How To Clean and Renew Stainless Steel Pots and Pans on the Cheap

In this article: Have your stainless steel pots and pans seen better days? How can you remove the grease and grime? These tips for cleaning stainless steel pots and pans can help make them look new again.

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Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I have some expensive pots and pans that have gotten black from grease and heat on the sides and bottom over the years. The affected area is stainless steel. I thought about using oven cleaner on them, but I don’t like the idea of those strong chemicals.

Do your readers have any nifty, thrifty ideas? Thanks!
Laurie H.

Editor’s note: The following tips are from other Dollar Stretcher readers. The Dollar Stretcher has not tested these tips and product recommendations. However, if you’re at a point with your stainless steel cookware that you need to find a cleaning solution or replace it, you could save yourself on the replacement cost if one of these tips works for you.

Save Time on Scrubbing

Try Dawn Power Dissolver. I used it on the inside of stainless steel burner covers that were coated in grease and soot from the oven, and they came out spotless. You just spray it on, let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes, and wash it off with water and a sponge. It always works wonders on nasty, grimy casserole dishes and even the top of the stove.

It’s probably not the least expensive solution, but it saves a lot of time on scrubbing.

Ammonia Will Clean Stainless Steel Pots

Put the pans in a heavy-duty black lawn and leaf bag. Pour one to two cups of ammonia into the bag. Close the bag tightly and place it in a sunny, outside location for four to eight hours. When you open the bag, do not place your face near the bag! Open the bag outside quickly and thoroughly, and then simply walk away for a few minutes. Use your garden hose to rinse off and dilute the ammonia. Take your pans inside and immediately wash them with hot, soapy dishwater. You may need to scrub gently with some baking soda.

Do not use this method on anodized aluminum, aluminum, or cast iron pans. This works great for stainless steel. Grill grates and oven racks can be cleaned very easily using this method.

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Don’t Rule Out Oven Cleaner

Your stainless pans would not be harmed by the use of oven cleaner to do a quicker job. I would not recommend oven cleaner for a stainless steel pan with an aluminum or copper bottom.

After you get the black stuff off with the oven cleaner, I would recommend Bar Keepers Friend. It is a cleanser that is great for stainless steel, porcelain, fiberglass, copper, tile and brass. I have both stainless bottoms and aluminum-clad bottoms. I use it on both, and it does a good job.

Visit the Local Auto Store

Try auto body sandpaper. It works wonders toward making your pots (and stove-top burner reflectors!) shine again. You should be able to get an assortment pack from your local auto store. Read the usage directions. The sanding is usually supposed to be done wet. The brand that I used called for soaking the sandpaper first and then doing the sanding under a trickle of water.

It’s important to start with the finest grade of sandpaper in the pack so you do not unnecessarily scour your pots. Sometimes, it takes some elbow grease, along with patience and persistence, but the results are usually sparkling and unmatched by any cleaning solution.

Ketchup and Steel Wool

Simply apply ketchup (any cheap brand) to the pan and scrub with a steel wool pad. Sometimes, it takes a little elbow grease, but it works great! The ketchup’s acidity works wonders, and steel wool is an excellent shiner. I’ve also used this technique on brass and chrome with amazing results.

Find the Answer in Your Cupboard

Try using vinegar and salt to clean the pans. This works really well for copper. Water and baking soda mixed as a paste can also do a great job as long as you provide the elbow grease.

Use Your Self-Cleaning Oven

You can put your stainless steel pots and pans in your self-cleaning oven. Remove any non-stainless steel handles or knobs. I use the shortest cleaning cycle. Works great!
Melinda in Ocala, FL

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Get Amazing Results With This Paste

To clean the black marks off pots and pans, mix enough white vinegar with cream of tartar to make a paste. Scrub with a non-abrasive pad, and the black will come right off. Let it sit for a bit if the mark is really tough. I cleaned my pots with this, and the difference was amazing!

Cameo Works Beautifully

Cameo Stainless Steel Cleaner works beautifully to remove those black stains from the bottom of your stainless steel pans. It is very affordable and lasts a long time. Keeps stainless steel pots looking like new.
Tanya S

Reviewed February 2024

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