How To Clean Stainless Steel Pans After Cooking

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Stainless steel cookware sets are one of the ultimate investments you can make for your home kitchen. To preserve their longevity and guarantee you get your money’s worth — you need to be sure you clean them properly!

In this article, we’ll go over exactly how to best clean your stainless steel pans after cooking. Using these specific methods, your pots will be shiny and like-new for many years to come.

Don’t have a set of stainless steel cookware yet? 

No problem! Whether you have a ceramic glass-top stove or an induction glass-top stove, we recommend the same pots and pans! Take a look at this amazing set from Cuisinart: The multi-clad pro stainless steel 12-piece set

How To Remove Stains From Stainless Steel Pans

To remove stains from your cookware, try making a paste of liquid soap and baking soda. 

Here’s what you need:

  • An old toothbrush (or nylon scrubber)
  • Liquid dish soap (e.g. dawn)
  • Baking soda

Combine equal parts dish soap and baking soda to form a paste. Use the toothbrush to scrub the paste into the stains. 

Tip: Try to follow along the grain of the stainless steel.

Related reading: How to Tell the One Big Difference Between a Pot Vs a Pan?

How To Clean Stainless Steel Pans with Vinegar

Vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent. It can do wonders at removing discolorations from inside your stainless steel pots and pans.

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. 1
    Wash the dish with vinegar
  2. 2
    Rinse with water
  3. 3
    Optional: for a more stubborn stain, allow the vinegar to sit in the pot/pan a while before scrubbing and rinsing

That’s all!

To remove stains on the outside of your pots and pans using vinegar, we have two suggestions. You can either spray it directly on the cookware and then wipe off with a cloth or dab a brush in vinegar and scrub gently at the stain. 

Wondering if you should take the leap and order a 13-piece stainless steel set? Read: All You Need to Know About Tools of the Trade.

How to Remove Built-Up White Calcium Stains

Calcium stains make your stainless steel look unsightly. Here’s how to do away with them and get that cookware shining like new once more.

Grab your vinegar again. Pour a mixture of one part vinegar to three parts water into the pan that needs cleaning.

Bring to a boil on your stovetop. Once it has reached boiling, shut off the burner, and allow it to cool.

Discard the liquid. Wash your dish as normal.  

Cleaning Stainless Steel Pan

How To Clean Burnt Food Off Your Pots and Pans

We covered how to clean discolorations with vinegar, here’s how to use it to clean burnt food off your cookware as well.

You can even use it in conjunction with baking soda for extra sparkling clean power!


  • Fill the pan with enough water to cover the burnt-on food.
  • Add 1 cup of vinegar.
  • Bring to a boil then remove from heat.
  • Mix in 2 Tablespoons of baking soda.
  • Empty the pan and scrub with a non-abrasive sponge.
Man cooking in stainless steel stockpot

Don’t Have Food-Grade Vinegar or Baking Soda On Hand? 

No problem. You can simply boil water and dish soap instead. Use enough to cover the stuck-on food particles. Once boiling, use a spatula to loosen the food bits. 

How to Clean Using Salt & Lime

Here’s another method using common kitchen products!

This way uses the acidity of citrus plus the coarseness of salt to get your pots shining again.

Squeeze lime juice into the dirty pan. Add salt and allow the mixture to rest for several minutes.

Sprinkle some more salt on before scrubbing with a non-abrasive sponge. Rinse and dry.

Now that you’ve got clean pans and the salt out...why not whip up a new recipe for dinner?

Check out these 21 Easy Chicken Recipes to Try Out at Home Now!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are There Black Spots on the Bottom of My Pot After Boiling Saltwater?

If you have a gas stove where the pot sits on an open flame, you run the risk of burning your cookware. Try cooking on lower heat or investing in higher-quality pots and pans. 

You should also always make sure your stovetop is clean before cooking on it. Sticky residues will add to the burning.

If you mean black spots on the bottom of your pot on the inside. This is another problem altogether.

These spots happen because of erosion. Likely the water you used in the pot had undissolved salt in it. This type of stain is called a pitting stain and, unfortunately, there is no way to clean it. 

Avoid pitting stains by not using bleach on your cookware, and only adding salt to water once it is already boiling. 

If pitting occurs and worsens, you will likely end up having to toss your pots and pans.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Why Is There a Rainbow Stain on My Pot?

Those ugly rainbow-colored stains on your cookware are caused by excessive heat. If you’ve ever been in a hurry and heated a pan too quickly — this has probably happened to you! 

These stains won’t affect the cooking or flavor of your food. However, if it bothers you, there are ways to remove it.

How Do You Remove a Rainbow Stain?

You can try to treat your rainbow stain with some food-grade white vinegar using the instructions above. Or you can try out a product a lot of people swear by. 

Order some Bar Keeper’s Friend to keep on hand. You can use it in your kitchen or your bathroom for a multitude of stains.

How Do You Remove Rust from Stainless Steel?

First, let’s cover how you should not remove rust. This is important! 

Your instincts may tell you to reach for steel wool or another super abrasive scrubber — not so fast! Drop that brillo pad before you make your awesome cookware less corrosion resistant.

Instead, try some of your new product, Bar Keeper’s Friend, on it. Or, make a simple paste of water and baking soda. Scrub in with a toothbrush to remove rust.

Man cooking in stainless steel stockpot


Now you know several easy, affordable ways to keep your stainless steel cookware bright and shiny like new! 

Next time you’re at the grocery store, why not pick up a supply of white vinegar and baking soda to keep in the pantry?

Everyone will be so impressed by your sparkling clean pots and pans. All that’s left is figuring out what to make for dinner!

We suggest checking out these healthy salmon recipes!

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