How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans

By Heloise Blause Updated July 7, 2021

Stainless steel can outlive expectations with smart cleaning.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans

A stainless steel pan is undoubtedly a durable piece of cookware. The choice of professional chefs, it can take a lot of punishment and cook at high heats. But it can be a pain to clean a scorched pan. Stubborn stuck-on food and burnt oil are tough to clean and can leave marks.

But don’t despair! We’ll show you the best way to clean stainless steel cookware to make sure that it shines like new for years to come.

Boiling Water And White Vinegar Method

  • Choose a clean, empty spray bottle.

  • Make a mixture of one part water, one part vinegar & fill the bottle.

  • Spray a thin layer of vinegar mixture over the scorched pan

  • Let sit for approximately 10 minutes for stubborn cooking stains.

  • Wipe vinegar off the pan with a clean microfiber cloth or paper towels.

  • Repeat cleaning process for stubborn stains like burnt oil.

Why Cleaning a Stainless Steel Pan the Right Way is Important?

Cleaning stainless steel the right way is essential because eco-friendly stainless steel doesn’t have a nonstick coating. Because of this, food can burn to the surface easily (1). So it makes it more difficult to clean, and can also leave burn marks.

These burn marks are totally safe but unaesthetic and can give food a charcoal-y taste (2). Also, food can more easily begin to burn and build up on these burned spots.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Regularly

The process is actually quite simple and you should do it promptly after cooking. However, in cases where there’s some resistance, you can soak the pan in hot water first.

What You Need


1. Clean While Pan is Still Hot

Use residual heat to help lift cooked-on food. But don’t do this directly from the stove, let it cool slightly first.

2. Add Soap and Water

Fill the still-hot pan with hot water and dish soap. Let the hot soapy water sit in the pan until the mixture becomes lukewarm.

3. Scrub

Use a medium grade sponge to scrub the food residue from the sides and bottom of the pan

4. Soak the Pan

For more stubborn food particles, let the pan soak in a mixture of soap and water for a few hours. This should release burnt food bits from the pan.

5. Rinse

Once all the residue is removed and the pan is sparkling clean, give it a good rinse in clean water. Dry.


There are two things to avoid when cleaning your stainless steel. Do not use cold water on a hot pan. This will warp the metal. Also, dry your pan thoroughly after rinsing to avoid water drop marks.

Cleaning Scorched Stainless Steel Pan

Here are several tried and tested methods to get rid of scorch marks on your stainless steel.

With Baking Soda

If you’re noticing scorch stains on your stainless steel pots and pans after lots of cooking, it’s time to give a deep clean. But how? We prefer to use baking soda since it’s effective for getting rid of these stains.

It does take some time and effort to scrub these stains out, but you’ll find that it’s worth it to restore the good looks of your cookware.

And you can use these steps to clean stainless steel pots on both the inside and the bottom.

What You Need


1. Add Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda on the inside of your dirty pan. About 2-3 tbsp should work well. (You may place your pan into a bigger pan to catch any residual baking soda).

2. Add Water

Add a sprinkle of water to the baking soda. This shouldn’t be too much–just a tablespoon or two.

3. Create a Paste

Use your sponge to mix the water and baking soda together into a fine paste. This will scour the pan without damaging it.

4. Scrub

Using a circular motion with the grain of the pan, scrub the stuck-on food bits or carbon scoring with baking soda paste. Use a decent amount of elbow grease and the stains should lift.

5. Rinse

Rinse out your pan with clean water. Check to make sure you didn’t miss any spots. If you have missed a spot or two, repeat the first 4 steps until it rinses completely clean.

6. Clean Outside of Your Stainless Pan

Sprinkle baking soda directly onto the outer section of your pan. Then take a moist sponge (use soft side ONLY for the outside) and gently wipe the baking soda all over the pan. Give it a little more elbow grease to any tarnished area.

7. Focus on the Bottom

Follow step 6 to clean the bottom of the pan. You may need to spend a little more time here, as stubborn burn marks are common.

8. Give the Pan a Wash

Once you’ve removed all of the burnt food particles and scoring, give the pan a simple soap and water wash. Then dry immediately with a soft cloth. Your pan should look like new!

With Boiling Water and Dish Soap

You can follow these simple steps if soaking doesn’t loosen stuck-on food from your stainless steel pot.

What You Need


1. Add Water

Add about an inch of warm water to the inside of your pot or pan.

2. Add Detergent

Add about a tablespoon of your dishwashing detergent to the water.

3. Boil

Place pan on stovetop and bring to a boil. Next, reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Let Cool

Turn off the heat and allow the detergent mixture in the pan to become cool. Once cool, drain and rinse the pan.

5. Loosen Residue

Use your sponge, spatula, or a wooden spoon to lift any residue. Then simply rinse, wipe, and dry.

6. Repeat

Repeat steps 1-5 if there are any remaining burn marks or discoloration.

With Commercial Cleaners

Many manufacturers recommend using commercial cleaners to clean burnt food from stainless steel pots and pans. Especially certain stubborn foods like oatmeal and staining foods like tomato sauce or oil. These work well but may leave a residue.

Commercial cleaners are a solid go-to. However, if you want to avoid commercial cleaners because of harsh chemicals, you can use one of the other methods.

What You Need


1. Let Pan Cool

Don’t start the cleaning process with a commercial cleaner until the stainless steel pan or pot is entirely cool.

2. Add Water

Pour a little bit of water in the pan (enough to just cover the bottom).

3. Create a Paste

Add the prescribed amount of commercial cleaner to the water. Then mix them to create a paste.

4. Scrub

Using your sponge or scrubber, give the entire pan a good scrub with the grain of the metal.

5. Rinse

Once you’ve cleaned and removed all of the stains, give your pan a good rinse with clean water.

6. Dry

Don’t forget one of the most important steps–drying. Use a clean towel or paper towel to thoroughly dry your pot or pan before the water can stain.

Take a look at this video for full instructions on using commercial cleaners for your stainless steel cookware.


When using commercial cleaners, be sure that your cookware is completely cool before you begin. Plus, BarKeepers Friend is recommended, but you can use others (Bon Ami, Elbow Grease, or Cameo).

Only clean in a well-ventilated area, and rinse your cookware thoroughly. Use gloves while handling commercial cleaners, and wash your hands after using.

With Oven Cleaners

Surprisingly, manufacturers recommend using oven cleaner to remove burner stains from the bottom of your cookware. Just don’t do it for the sides.

What You Need


1. Apply Cleaner

Brush or spray your oven cleaner onto the outside bottom area of your pan (the part that contacts the stove top). Do not apply anywhere else–these are abrasive cleaners.

2. Check the Directions

Certain oven cleaners should be used in a warm oven. If this is the case, heat your stainless steel pot or pan before applying the oven cleaner.

3. Clean the Pan

Give the pan a wash with warm, soapy water to remove the cleaner and any discoloration. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry.

With Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a simple and cheap way to clean your stainless steel. Plus, it’s an ingredient you probably already have in the house.

With it, you’ll get great results with very little time and investment. For this, you’ll need to do a bit of scrubbing. But the longer you let the acid from the lemon sit in the pan, the easier it will be to get rid of stains and discoloration.

What You Need


1. Juice Your Lemon

Roll lemon on tabletop to release juice, then slice in half and squeeze directly into your stainless steel pan or pot.

2. Let it Soak

Rub the juice around the inside of the pan, then let it soak for a few minutes. For nasty stains, give it a little longer. Ten to twenty minutes should work just fine.

3. Scrub

Scrub the inside of your stainless steel cookware with steel wool. You’ll notice the juice get dark as the stains come off.

4. Wash & Rinse

Give your stainless steel a good wash and rinse after scrubbing with the steel wool scouring pad.

5. Look for Residue

If any little stains are left, rub the lemon directly on them and leave for another 10 minutes. Then repeat the wash and rinse. Don’t forget to dry!

With Cream of Tartar

This process to clean stainless steel is meant for the inside of your pan, both sides and bottom.

What You Need


1. Add Cream of Tartar to Pan

Sprinkle the cream of tartar directly into the burnt stainless steel pan to cover the caked-on cold food.

2. Add Hot Water

Add a bit of hot water to the pan to cover the cream of tartar. Let this paste sit for about ten minutes.

3. Use sponge

Take your sponge and scrub the bottom and insides of the pan. Rinse the pan and sponge, and squeeze the sponge to remove excess moisture. Give the pan a final wipe.

4. Dry

Use your clean cloth to dry the pan thoroughly.

With Ketchup

Like the previous method, you can use ketchup to clean the inside of your stainless steel. You may also use tomato sauce for this method. To watch, check out this video (the first 20 seconds).

What You Need


1. Add Ketchup

Squeeze a heavy layer of ketchup to entirely cover the bottom of your pan.

2. Let it Sit

Let the ketchup sit in the pan undisturbed for approximately 15 minutes.

3. Wipe It Out

Use your soft sponge to gently move the ketchup around the bottom of the pan.

4. Clean

Give your pan a good rinse and clean with soap and water. Don’t forget to dry!

Cleaning Stainless Steel Pan Stains

These next methods are especially good for getting rid of multicolored stains or discoloration of the stainless steel that won’t scrub off with traditional washing.

Stains and discoloration can be caused by the following:

These issues result in the oxidation of the surface of your stainless steel skillet, pot, or pan.

With White Vinegar

What You Need


1. Create Your Mixture

Combine one part vinegar to one part water and put it in a clean spray bottle

2. Spray and Sit

Spray the discolored areas in your pan and then let it sit for about five minutes.

3. Rinse and Wash

Rinse out the pan with clean water, and give it a wash with soap and water using a soft sponge with the grain. Dry with a towel immediately.

With Stainless Steel Cleaner

What You Need


1. Make a Paste

Following the directions of your stainless powdered cleaner, create a paste with water

2. Scrub

Using your soft sponge, gently clean the marks. Work with the grain of the metal until the stains are gone.

3. Rinse

Give the pan a good rinse with clean water, then dry carefully with a clean towel.

Maintenance Tips for Your Stainless Steel Pan

With proper care, your stainless steel can last for years. Careful treatment and proper cleaning methods are important to maintaining peak performance and aesthetics for your cookware.

Follow these helpful tips to keep your stainless steel shining:

Protect Your Investment

Remember, while stainless steel is durable against high temperatures and pitting corrosion, how you clean stainless steel matters.

These pots and pans are the choices of a professional chef and home cook alike. But the price reflects this. Protect your investment by following our maintenance tips and hand-washing your cookware.

If your stainless steel does end up stained or discolored, simply clean it using baking soda, dish detergent, or one of the many other gentle but effective solutions we’ve outlined.

Let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to share this article with anyone who may need some tips on caring for their stainless steel cookware.

About the Author

Heloise Blause

Since always, I am passionate about food; I enjoy writing and want to share my passion and offer quality articles to my readers. On Homekitchenland, I like to research, review, and compare kitchen appliances, write product reviews, and develop recipes.

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