How to Clean Your Stainless Steel Cookware to Make It Last Longer

Make stubborn food stains, water spots, and calcium buildup a thing of the past with our detailed cleaning guide.

Stainless steel cookware is a popular addition to any kitchen, and for good reason. It's fairly resistant to rust and corrosion, it's durable, and it's good at conducting and retaining heat. Not to mention its sleek finish goes with just about any kitchen. But it's not entirely "stainless." With consistent use (and without proper care) stainless steel cookware can become discolored, burned, and covered in residue and food bits. Read on for tips on how to protect your stainless steel pots and pans from unsightly wear and tear.

Stainless Steel Pot on Burner
Photo by Getty Images.

Everyday Care

It's best to avoid the dishwasher when cleaning stainless steel, as the detergent may harm the finish, and cause spotting. Leaving a wet stainless steel pot or pan in the dishwasher can also lead to water spots. To be safe, always hand wash your stainless steel cookware with hot water, dish soap, and a soft dish towel. Immediately dry it by hand afterwards.

Removing Calcium Buildup

If you do end up with hazy, white spots on your stainless steel cookware, it's probably a result of calcium buildup due to hard water. When this happens, fill your pan with one part vinegar and three parts water. Bring the mixture to a boil, allow it to cool, and then wash it and dry it as you normally would.

Removing Buildup or Burned-on Food

Use a soft sponge to scrub off what you can from the pot or pan, and then fill it with water and dish soap. Bring the soapy water to a boil, and allow it to boil for about 10 minutes. Next, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool before scrubbing it with a sponge once again.

Removing Heat Damage

If your pan has noticeable dark marks from being left on the burner too long, you can clean it using baking soda. Make sure the pan is completely dry, and sprinkle baking soda onto the surface of the pan where the heat damage is located. Use a dry cloth to rub the baking soda around the surface. Afterwards, rinse your pan thoroughly.

Removing Water Spots

If you're stainless steel pots and pans have water spots from being left out wet or from being put in the dishwasher, sprinkle baking soda over the surface and rub it in with a damp, sponge. Rinse thoroughly after doing this.

Tips for Making Your Stainless Steel Cookware Last

  • Don't wash stainless steel pots and pans until they have cooled completely. When a hot pan is submerged in cold water, there may be permanent damage such as warping.
  • Never use harsh dish scrubbers or abrasive scouring pads, as these can damage the finish.
  • Always clean your stainless steel pots and pans after each use. Save yourself the frustration of having to clean sticky residue buildup or burned-on food later.
  • Add oil after heating the pan in order to prevent food from sticking to the surface of your pan.
  • To prevent a form of rusting that can occur in stainless cookware known as "pitting," you should only salt water in your stainless steel pots and pans after it has come to a boil.
  • Always dry your stainless steel pots and pans immediately after washing them to avoid water spots.

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