How To Remove Discoloration From Stainless Steel Cookware

By Barbara | February 12, 2020

Stainless steel is an extremely strong material but it can get stains. Therefore, it’s essential to learn how to remove discoloration from stainless steel cookware.

Stains make your stainless steel cooking utensils to appear unattractive. Also, product warranty does not cover discoloration. That means you’ll have to deal with your discolored pots on your own.

Some spots can fade away when you clean with a mild detergent. However, you will not get rid of other discolorations no matter how hard you scrub.

You need to be careful with the products you use to clean your stainless steel utensils. Some cleaners and scouring pads will lead to scratches on your cooking gear while others corrode them.

The solution lies in knowing the correct way of handling your cooking gear to restore and maintain its smooth, bright, shiny appearance.

Follow these steps to effectively and safely get rid of discoloration from your stainless pots and pans.

What causes stainless steel discoloration

Cooking on high heat is the leading cause of discoloration of your pots and pans. You’ll notice some brown, blue or yellow tints on your cooking gear if you do this.

Letting cooking utensils to boil dry also has the same effect. Leaving an empty pot on heat not only damages your stainless steel but can also cause personal injury.

Cooking food while your pot has some residues of food from previous cooking will result in discoloration. This is because you’ll be reheating the burnt food which will form stains. Therefore, it’s advisable to get rid of any food remains from your cookware before you use the pot or pan.

The mineral deposits in hard water, mainly calcium and magnesium can also cause discoloration of stainless steel cooking utensils. When hard water is exposed to heat, it leads to the formation of calcium carbonate. These deposits cause calcium stains on your pans and pots.

Cleaning methods

White vinegar and water solution

White vinegar is the most common tool used to remove discoloration from your best stainless steel cookware set. Start by pouring the vinegar on your pots and pans then add water. Put the pot on heat and let it boil for five minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pot cool.

You can then clean your cooking gear using hot water and soap. Remember not to use any harsh scouring pads to do this. A soft sponge or dish washcloth is recommended.

Rinse your cooking utensils using hot water and dry them with clean kitchen towels.

Don’t be alarmed when you get a fermented smell while cleaning with white vinegar. That is normal. However, if you can’t stand it then do not boil the vinegar. Instead, just leave the water and vinegar solution in your pot for a while.

Afterward, clean the pan with soap and the stains will come out.

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Cream of tartar and vinegar

Don’t worry if you have stains on your cookware because cream of tartar can take care of that. You’ll need vinegar or lemon too.

Start by putting cream of tartar (about two tablespoons) on the spots on your cooking utensils. Add lemon juice or vinegar on the spots (one tablespoon is enough) and mix the solution together. Make sure it forms a good paste. You can add either of the products as necessary.

Get an appropriate scrubbing dishcloth and start scrubbing the pot using the paste in it. Rinse the cookware using hot water.

Check if the discoloration has disappeared. If it hasn’t then you can put the cream of tartar and lemon or vinegar in the pan as before. Add water and let the mixture boil on high heat for approximately 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the solution cool down. After that, scrub the stains off again. You can repeat the boiling and scrubbing steps if the discoloration doesn’t completely come off.

boiling baking soda and water mixture in stainless steel pan

Cleansers and polishers

Some cleaners and polishers can remove discolorations from stainless steel cooking utensils. All you need to do is put them on a piece of cloth and then use the cloth to scrub the stains on the pans. Stainless steel and harsh chemicals do not go hand in hand.

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

Warm water and detergent

Sometimes all you need to do is use warm water instead of cold when washing your cooking gear to get rid of discolorations. Your ordinary detergent meant for stainless steel will work.

Related Reading: Stainless Steel Cookware Pros and Cons

Preventing stainless steel discoloration

You will not have discolorations on your stainless steel if you take some precautions.

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

Always make sure that your cooking utensils are not wet because moisture contributes to the formation of stains on stainless steel. You can use clean towels to wipe off the moisture after washing the pans and pots.

You can go the extra mile and pour a few drops of oil on the utensils. Use a soft piece of cloth to spread the oil on to various parts of the pan.  Doing this will protect your stainless steel cooking gear from discoloration and improve its appearance.

Vegetable and olive oil are recommended for this purpose.


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, it needs proper maintenance or else it 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 longer period.

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