and pans. Nonstick finishes have come under fire in recent years due to the toxic fumes emitted when the cookware is exposed to high heat. Bye, bye Teflon, hello cast iron and stainless steel. […]

  62. […] are stainless steel, which I started accumulating as wedding gifts. I finally figured out how to clean stainless steel without scrubbing for […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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