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Rust. Oil. Food Stains. If you cook often, you may encounter one of these issues at some point. Maintaining the quality of your cookware increases longevity and also saves you money, since you will not have to keep replacing your pots and pans. Here, we will discuss some common ways your cookware becomes “dirty” or visually unappealing. We also have a list of remedies for each scenario.

Scenario 1: Discolored Pots and Pans

You’re ready to make a delicious meal, so you reach for your cookware set. When you grab it, you notice a rainbow-colored stain on your so-called stainless steel.

Why the Rainbow Stain Appears

The rainbow stain on stainless steel cookware can also be referred to as “heat tint.” Stainless steel is an excellent material for cooking pots and pans because it has chromium which helps it resist corrosion and rust. A protective layer forms on your pot or pan when chromium and air combine. When heated, the oxidized layer can thicken on even the most durable stainless steel. This layer is what causes the rainbow stain, which cannot be removed with scrubbing alone. Once the stain is seen, your first thought may be to throw your cookware away, but that is not necessary. The stain doesn’t affect performance, so there’s no need to dispose of anything. But since you simply do not like the look of the stained cookware, you decide to clean it up. How do you do it?

  1. Splash a bit of diluted white vinegar into your pot or pan.
  2. Use a sponge to hand wash the cookware. Make sure the sponge is non-abrasive.
  3. Rinse your cookware and fully dry it using a soft cloth to avoid water spots.

The entire process should take about a minute and once you are finished, your pots and pans will be as good as new!

Scenario 2: Oil Splatter


Fried chicken is one of the tastiest foods to make. However, like with other meals, oil can end up all over your kitchen as a result. At times, this mess can be tough to clean, and it may convince you not to cook with oil so much. Knowing what causes splatter and how to clean it may help you feel a little better about using oil.

What’s important to note is that cooking oil doesn’t pop on its own. This occurs when water droplets from food hit the oil, evaporate into steam, expand, and displace the oil. This is why foods like meat typically cause splatter since they contain lots of water.
There’s no way to completely prevent oil splatter, but there are a few methods to reduce the amount of oil produced by your cooking:
  1. Dry off foods to reduce moisture before adding them to a hot pan.
  2. Only add cooking oil is the skillet is completely dry.
  3. Start your pan at a low heat and gradually increase the temperature.

We just covered what causes oil splatter. Now let’s look at some ways to clean it up.

Water and Dish Soap

With easy-clean pans like non-stick, some good old water and dish soap should do the trick. To remove oil, use hot water, mild dish soap, and the soft side of a dish sponge. Make sure the water is as hot as possible and use a good amount of pressure while working the soap into the stains. Once you are done scrubbing, rinse and thoroughly dry your cookware.


If soap isn’t tough enough, you can always try vinegar. Vinegar is a natural solvent, which makes it ideal for cleaning stubborn spills. Here’s two ways you can utilize vinegar to remove oil:

  • For the first method, fill a spray bottle with distilled vinegar and spray over the oil spots. Let that sit for about 30 minutes so the vinegar can force the fat molecules from the surface. When ready, scrub the mess away with a sponge and rinse the surface with hot water.
  • Another option would be to fill your sink or a large plastic container with vinegar and submerging your pot or pan into the liquid. After soaking for 30 minutes, scrub everything with a sponge and rinse. Don’t forget to dry the cookware.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

When combined, vinegar and baking soda produce a chemical reaction that deeply penetrates oil. Create the paste using a 2:1 ratio of baking soda to vinegar by sprinkling baking soda on all affected surfaces, then dousing in vinegar. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, then use a sponge to scrub everything out. Rinse with hot water and mild dish soap. As always, wipe down your cookware to dry.

Vegetable Oil and Coarse Salt

f you wish to clean oil splatter off your carbon steel frying pan without removing any of the seasoning, then vegetable oil and salt is probably the best option for you. Just a small amount of each will get the job done. Finely ground table salt may not be as abrasive, so use larger crystals instead.

Using a paper towel, scrub the affected area in a circular motion. The abrasive salt mixed with the oil will act as a manual solvent that releases the excess oil splatter. The oil keeps the pan’s surface moisturized, while the salt will hold onto some oil. Plus, the seasoning of the pan is not affected. When you are done, wipe out the mixture with a clean paper towel.

Lemon Juice & Coarse Salt

Lemons contain citric acid, which is perfect for cleaning oil or fat molecules from surfaces.

Note:If you use acidic fruit such as lemons on cookware made of carbon steel, you may need to re-season it afterwards.

Take a halved lemon and dip it in some coarse salt, coating the cut face. Next, scrub away the spots using a circular motion. The acid will lift and break down the oil particles. Rinse and dry your pan once you are satisfied.

Degreasing Spray

If every other method fails, try a degreaser. Because it is full of chemicals, do not use this spray on cookware. However, it will do a great job at cleaning surfaces like backsplashes or any place where food will not be. Some popular brands of degreasing spray is WD-40 and Easy-Off. Make sure to follow the specific instructions on whatever can you use, but for the most part you’ll need to mildly saturate the affected and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Rinse and dry when time is up.


Scenario 3: Rust

Rust is brown and orange in color. It is the result of when iron and oxygen meet. Rust is found on metals and if consumed, it can do some harm to your body. Rust can occur on any metal, and it usually happens when metal becomes scratched, and water settles into the exposed metal. If rust is not removed, it can continue to build up.

Rust is an issue many have dealt with for a while. There are always multiple ways to solve one problem. Below is a list of methods you can use to remove rust from your metal and stainless-steel cookware.

Baking Soda

To clean your cookware using baking soda, first take the rusted pan and rinse it with water. Next, cover the pan with baking soda and let it sit for an hour or so. After a while has passed, use a scouring pad to rub the rust right off. Once finished, wash the pan again and make sure to dry it off.


Heavily rusted pans can also be cleaned with vinegar. After wiping your pan clean, create a mixture with a 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar and spray it onto the rust. The mixture should sit for only a few minutes. When time is up, lightly scrub away any residue. Wash with soap and water then dry.

How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron

Cast iron is a material that requires its own specific cleaning method.
First you want to thoroughly scrape the pan with steel wool then wash it with soap and water. Dry the pan and set it on a range burner to let the heat dry out completely. Afterwards you should pour a small amount of cooking oil into the pan and use a paper towel to coat the inside with the oil. This is how we will re-season the iron. Put the pan in the oven face down at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. Placing a piece of aluminum foil on the rack underneath the pan will help catch excess oil. Once you are done, remove the pan and let it cool.

Tips for Preventing Rust

Some easy tips to prevent your cookware from rusting are as follows:
  1. Let metal air dry.
  2. Drying with a microfiber towel will remove any water from pots and pans.
  3. If using any cast iron cookware, remember to routinely re-season it to prevent rust formation.
  4. Stainless less that contains chromium will help protect the metal from rusting.
  5. Allow any residual moisture to evaporate by placing rust-prone cookware face-down on a dish-drying rack.
  6. Place one or two paper plates between nested cookware to keep pots and pans in drawers from rusting.