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How to clean stainless-steel cookware

Make your stainless cookware shine again.

What You Need:

  • Dish soap
  • Sponge
  • Vinegar
  • Non-abrasive scrubbing pad
  • Baking soda
  • Bar Keepers Friend (optional)

Time Needed:

5-30 minutes




  1. Wash with soap, sponge, and warm water, pre-soaking if necessary.
  2. Bring a mixture of one part vinegar, three parts water to a boil in your stainless pot or pan. Optionally, add a tablespoon or two of baking soda for additional cleaning power. Cool and wash as usual.
  3. If your cookware is still dirty, pour a small amount of water in the bottom. Add a few shakes of Bar Keeper’s Friend, mix together, and spread all over cookware, scrubbing with a non-abrasive cleaning pad.

Stainless steel is a popular cookware choice, and for good reason. It’s highly durable and retains great heat, yet lighter and easier to maintain than cast iron. But don’t let the name fool you–stainless-steel cookware is far from immune to food stains.

Usually, dish soap and a good sponge will do the trick. But burnt-on food, discoloration, and chalky deposits from hard water might require some assistance from more serious cleaning agents, like vinegar, baking soda, and our favorite specialty cleaner, Bar Keepers Friend. Here's what we recommend to get that cookware gleaming.

Cleaningcastiron hero


How to clean and maintain your cast iron skillet

1. Wash with soap and sponge.

Unless you have particularly stubborn burnt-on food or stains, you should be able to clean your stainless-steel cookware with a regular sponge and standard dish soap. This is the first and easiest technique to attempt. You can even try soaking with warm, soapy water to make the task easier.

Stainless steel pan
Credit: / Kyle Looney
You can use a non-abrasive scrubbing pad instead of a standard sponge for more stubborn stains.

2. Try using vinegar.

If your soap and sponge are no match for the stains, burnt-on food, and chalky hard water deposits that cover your faithful stainless steel pots and pans, don’t despair. Fill that bad boy with a solution of one part vinegar, three parts water, and bring to a boil.

This should go a long way toward removing stains, and if you’re satisfied you can let the pan cool and then wash it with soap and water. However, if things still look pretty rough in there, you can remove the pan from the heat and add a tablespoon or two of baking soda. (Be prepared for it to fizz!) Then, pour out the solution and wash the pan as usual.

Your stainless steel cookware should be, well, stainless.

3. Bring in the ringer.

If the bottom of your pan is covered in ugly black or brown stains, or if the inside is still coated with an unpleasant landscape of charred food remains, it’s time to pull out a container of Bar Keepers Friend. This non-abrasive, non-bleach cleanser can be a godsend when you just want your pots and pans to shine like new.

The Kitchn recommends pouring a small amount of water into the pot or pan, then adding a few good shakes of Bar Keepers Friend. Mix the two ingredients together to form a slightly watery paste, then use a non-abrasive scrubbing pad to spread the paste around the inside (and outside, if it needs a good cleaning as well). Now take that pad and scrub vigorously! Add more Bar Keepers Friend if necessary. When you’re done, rinse, dry, and admire your handiwork.

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