How To Clean Discolored Stainless Steel Pots And Pans?

The food-grade standard stainless steel cookware is a conventional culinary appliance; among culinary artists & homemakers. From many decades to this contemporary timeframe, these pans serve excellent cooking needs requirements.

It’s really very frustrating to see if these stainless steel pans get discolored. Consequently, you can’t wipe off the rainbow spots & burned elements from them as smooth as the non-stick cooking sets.

These pans & pots are the most convenient cooking gadgets for roasting, sauce making & other recipes.

In general, people think this cookware gets discolor due to heat stains, but in reality, the causes can be due to many other things.
Even sometimes, homemakers & chefs get white spots due to arsenic & calcium accumulation.

You might be confident enough; the steel wool or scouring pads can scrub all the burnt stains; but, it’s not 100% right.

The metallic scouring pads leave over many scratched marks on your cookware.

As a result, foods get more stick on the cooking surface during meal preparation.

In this article, I will take a deep dive to share with you all the root causes of this problem & how you can be fixed this problem; without wasting too much money on it.

Read More: How to cook in a stainless steel pan?

How To Clean Discolored Stainless Steel Cookware?

Before you go with any treatment, wash your stainless steel cookware properly. So, the pan will be entirely free from the food remnants.

The stainless steel pans catch four types of discoloration problems. These four types are white bubble spots, charcoal build-up, rainbow shades & burnt greases.

You can’t apply the same solution for each type of problem. Like- Vinegar and ketchup are less effective for wiping off the black stains & burnt on greases.

On the other hand, these cleansing agents are good for cleaning the rainbow shades & white spots.


It doesn’t matter what method you are going to use for your stainless steel pan; once you thoroughly wash your pan, always wipe the pan with a soft kitchen towel.
Sometimes these water molecules leave white spots on the stainless steel pans.

Let’s discuss these cleaning methods:

Using Bar Keepers Friend:

The bar keepers friend is the best solution; that can handle any types of discoloration that appears on the stainless steel cookware. Yes, you heard right, this mild cleansing agent perfectly eliminates rainbow shades, black stains, polymerized burned greases, etc.

So, how to use bar keepers friend on discolored stainless steel cookware?


Before you apply the bar keepers friend, the pan temperature must calm at the room temperature. Now thoroughly your stainless steel pan with warm soapy water. And don’t make it moisture less.

For 10″ to 12″ diameter stainless steel, take one table tablespoon of ‘bar keepers friend’ and gently smear on the rainbow spots & white spots.

Give some time to ‘bar keepers friend’, so that your pan should clear in a better way. Nearly 20 to 30 minutes is enough for it.

Now take a sponge scrubber & scrub on the issuing areas. The burned grease marks & black stains never let go easily. For that reason, you have to continue the scrubbing procedure for a bit longer time.

Once you have done the previous step, wash your pans under the lukewarm rinse water. You can further clean it thoroughly with liquid soap & sponge scrubber & again rinse them with regular water.

Ripped Tamarind-

The tamarind has strong acidic properties like vinegar. This substance is best for cleaning the rainbow shades, burned foods & white spots from the stainless steel pans.

Additionally, if the stainless steel cookware has a copper-coated exterior bottom, it might get tarnish because of several reasons. Here the ripped tamarind also helps to pull off these tarnish spots from the copper bottoms.

Here is how you can use it to wiping out these problems from the stainless steel cookware-

  • Take one teaspoon ripped tamarind paste & the same amount of water; mix them finely. And smears on the issuing spots of a small stainless steel pan. In case, you are going for a large pan, take one tablespoon of that paste & the same amount of water.
  • Give some time, nearly 5 to 10 minutes, so that it can react with rainbow spots & calcium build-up white spots.
  • Take a sponge pad & scrub on your pan for nearly 2 minutes. And finally, thoroughly wash your pan with warm water. As a result, the stainless steel cookware will restore to what it was earlier.


In case the stainless steel pans exterior bottom or walls catches the black stains, apply-
tamarind paste without mixing them with water & wait for 30 minutes. Finally, scrub those problematic spots with non-metallic scrubbers & thoroughly wash your pan.

Fix With Apple Cider Vinegar/ Distilled Vinegar:

The apple cider vinegar & distilled vinegar both are equally effective for wiping off rainbow stains & white spots from stainless steel cookware.

However, if these pans & pots get discolored due to black stains & polymerized burnt oils, use baking soda & vinegar pest.

For these two particular types of problems, only vinegar solutions perform a less effective cleansing agent.

Here the cleaning procedure is pretty simple.

Pour half a cup of vinegar on the problematic stainless steel pan, which has rainbow stains or white spots. Keep it as it for a couple of minutes.

Scrub the discolored spots with a sponge scrubber. Now discard the vinegar solution into your kitchen basin & rinse your pan.

Moreover, you can further wash your pan with low alkaline dish soaps & warm water. That will give your pan a better silver shine look & will restore it as it was earlier.    

Tomato Ketchup:

Tomato ketchup, also considering as a citric element. This element also wipes off the rainbow stains & white spots.

Just pour some ketchup into your pan. Smear the ketchup throughout the pan with your hand; wait for a couple of minutes. Now scrub with a nylon scrubber & thoroughly wash it with regular water.

Cream Of Tartar:

The cream of tartar is also an acidic product, just like the vinegar, but here you get it in powder form. The scientific name of this element is potassium bitartrate.

Before you use it to remove the stains from stainless steel pans, you have to make the pest of potassium bitartrate.

Take two tablespoons of cream of tartar & one cup of water & whisk them very well. Now pour this solution into your stainless steel pan & leave it 2 to 3 hours (if possible, keep it for the overnight duration).

Now scrub the pan with a nylon pad & go with regular hand wash under the rinsing water.

Should We Use Steel Wool To Fix Discolored Stainless Steel Pans?

Never use steel wools on the inside portions of a stainless steel pan. These scouring pads will lives on several scratch marks on your cookware.

However, you can use these metallic wools to unstained the burned greases & black stains from the exterior portions of a stainless steel pan.

The stainless steel pans have a smoother cooking surface, which acts like semi non-stick pans. Obliviously, you have to put some butter or oils on it, during pre-heating & you need to cook at a low temperature.

Therefore, if you use these metallic pads & your pan gets several scratches on it. As a result, the pan might lose its semi non-stick property.

Why Stainless Steel Pots & Pans Get Discolored?

The stainless steel pots & pans can lose their silver shininess because of many reasons. It starts from the cookware construction & oxidation to water problems & heat stains.

Every type of issue creates a distinct type of problem. Let’s hastily discuss these discoloration causes-

-Cause Of Rainbow Spots Appears On The Stainless Steel Pans:

You might hear about 18/10, 18/8, 18/0 gauge stainless steel; these are using for manufacturing the food-grade standard stainless steel cookware. The 18 is defined- as 18% chromium present on the stainless steel.

The chromium is using to make the stainless steel more corrosion resistive. When we heat the stainless steel, this chromium reacts with the air & gets oxidized. These oxidation spots are known as rainbow spots.

Therefore, we can conclude here- the rainbow stains are discoloration of stainless steel due to heat & air.

-Causes Of White Spots Appearing On The Stainless Steel Pans:

These white spots are nothing but mineral deposits. The arsenic & calcium minerals are the main cause of the white spots appear on the stainless steel pans.

“White spots” marks mainly appear when we boil water on stainless steel cookware or if we don’t dry the cookware right after cleaning.

-Discoloration Of Stainless Steel Due To Other Causes:

The stainless steel gets also discolored due to burned food & cooking oils.

What To Do If Black Residue Appears On Stainless Steel Cookware?

Use Bar Keepers Friend on the black residues, & leave it for 30 minutes; then gently scrub with nylon scrubber & thoroughly wash your pan.

Is Discolored Stainless Steel Cookware Safe For Cooking?

The rainbow spots are not toxic like substances.

However, arsenic is a toxic non-metallic mineral. This mineral creates white spots on the stainless steel cookware.

Final Few Words:

You can’t remove burned stains & black residues in the dishwasher. That’s why take time in your hand & clean your stainless steel cookware through hand washing.

The winner is here- “bar keepers friend”; this substance can handle all the discoloration causes of stainless steel cookware.

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