6 Stains on Stainless Steel

Stains on Stainless Steel….

And how to remove them!

Struggling with stains on stainless steel cookware? You’re not alone.

While it sounds like an oxymoron, the truth is that stainless steel, while one of the hardiest and most durable cookware materials, is not immune to staining. In order to clean a stainless steel pan, your first step is to identify what the stain is. Is it burnt food, is it a rainbow hue or is it pitting?

I’m here to help! Here are the 6 most common stains on stainless steel that you can come across and how to get rid of them.

Stains on Stainless Steel Cookware #1

White Stains aka Water Stains aka Calcium Deposits

These are those white stains that just won’t scrub away. Turns out, that white stuff is calcium.

Now you might be wondering, how did Calcium get stuck onto my pans? Here’s the thing: tap water, even if it is not hard water, tends to contain small amounts of calcium bicarbonate. When water is boiled or food is cooked in that water, the water breaks down the bicarbonate into calcium carbonate (aka chalk or limescale!). This is the hazy white stuff that is stuck to the bottom of your pans. Here’s one of my pans with the all too familiar haze.

White stains on stainless steel
Calcium deposit - stains on stainless steel

Calcium carbonate doesn’t dissolve easily in water which is why soap and water will not remove the deposits. It’s also not soluble in oil, which is why it remains stuck even after cooking with oil in the pan.

Are the white deposits on stainless steel harmful?

No. It’s a normal and harmless buildup on your pans and other than discoloring and affecting the aesthetics, is not cause for any concern.

How to remove white calcium deposits on your stainless steel pans?

Calcium carbonate dissolves in acidic mediums so you need something like vinegar and water or a product like Bar Keepers Friend (which is a mild oxalic acid) which will dissolve away the calcium deposits, leaving you a shiny clean stainless steel pan.

In the case of my pan, I added ⅓ cup water and ⅓ cup white vinegar (#ad) to the pan and warmed the mixture for a few minutes.

Then, I discarded the liquid, washed and wiped. Viola! The pan is quite shiny and there is no fine white haze.

shiny stainless steel pan

Stains on Stainless Steel Cookware #2


A few days ago my husband left a stainless steel saucepan of water boiling on the stove well past the point of complete evaporation! The result? A pan with small discolored dots on the bottom that just won’t come off.

pitting stains on stainless steel pan
pitting stains on stainless steel

I realized that we are now the proud owners of … a pitted pan!

What is pitting?

Pitting is technically not a stain but an erosion of the surface of the metal. Pitting on stainless steel occurs in the presence of chlorides, like salt. So clearly, the tap water that was boiling in our pot had some salt dissolved in it which went on to create pitting once all the water was gone.

I’m going to go into deeper detail for those interested in a more scientific explanation, myself included! The reason why stainless steel is resistant to corrosion is because it contains chromium. Chromium reacts with oxygen in the air to form a thin layer of chromium oxide on the surface. It is this layer of chromium oxide that makes stainless steel passive and protects the steel from reacting with oxygen and rusting.

Now I’ve been boiling salted water (for pasta, rice etc.) for years so I know that salted water normally doesn’t damage stainless steel. However, when undissolved salt is added to a stainless steel pot (or water boiled dry, as in my case) the chloride in the salt can attack the passive layer of chromium oxide, leaving pockmarks where it removes the oxide.

Can you remove pitting stains?

According to hunker.com, yes, by grinding out the pitted and/or rusted parts and being careful how you use it in the future (i.e. avoid prolonged exposure to salty water, vinegar etc.) so that it doesn’t pit again.

For most of us who are not willing or able to grind a pan, I would say, no. Once your stainless steel pan is pitted, it’s pitted.

Is it safe to use a pitted pan?

Now if you’ve read my article on stainless steel cookware, or if you’ve spent any time researching stainless steel you would know that it does leach small quantities of nickel and chromium into food. For most of us, the amounts are not significant and by and large, stainless steel is considered a safe material for cookware.

According to most accounts, a pitted pan is still safe to use and will not lose its function though of course, it won’t look as good as before. The chromium in the stainless steel would already have formed a new layer of chromium oxide layer over the pits and in theory, your pot is as corrosion resistant as before.

Others, however, warn that a heavily scratched and pitted pot will leach more of these metals and you should dispose of them. Personally, I am going to toss my pitted stainless steel sauce pan and buy a new one (#ad). I really don’t want to take the chance.

So in the end, the choice is really yours.

Stains on Stainless Steel Cookware #3


Yes, that’s right, rust. Stainless steel by its nature is corrosion resistant. But not corrosion proof and sometimes it does rust. If you are wondering what would make stainless steel rust, I’ve talked about it in my article here.

Two questions come to mind:

  1. How to remove rust spots from stainless steel pans; and
  2. Is a rusty pan safe to use?

How to remove rust spots from stainless steel pans

If you see a bit of rust on a stainless steel pan, your first instinct should be to reach for a pad of good old SOS steel wool (#ad), right?


The first thing to do is to avoid using any steel wool, hard metal brushes or abrasive cleaners on your stainless steel pan. These will make the pan even more susceptible to corrosion.

There are couple of options. If you want to go the natural route, make a thick paste of baking soda (#ad) with water and cover the rusted portions. Use a toothbrush, plastic scrubby or soft cloth to rub the mixture onto the rust. The rust should come right off.

Another option is to use Bar Keepers Friend which works just as well.

Is a rusty pan safe to use?

According to the experts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, bit of rust is not harmful and is quite benign in small quantities. Rust is basically oxidized iron and is only harmful if your body is unable to remove iron effectively.

Having said that, you don’t want to be consuming large amounts of it, so make sure you follow the above steps to make sure the rust has been cleaned off the pan before you use it again.

Personally, however, I would avoid using a pan that shows signs of rusting. In my opinion, a pan once rusted is always going to be susceptible to rusting again, even if you remove all the corrosion. Also, I prefer to play it safe. In this article at prevention.com, toxicologist James H. Woods, PhD, of the department of environmental and occupational health sciences at University of Washington says that while he is not aware of any health issues related to eating food made in rusted pans, why would you take the risk? He recommends buying new cookware

So do I.

Stains on Stainless Steel Cookware #4

Heat Tint

If you’re familiar with heat tint, it’s that ugly rainbow-like discoloration on your stainless steel pan caused by excessive heat or by heating a pan too quickly. Here’s a close up of one of my pans with a bit of heat tint showing through:

Now the thing about heat tint is that it doesn’t affect the performance of the pan nor impact the foods cooked in the pan. Just the aesthetics. To be honest, most of my stainless steel pieces look like they are heat tinted and I can’t say it has really ever bothered me much.

What exactly causes heat tint?

Stainless Steel is an alloy of metals including iron, carbon, chromium and nickel (you can read more about SS here). The chromium in the steel combines with oxygen in the air to form a thin, invisible layer of chromium oxide which makes the material passive and prevents the air from further reacting with the metals.

Now, when stainless steel is heated, the oxidation increases and the top layer becomes thicker. As the layer becomes thicker, the wavelength of light that it reflects changes and hence we see a range of colors. As the temperature increases over time, the oxidation increases and the colors change, usually in a range from yellowish to blue.

How to remove heat tint?

It seems you can use Bar Keepers Friend for just about anything to do with cleaning a Stainless Steel pan. Heat tint can be cleaned with a bit of BFK and some tlc. Alternatively, a mixture of white vinegar and water also works just fine.

Or if you’re like me…. just ignore it! It’s just proof that you cooked :)

Stains on Stainless Steel Cookware #5

Burnt Food

Ah, this is by far my favorite (not!). But definitely the one I have the most experience with and, in my opinion, the most challenging stain to clean from a stainless steel pan. If you’ve even been tempted to just throw out a SS pan with stubborn burnt on food, you’re not alone. I’ll go as far as to admit that I once might actually have thrown out a perfectly good SS frying pan for that very reason!

The more interesting question, however, is how to clean stainless steel cookware that is burnt. I find that baking soda works quite well. Cover the base of the pot with water and sprinkle it generously with baking soda. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Scrub it off gently with a plastic scrubber. For really bad burns, leave it in for longer.

Another option of course is Bar Keepers Friend. Here’s an awesome video that shows how effective this wonder cleaner is for removing scorch stains from a pan. The pan in the video is an enamel pan but the principle remains:

Last but not least:

Stains on Stainless Steel Cookware #6

Black or Grey Residue on New Stainless Steel Cookware

Now this is an odd one and one I haven’t experienced myself. But I’ve seen a lot of queries about how to clean a stainless steel pan that has a black or grey residue, so it warranted some deeper research.

Here’s what quite a few users have experienced: They buy a new set of stainless steel cookware and, as expected, wash it with warm soapy water before the first use. All good so far. Then comes time to wipe the inside and they find black or grey residue coming off on the paper towel.

The interesting thing is, the residue is still there after multiple washes and cleanings.

What is the black residue on new stainless steel cookware?

When SS cookware is made, a mechanical polishing process using very fine abrasives is used to make it shiny. Sometimes this process leaves a residue that cannot be removed by hand or dishwashing.

How to clean a stainless steel pan that has black residue?

Here’s what KitchenAid recommends: spread a small amount of olive oil on the inside of the pan. Let it sit and then wipe the oil out. After that, proceed to wash with dish soap and hot water.

Other recommendations are to gently scrub using a mixture of lemon juice and salt and then wash.

Some SS cookware comes with instructions to scrub it gently with a 1:1 mix of baking soda and warm water before using the pans.

Some final words of caution:

So there you have it – the most common stains on stainless steel and how to remedy them. While it seems that some stains on stainless steel cookware are inevitable, here are some final words of caution:

  1. Don’t use oven cleaner on your cookware as it can be abrasive.
  2. Don’t use chlorine based cleaners like Comet and Ajax as chlorine is corrosive on SS. Use acid based cleaners like Bar Keepers Friend or plain white vinegar.
  3. Likewise, don’t bleach your cookware with chlorine bleach.
  4. Avoid the use of abrasive steel wool. That strips the protective top layer of chromium oxide and makes your pan susceptible to corrosion and rust. A plastic scrubby is recommended.
  5. When adding salt to boiling water, bring the water to a rolling boil before adding salt and stir well. This prevents the pan from pitting.

Happy Cooking!

87 thoughts on “6 Stains on Stainless Steel”

  1. I boiled mixture of water and bleach to clean my SS pan for few minutes as a result my pan is clean but there is a big mark of gray or discolored spit in the pan
    Is this harmful and how can I get rid of it
    Thank you

    • Hi Sudi, I wouldn’t recommend bleach on stainless steel as it is corrosive to the surface and can leave stains…. looks like it has already done that to your pan. Try baking soda and water and if that doesn’t work, try a stainless steel cleaner like Barkeepers Friend. Good luck!

  2. My cutlery from viners has been in a drawer for many many years (retro viners satin leaf) it was silver when it went in and some of it is a darkish grey on taking out nothing i do will make the grey go away off my fave cutlery – How do i fix this do you know if there is something i might have normally around the house that would work? – Thanks

    • Hi Su, my guess is the grey discoloration is likely from oxidation of the stainless steel. Have you tried vinegar and baking soda scrub? If that doesn’t work, you could also try Bar Keepers friend or some similar stainless steel cleaner.

  3. I have a new all clad 2 1/2 sauce pan which I’ve used maybe a dozen times so far. I used it again on New Year’s Day to cook sauerkraut (which I don’t even like, so I didn’t want it with my pork roast). The sauerkraut had two apple slices, 1 onion slice and some pepper added to the pot.
    The inside of the pot is just fine, but the underside of the lid now has gray blotches like an art project pattern. I’ve already tried the baking soda/vinegar; all clads stainless cookware cleaner. They’ve faded a little. I now have it soaking in vin/baking soda and dish soap with hot water. I will try a lemon/salt scrub next but it looks like my lid is going to have “Character” permanently. I’m mainly posting as an fyi warning of the evils of sauerkraut. ; 0

  4. Pitting is really bad with even moderate concentrations of salt, when a pot is boiled dry to make fluffy cooked grains or storing leftovers overnight. I don’t let crude rock salt anywhere near, after ruining my pot. White cavities occur on both soft pot steel and also magnetic spoons left in food. Apart from better 316 steel, which nobody uses, can the surface finish have an impact on pitting resistance? My pots were unpolished “brushed” interior. I’ve partially restored the damage with fine sandpaper and car polish paste. The specularity is better than from the factory. The pits are more shallow and shiny instead of white.

    How come there is so much “calcium” on pans, and it appears mainly after cooking protein? Several sessions of boiling are needed to build up noticeable calcium carbonate in a kettle. The residue on pans also does not come off with citric acid, but does with warm vinegar.

    Rust may fall out of a faucet and subsequently cook onto stainless steel.

  5. Just dropping a comment to say how much I’m enjoying your site and articles, especially this one on SS cookware stains. I just purchased a set from Goldilocks (formerly Potluck; your review on them helped me decide!) and am trying to do as much research as I can before I really begin using them. I want to keep them in tip-top shape! Thanks for the great information.

    • Thanks for the comment Rip and so glad I was able to help! Good luck with your Goldilocks/Potluck cookware, I still love mine and use them all the time!

  6. Cooking collards leaves a film on SS stirring spoons, and pots. Scrubbing with baking soda cleans them but is a hassle. If untreated, the film seems to wear away over time. Is there something inherent in collards or perhaps something produce companies add that causes this film?

  7. We recently were under boil orders due to an outage at the water treatment plant. One of the SS pots used to boil with now has black spots on the bottom of the pan that won’t come off.
    Any ideas on what will remove whatever was in the water that got cooked into the pan?

    • Hi Julie, if you’ve tried a cleaner like BarKeepers Friend and the spots still don’t come off then it could be a case of ‘pitting’ due to minerals that were dissolved in the water. You can read the explanation of that in the article above. Really not much you can do if that is the case.

  8. this isn’t so much about cookware as much as my stainless steel sink appears to have a ‘permanent’ white splotch in it. it doesn’t look like a hard water stain…it looks almost like the coating on the sink came off in one small spot. any ideas???

    • Hello Megan, that’s interesting but its unlikely that any coating came off since stainless steel in a sink is not coated with anything, rather the top layer of chromium oxide is fused into the metal and doesn’t flake off.

      Did you try BarKeepers Friend or some such cleaner to remove the white stain?
      You could even try a thick baking soda paste with water or dish soap. Cover the stain for a few minutes and then scrub it off with a soft scrubby or sponge. Hope that helps!

  9. Hello Dear,

    I accidentally forgot my stainless steel 18/10 pan boiling some vegetables for about 2 hours. It has burned very badly. I removed the black traces but there is still some bluish and some grey coloration. I used everything -baking soda, white vinegar, toothpaste. Is it safe to continue using it? I cook the food for my baby myself and maybe the best option is to throw it and buy a new one. If possible, I can attach some photos.

    Thank you very much for the reply!

    • Hi Elitsa, I don’t think you have any safety concerns because it seems more like an aesthetic issue from your description. Of course, you have to feel comfortable with if you decide to throw or keep the pan, so that decision is up to you. I would suggest to also try a cleaner like BarKeepers Friend, I think that will help reduce or minimize the discoloration.

  10. Hi! I just received a 12qt SS stock pot for Christmas & today I boiled the turkey carcass down to make broth. I just washed my pot out and have a discolored ring from where the water stared and evaporated. How can I remove this? I looked at the other replies and didn’t see anyone with this issue. Thank you in advance!

  11. I just bought an all-clad stainless steel cookware set and used one of the pots to boil potatoes. Did not add any other ingredients. After done boiling them, I noticed some brown marks at the bottom of the pot, almost the shape of the potatoes pieces. I tried to remove with mild detergent but they won’t come off. Is this normal? Can they be removed? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Monica, that does happen sometimes, I would suggest you try vinegar and baking soda and see if that works. Otherwise I’d recommend good old Bar Keepers Friend like I suggested to the previous reader, I find BFK to be quite a wonder product!

  12. Hi! I just got all clad 3 stainless steel pot and cooked a couple meals In it, used wooden spatula. Today I noticed a white scratch dots in a line on the inside. Looks like it was chipped till some white layer. I can not understand how did that may happen. The pot was never burning and was in dishwasher twice. Is it still safe to use it or I just got scratched the first layer of it and should not use it?

    • Hi Lana, there’s little chance that you scratched the first layer and even if you did, the pot is quite safe to use. See my complete write up on Stainless Steel cookware and safety here.

      I’ve had a similar experience with a brand new SS fry pan, got some dotted white spots on it after the first use. Its usually some sort of calcium deposit. In my case, I used a SS cleaner (like Bar Keepers Friend) and they came right off. Hope that works for you too!

  13. Yes I have, thanks. I was tempted to try pink paste, but I think that’s a bit too abrasive – certainly for a brand new pan. I’ll try the Made In cleaner – comforting to know this happens to the professionals too!

  14. Hi, I recently bought a set of le creuset stainless steel pans and on first use to cook pasta was left with some white marks on the bottom (inside). The shop replaced the dry and I’ve just used one to cook rice being careful to heat over a medium heat, add salt only when I added the rice… still got white marks. Its not pitted, just white marks which won’t come off. We aren’t in a hard water area – can you help?

  15. Ha! Thank you so much! I was using a high alkaline boxed water recently. That did not even occur to me that it might be the water. Great sleuthing! Thank you!!

  16. I am getting a green residue when I cook oatmeal in a stainless steel pot. It just started happening and it happened with two separate bags of oatmeal. Do you know what this might be?

  17. I used pickling lime in my stainless steel bowl and when I washed it and dried it my white paper towel was black. Is this harmful to the ingredients I am prickling?

    • Hard to say Cecilia, if it is the same as the polishing abrasive residue that people find on new cookware, it only seems to come off with oil or after scrubbing with a mild abrasive… I doubt it would have come off into the pickles. But that’s just my guess, sorry I can’t say for sure.

  18. Hello, I left a combination of BKF and Dawn on my cooktop and where the soapy mix ran there is a shadow of black some darker areas than others. Tried baking soda mixed with water. Will vinegar help and in what combination?

    • Hi Mary, so just to be clear, is it a ceramic cooktop that’s stained? Try vinegar with baking soda – cover the stain with vinegar and sprinkle baking soda. Leave for a few mins and then scrub with a cloth or sponge.

  19. Hello, does the SS quality affects it’s tendency to stain? I bought a cheap pot and it stained terribly after one cooking. Is it worthless?

    • Hi Annat, as long as it is food grade SS, I wouldn’t call it worthless but yes, if its lower quality, it might be more susceptible to rust, corrosion and/or staining… possibly due to uneven heating which would cause hotspots within the pot while cooking. You can read more here.
      I’d suggest trying all the cleaning methods outlined in the article above.

  20. Hi, I burned my 3 yr old pan and used Scotch Brite to clean the stains. It worked to take out the stains but while using, it stained my rubber gloves and left black stains on my sponge as well. Is it harmful to cook with? Should i replace my pan?

  21. I have tried everything to rid all of my All Clad pieces of “heat tint”… vinegar,baking soda, tomato juice, BKS nothing not a thing works… I was told from All Clad it is a reaction from my LP gas! Might U have any more suggestions…! Inside are brand new looking…! I’m very particular on keeping things nice….

    • Hello Deborah, so if I’m understanding correctly, its just the outside that’s got the heat tint and the inside looks shiny new?
      Regardless it seems you’ve tried every trick in the book but I did come across another idea – and that is to pour some club soda on a clean, soft cloth and rub it vigorously on the surface. See if that works!

  22. Ive been using an expensive SS cookware set I was gifted a few months ago. I was recommended cooking eggs by melting butter, cracking the egg then covering off heat. All that was left in the pan was butter but when I went to clean the pans the outline of the eggs was still there, first time that hapoened. I cleaned with detergent, BKF, and then did the boiling water and vinegar and adding baking soda trick. The pan is sparkling except for a white outline of the eggs. Any ideas? Is the pan ruined?

    • Hi Morgan, you seem to have tried every trick in the book… your pan is definitely not ruined, just stained. I would suggest trying one more time with the baking soda + warm water and leaving it overnight. After that, sprinkle the drained pan with salt and use a sponge or cloth to lightly scrub – the salt will act like a mild abrasive. Hopefully that removes the residue. Good luck!

  23. Hi, I have a large stainless steel stock pot with a glass lid which has a stainless steel rim around the outside of it. I love the pot but the lid has started getting rust in between the glass and the outer rim. I’ve tried cleaning it and soaking it in vinegar and hot water, but nothing seems to be able to reach the rust as it is trapped in between the glass and the metal. Do you have any advice on how to get rid of this please?

  24. I have used my Dansk cookware for many years and am quite partial to it. However, lately I have been regularly making popcorn in the 3-quart pan, and on one occasion I accidentally left the burner on afterwards for a few minutes, with the residue peanut oil on the pan’s bottom. The result? A very spotted (brown/copper-colored spots) pan bottom. It won’t come clean, so I assume the issue is damage to the pan’s metal coating. My question: Is there a health concern if I continue to use this pan? There doesn’t seem to be a taste problem. And I don’t mind the discoloration (I am actually partial to Jackson Pollack paintings). But — seriously — do I have anything to worry about health-wise here? (and if it really can be cleaned, I truthfully wouldn’t mind knowing as well). I can send you a photo, of course, if that’s necessary.

    • Hello Steve, sorry for the late reply, I missed seeing this message.
      I’m going to assume your Dansk pan is enamel coated since you didn’t specify. From what I can figure out, it seems like your enamel coating is indeed stained (I’m assuming you tried cleaning with a Bar Keepers Friend type product?) and not damaged and I wouldn’t think there is any health concern.

  25. I have a SS French press, that I’ve used approx a dz times…never put on heat ( flame or electric). This last time I pulled out of dishwasher, I noticed about 3” up from bottom, the rainbow color discussed here. I’ve washed in the dishwasher before, w/o color change. Heat from dishwasher, or multiple times preparing coffee?

  26. I used a new stainless steel pot purchased through Costco to naturally dye yarn.

    I used the pot one time to dye yarn with Madder extract.

    Used the pot yesterday to test the length of time it would take to heat gallons of water over a new electrical heating unit. The pot sat on unit for almost 3 hours heating the water.
    I let the water cool and left it sitting on electrical heating unit for 5 days.

    Now pot has about 30 small brown spots on inside bottom of pan and one brown spot near top of pan on inside.

    Have I worn the steel off pan? Stainless steel is the metal needed to dye wool naturally.

    However that doesn’t concern me, what concerns me is I now have about 15 brown spots on bottom of pot and another at top of pan, near a new water line I created yesterday. Yesterday I was try out an electrical burner I purchased so I could now do my dyeing in the garage.

    I filled up the pot to the top with luke warm water and placed on electrical burner (highest setting) to see how long it would take to heat up gallons of water.

    • I just got a pot for home dyeing purposes and had a similar issue, just trying to boil plain water. Mine looks like issue#2 – pitting. It definitely doesn’t scrub off.

      I don’t care about the aesthetics, and I will never cook in this pot since I’m using dyes. But I do wonder if the staining is going to affect my dyeing results.

  27. I just found your article, and I really appreciate all of the helpful information you have collected and shared. I found it because I have a SS pan with a rainbow discoloration, and though it’s SS it has an aluminum core.
    I believe I have read that stainless steel cookware often has a layer of aluminum inside, at the core, beneath the stainless steel. This is to promote even distribution of heat. I also believe I may have read that the pitting in SS cookware can cause the aluminum to leach out while cooking. Have you heard anything like this?

    • hi Nicola, you’re quite right, stainless steel on its own is a poor conductor of heat so in most cases has a layer or core of a better conductor inside, and in most cases that layer is aluminum.
      Re your question about pitting, my findings are as stated above in the article i.e. in a pitted pan, the chromium in the stainless steel forms a new layer of chromium oxide over the pits and the aluminum is not really exposed. However, there is a greater chance of metals leaching from the SS itself if its heavily pitted or scratched so to err on the side of caution, I would suggest replacing a heavily pitted/scratched SS pan.

  28. My wife has had problems finding a stainless steel spatula that is thin but not too thin. So the thought occurred to me that perhaps I could grind down and then polish the leading edge of a stainless steel spatula so that it’s the thickness she wants. I’ve read that if a magnet sticks to stainless steel then that means it doesn’t contain much if any nickel. A magnet sticks to the spatula so I guess I don’t have to worry about that. But what I am worried about is if I grind and polish the spatula is there a concern about “stuff” leaching out of the spatula? Thanks

  29. It looks like my new roommate used a knife to clean my Revere SS double boiler insert—I see three patches of scratches. (I have no steel wool or abrasive cleaners here, only the rough side of the sponge and Bon Ami.) I also see some tiny black spots in among the scratches. How bad is this situation? I tried to upload pics but could not figure out how.

    • hi Martha, hmmm time for a new roommate :)
      But jokes aside, I don’t see too much of a problem, the scratches are more of an aesthetic issue. The top layer would have formed a protective layer of oxide anyway. Not sure what the black spots would be since a knife wouldn’t cause pitting. I’d suggest cleaning with a SS cleaner like Bar Keepers Friend.

  30. Hello! I have some fairly new SS pots and both of my sauce pans have some little white dots what won’t come off with barkeepers friend. After a Google search I came across your article and believe it’s pitting from adding salt to pasta water. My pots have a lifetime warranty and I can replace them as they get worse, however, I’m just wondering how to avoid pitting in the future, can you not add salt to boiling water in a SS pot?

  31. My nephew (12) managed to catch something on fire in my SS 12″ saute pan. I applied warm water, dawn, and a couple fabric sheets to it and allowed to sit. The burned material is gone, but now there is a significant pit (1 mm across circular). There are more pinpoint pits in it too, but the large one concerns me. It feels large and deep enough to have broken the coating completely and exposed the metal underneath.

    Is it still safe to use?

    • hi Angel in Training, this will have to be a personal choice. As I’ve mentioned in my article above, by many accounts its still safe to use as the chromium would have formed a new protective layer over the pitted area. However, there is definitely a higher chance of metals leaching from a pitted pot and my inclination would be to err on the side of caution and dispose of the pan. Hope that helps!

  32. I just purchased my pot. I boiled some water and I have a few spots on the bottom I believe it pitted. Should I return to the seller ? I just feel it’s unfair that on my first use this happens. It’s only like 3 small ones

    • Elizabeth, I’d recommend cleaning with a SS cleaner like Bar Keepers friend before you confirm the verdict on pitting. The same thing happened to me with a brand new SS pan and I thought it had pitted too. But when I cleaned it with a cleaner, the spots disappeared. Good luck!

    • Hi Nuno, its hard to say, looks like a cross between water stains and black residue. Did you try cleaning it with a mixture of baking soda and water?

  33. My stainless steel pots and pans were bought from Sears back in 1981 which I would like to believe were and still are good quality stainless. My problem, I never noticed until recently that after washing and towel drying, there is a grey/black residue that comes off on my towel from wiping the inside of my pot(s). I want to know if this is harmful or if it is what was suggested in the article only I am noticing it all these years later? I’ve cooked with them forever, they were my first set of pots and pans and I surely hope won’t be the cause of serious illness or worse since I am only now recognizing the problem. Thanks!

    • Hi Renate, from the sounds of it, it could very well be the same residue that some people find on brand new SS cookware. According to a troubleshooting guide on the KitchenAid site for a similar issue, the residue is not harmful. There isn’t much more info that I can find on this issue but I hope that eases your mind a little…

    • hi Susan, the same happened with me once in a brand new SS pan with just water. I used a SS cleaner called (Make it like New by Made In cookware). Or you could use any other SS cleaner like Bar Keepers Friend and hopefully that will help.

  34. I have these shiny stains that look like something has boiled over on my ss cooker, the only thing that has boiled over would have been spinach. I have tried vinegar, bi carb and steaming but nothing seems to remove them. Any other suggestions?

  35. I have a problem with black stains but they come after I have cooked spinach or boiled eggs in the pans. May be a chemical reaction – sulphur? Cant get Bar Keepers Friend in South Africa so looking for another solution. I know that sometimes you boil another vegetable and the stain disappears but not which vegetable!

    • hi Lynne, have you tried baking soda + vinegar combination? Sprinkle some baking soda, add some vinegar, leave for a few minutes and then scrub off. Hope that will work for you!

  36. We have a new sink and drainer – not cookware but stainless steel – which acquired a grey stain in its first week: no idea why. We’re treating it with nothing other than due respect, lest it should get worse. Any suggestions?
    Thank you. X

    • hi Julian, try something like Bar Keepers friend or even baking soda and vinegar to clean it. I use ‘Make It Like New’, a stainless steel (cookware) cleaner by Made In cookware for my sink too and it comes out sparkling new. It works like Bar Keepers friend so either should do.

      Though you’ve mentioned its a new sink, I’m wondering if its not the grey/black residue common on new SS cookware. See section “How to remove the black residue?” above and see if any of those suggestions work to clean your sink.

  37. I scrambled some eggs in a ss pan coated in Olive Oil, and it left a burnt stain in the bottom of the Pan. I tried vinegar and Baking Soda, and it didn’t alter that stain any at all. That was white vinegar.

  38. I bought a pot at a second hand store and washed with dishsoap. Then let the pot soak full of water with javex. After a couple of hours there was black dots around the top rim and more on the sides inside. Cleaned out and repeated. More of same. 3rd time now. I think its mold.and maybe i should chuck the pot out.

    • Hi Joan, from the sounds of it, it seems your pot has pitted. Javex is a bleach which can be quite abrasive on stainless steel. I would second your thought about chucking the pot!

  39. My almost new Scanpan stainless steel saucepans have some pitting on the base – but they have not been subjected to being boiled ‘dry’ so what could be the cause?

    • hi Lesley, the same thing happened to me with a brand new stainless steel fry pan. On medium heat the pan developed small circular ‘pits’ on the base without being boiled dry. Turned out it was not pitting, just stains that vanished with a cleaner like Bar Keepers Friend. I’m hoping it’s the same for you.

      I’ve noticed these kind of stains happen a lot with brand new pans and disappear over time and I have not figured out the reason yet. So for you, I would suggest cleaning with a cleaner or even vinegar+baking soda. Let us know here how it turned out.

  40. I recently bought my first stainless steel pan set, and proceeded to learn how to cook on this set.

    Before I learned that you could indeed burn olive oil, I ended up with burnt olive oil stains on two of my saute pans. I scrubbed the heck out of them with the abrasive side of a sponge, and finally got the stains off.

    Now though, after reading your article, I am wondering if I rubbed the protective clear coats off on these two pans? By scrubbing these pans really really hard with, albeit not steel wood, something slightly abrasive.

    • hi Woodster, I’ve scrubbed my SS pans many times with the abrasive side of a sponge and still use those pans with no worry. As far as I know, the Chromium in SS forms a new protective layer immediately on the surface so the pan is good to use. The thing to do is avoid the use of steel wool, that’s a much more abrasive cleaner.

  41. Hi, I cooked breakfast sausages yesterday in my new SS 10.5 inch saute pan. I was the pan in soapy water after scraping the bottom of the pan with a small plastic scrubber. What remained was silhouettes of the sausages. I used the baking soda method, also vinegar and water. And the silhouettes of the sausages remain.
    Any suggestions?

    • Hi Christine, that’s one of the stubborn stains I’m all too familiar with, somehow it happens more with brand new SS cookware.
      I would suggest trying a product like BarKeepers Friend or Make It Like New by Made In cookware. I use the latter and get great results.
      Let us know here if you use either and if it helped.


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