How To Remove Discoloration From Stainless Steel Cookware?

Stainless steel is a strong material, but it can stain. That’s why it’s important to learn how to remove discoloration from stainless steel cookware.

Stains make your stainless steel cookware look unattractive. Also, the product warranty does not cover discoloration. That means you’ll have to deal with your discolored pots and pans on your own.

Some stains can be removed by cleaning with a mild detergent. Other stains will not come out, no matter how hard you scrub.

You need to be careful about the products you use to clean your stainless steel utensils. Some cleaners and scouring pads will scratch your utensils, while others will corrode them.

The solution is to know how to properly care for your cookware to restore and maintain its smooth, bright, shiny appearance.

Follow these steps to effectively and safely remove discoloration from your stainless pots and pans.

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What Causes Stainless Steel Discoloration?

The number one cause of stainless steel discoloration is excessive heat.

Cooking over high heat is the most common cause of discoloration in your pots and pans. If you do, you’ll notice a brown, blue or yellow tint to your cookware.

Leaving your cookware to boil dry also has the same effect. Leaving an empty pot on the stove will damage your stainless steel and can also cause personal injury.

How to clean discoloration from stainless steel?

White Vinegar and Water Solution

White vinegar is the most common way to remove discoloration from your stainless steel cookware. Start by pouring vinegar into your pot or pan, then add water. Turn on the heat and let the solution boil for five minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to cool.

You can then clean your cooking utensils with hot water and soap. Remember not to use harsh scouring pads. A soft sponge or dishcloth is recommended.

Rinse your cookware with hot water and dry it with clean kitchen towels.

Don’t be alarmed if you get a fermented smell when cleaning with white vinegar. This is normal. But if you can’t stand it, don’t boil the vinegar. Instead, just let the water and vinegar solution sit in your pot for a while.

Then clean the pan with dish soap and the stains will come out.

Cream of Tartar and Vinegar

Don’t worry if you have stains on your cookware because cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) can take care of that. I recommend Toogood Botanics non-GMO Cream of Tartar sourced from Spain. You’ll also need vinegar or lemon.

Start by applying cream of tartar (about two tablespoons) to the stains on your utensils. Add lemon juice or vinegar to the stains (one tablespoon is enough) and mix the solution. Make sure it forms a paste. You can add either product as needed.

Get an appropriate scouring pad and start scrubbing the pot with the paste in it. Rinse the pot with hot water.

Check to see if the discoloration is gone. If it hasn’t, you can add the cream of tartar and lemon or vinegar to the pot as before. Add water and boil over high heat for about 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and allow the solution to cool. Scrub the stains off again. You can repeat the boil and scrub steps if the stain doesn’t come out completely.

boiling baking soda and water mixture in stainless steel pan

Cleansers and Polishers

Some cleaners and polishes can remove stains from stainless steel cookware. All you have to do is put them on a cloth and scrub the stains off the pans. Stainless steel and harsh chemicals do not mix.

The cleaners you use should not contain bleach to avoid permanent damage to your pots and pans.

Warm Water and Detergent

To eliminate discoloration, use warm water instead of cold water when washing your utensils. Your regular stainless steel detergent will work.

Is discolored stainless steel cookware safe?

Yes, discolored stainless steel pots and pans are safe to use. Discoloration does not necessarily affect the safety or performance of the cookware. However, the discoloration can sometimes indicate a buildup of burnt or leftover food particles, which can affect the taste and quality of your food.

Preventing Stainless Steel Discoloration

You will not have discoloration on your stainless steel cookware if you take a few precautions.

The first thing you should never do is use high heat on your stainless cookware. When you turn on the heat, the pots will get hot. After that, you can reduce the heat to medium or medium-low.

Make sure your cookware is not wet, as moisture contributes to stains on stainless steel. You can use clean towels to wipe off the water after washing pans and pots.

You can go the extra mile and add a few drops of oil to the utensils. Use a soft cloth to spread the oil over different parts of the pan. This will protect your stainless steel cookware from discoloration and enhance its appearance.

Vegetable oil and olive oil are recommended.


Most people think that all they need to do is buy stainless steel cooking utensils, and that’s the end of this. As strong as stainless steel is, one of its cons is it needs proper maintenance or will get scratches and stains.

You can use the steps mentioned to remove discolorations from your pans and pots.

Taking good care of your stainless steel cookware will maintain its appearance and help it serve you for a more extended period.

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