Cream stainless steel popcorn popper in a counter

From Basic Washing to Extreme Stains: How to Clean Stainless Steel Pots

Keep your stovetop popcorn popper and pots in pristine condition with this guide on cleaning stainless steel cookware.

It’s easy to see why everyone and their mom has stainless steel cookware in their kitchen — it’s durable, non-reactive, and distributes heat evenly (when it has a multi-classic metal bottom like our stainless steel popcorn popper). 

And for the most part, cleaning stainless steel pots and pans is pretty straightforward.

But what can you do when you find yourself dealing with stubborn residue, burnt-on grease, or even — gasp — rust spots? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll learn after reading this guide on how to clean stainless steel pots! 

Now grab your cleaning supplies and let’s get started:

What to Use to Clean Stainless Steel 

Here’s a list of items you’ll need:

  • Dish soap
  • Nonabrasive sponge
  • Spatula
  • Scouring pad or brush — no steel wire brushes, because these will give your cookware obvious scratches
  • Nonabrasive cleanser - You can use baking soda in a pinch, but cleansers like Bon Ami, Bar Keepers Friend, or OxiClean do the job better.  
  • White vinegar
  • Paper towels or a soft, clean cloth

How to Clean Stainless Steel Pots Regularly

Man takes off the lid of a cobalt popcorn popper

If your pot doesn’t have any residue and only needs simple cleaning, you just have to:

  1. Wipe the pot down with a paper towel to get rid of oil. 
  2. Run it over hot water. 
  3. Get some dish soap and apply it to your sponge. 
  4. Scrub the pot with the sponge and soapy water in a circular motion. 
  5. Rinse, then dry with a paper towel. 

Or, if it’s dishwasher safe, all you need to do is scrape off excess oil and food then load it into the dishwasher.

IMPORTANT: If you use cold water to clean your pot, allow it to cool first. Soaking it in cold water while it’s still hot can cause it to warp. 

How to Get Rid of Thick Residue

Everyday cleanup is easy peasy. But if, for example, there’s hardened sugar on your stainless steel popcorn popper from the kettle corn you made, you’ll need to step up your cleaning game and follow these steps:

  1. Let the popper soak for a few minutes in warm soapy water. This will loosen the residue.
  2. Scrub with a scouring pad or brush. 
  3. Rinse the pot, then wipe it with a paper towel.

NOTE: If you’re dealing with thicker gunk, you might need to use a nonabrasive cleanser instead of relying only on soapy water (see next section for more). 

How to Remove Burnt Food Stains from Stainless Steel

the inside of a Popsmith Popper

Sometimes, when you use too high a heat, you might be shocked to find a nasty scorch marring your pot. But don’t panic — using a nonabrasive, non-chlorine cleanser and some good old elbow grease will restore it to its former glory. 

Here’s what you have to do depending on the cleanser you use:

Using Bar Keepers Friend

  1. Dampen your stainless steel pot with warm water. 
  2. Mix Bar Keepers Friend powder with water to make a paste.
  3. Apply the paste to your pot using a soft cloth.
  4. Keep the paste on for ONLY a minute — be sure to set a timer. 
  5. In circular strokes, rub the paste starting from the center and going outward.
  6. Wash the pot in hot soapy water.
  7. Rinse the pot. 
  8. Repeat steps if needed. 

IMPORTANT: Wait for your pot to cool before doing these steps. 

Using Bon Ami

  1. Dampen your pot with water.
  2. Sprinkle Bon Ami powder over the pot. 
  3. Scrub the pot’s surface in circular motions using a damp cloth.
  4. Rinse the pot. 
  5. Repeat as needed.

Using OxiClean

  1. Use a spatula to scrape off as much of the charred gunk as you can.
  2. Put your pot back on the burner. Fill it with 8 cups of water and about a quarter of a cup of OxiClean, then mix everything together.
  3. Turn the heat off once it comes to a boil, then put the lid on. 
  4. Let the pot be for around 30 minutes.
  5. Toss the dirty water into the sink. Then spray a little more OxiClean and use a scouring pad to get rid of anything that gets left behind. 
  6. Rinse the pot and dry it with a paper towel. 

How to Clean Discolored Stainless Steel Pots

Concerned about that rainbow-colored film on your pot? That’s heat tint, and it shows up when you use too much heat. 

While this won’t change the way your pot functions, we get that you want it looking as sparkling new as possible. Luckily, this is easier than you think. The trick is to use white vinegar. Check it out:

  1. Pour some vinegar in your pot.
  2. Wipe the surface with a sponge or cloth. 
  3. Rinse and dry.

Keep Your Stainless Steel Cookware in Tiptop Shape

While quality stainless steel cookware is built to last, you still need to treat it with care. Preheating your pot, giving oil time to sizzle before adding ingredients, and using non-abrasive cleaning supplies will help your Popsmith Popper and your other stainless steel pots stay in great condition.

Be sure to check out the rest of our blog for popcorn recipes, snacking inspiration, and trivia!  

FAQs About Cleaning Stainless Steel Pots

How to clean rust off stainless steel?

Stainless steel rarely gets rusty. Most of the time, what you think is rust is actually pitting. You can get rid of this the same way you remove residue — by soaking your pot in warm soapy water for a few minutes, then scrubbing it with a scouring pad or brush. 

For particularly difficult stains, use a nonabrasive cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend, Bon Ami, or OxiClean.

Does vinegar clean stainless steel?

Like baking soda, vinegar is a natural cleaner that’s gentle enough to remove grime and oil from stainless steel. You just need to fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water, spray it on a cloth, and wipe your pot with it. 

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