You can avoid most difficult discolorations and stains by handling your cookware with a little care, but if you find yourself with a mess on your hands, here are some tried-and-true tips for cleaning stainless steel cookware.
General Care of Stainless Steel Cookware
The best bet for everyday cleaning is hand-washing your cookware in hot, soapy water and drying it thoroughly with a soft cloth before storing.
Using a dishwasher is controversial; experts are divided on the effect the detergents have on stainless steel finishes. If you do use the dishwasher, remove your cookware after the wash cycle and dry it by hand to avoid spotting.
Getting Rid of Stains
If your tap water has a high calcium content, you'll probably notice chalky white residue on the cookware. To clean it, fill the pot or pan with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Bring to a boil, let it cool to the touch, then wash thoroughly with hot, soapy water and dry.
To remove burned-on food, fill the pan with enough warm, soapy water to cover the mess and let it sit for an hour. Then put the pan back on the burner and boil the soapy water for 10 to 15 minutes. Let the water cool to the touch, then scrub with a nylon scouring pad. Wash out again with hot, soapy water, rinse and dry. Repeat for stubborn residue.
Use a non-abrasive cleanser like Bon Ami Polishing Cleanser or Bar Keepers Friend for general cleaning, stain removal and keeping the cookware shiny as new.
Don't use metal scouring pads or abrasive cleaners. Although they do an excellent job of removing stuck-on food, all stainless steel cookware makers caution that they will scratch the surface of the cookware. Instead, opt for nylon-net scouring pads, plastic or nylon brushes.
Don't use chlorine bleach or ammonia-based cleaners on your stainless steel cookware.
To bring back that brand-new shine, wet the cookware's surface and sprinkle on some baking soda. Rub gently with a synthetic scouring pad such as a Dobie (a sponge covered with nylon netting) or a Scotch-Brite green pad, rinse thoroughly and dry. You can also remove fingerprints using glass cleaner and a paper towel or soft cloth. Minor scratches can sometimes be buffed out using a paste of water and a non-abrasive cleanser such as those mentioned above.
With proper care and cleaning, stainless steel cookware can last a lifetime. If you put in just a little extra effort, you can keep it looking as good as it cooks.
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