Stainless Steel Stains Part 1

After searching, researching, asking for recommendations, and reading hundreds of online user reviews, you have finally settled on the perfect stainless steel cookware for you. Now, after only a few uses, you notice some staining. 

How can this be? It’s STAINLESS!

Unfortunately, that’s not entirely the case. While it is highly resistant to staining, cookware made of stainless steel can stain. Under the right circumstances, stainless steel can develop certain types of discolorations and other stains. But don’t worry!

At Avacraft, we understand how important it is to have the highest quality stainless steel cookware to use in your kitchen. For those occasions when the steel becomes discolored or stained, we have studied the chemical makeup and impacts of stains, if any, and put together a useful reference guide to help you remove them.

Our founders believe that stainless steel compared to non-stick cookware is the best type of cookware. It’s what we use in our home kitchen! So we are here to show you how to adjust for the learning curve that stainless requires. 

Here are a few common stainless steel stains:

Stain 1: Rainbow Discoloration aka Heat Tint aka Rainbow Stain 

Rainbow discoloration, otherwise known as heat tint, is the ugly rainbow pattern that develops inside the pan (or stainless cooktops and sinks!) due to excessive heat or too rapid heating. 

Why does this happen?

Stainless steel is an alloy that contains some chromium so it can resist rust and corrosion. When the chromium mixes with the air, a thin oxide layer forms. However, too much heat or rapid heat causes the layer to thicken.

Effects on Performance and Food

While the rainbow discoloration isn’t pretty, it has no ill effects on the pan’s performance or the food cooked in it. Rainbow tint is purely aesthetic phenomena and it can be removed easily to keep your pans nice and shiny.

Tips on Cleaning

We have found 2 good ways of removing rainbow discoloration from your stainless steel cookware.

  • Barkeeper’s Friend: This works great!
  • White vinegar and water: A mixture of white vinegar and water in a 1:1 portion in the pan for 10-15 minutes followed by lightly scrubbing with a non-abrasive material should remove the stain. 
    • If the discoloration is thick or you haven’t cleaned the heat tint in multiple uses, you can heat the mixture in the pan, let it cool completely, and scrub it lightly after that.

Stain 2: Burnt Food

It has happened to all of us. You are in the kitchen preparing a wonderful meal and something distracts you. Maybe one of your kids started arguing with a sibling or the dog needed to go outside. Whatever the reason, you turned your back on the stove for just a minute and your food burned to the pan. Your cookware is ruined now, right? Not at all! It’s actually quite easy to remove burnt food and those stains.

Why Does This Happen?

Stainless steel can heat relatively quickly, but some designs heat more quickly than others. Avacraft’s tri-ply bottom frying pan heats more quickly than the multi-clad or whole body clad frying pan in order to save energy, but the multi-ply body pan’s slow heating provides better cooking performance. No matter the layering, food left in a pan for a long time can burn.

Effects on Performance and Food

Fortunately, burnt food does not affect the pan or its performance. It will not degrade or be damaged, but proper cleaning will get the pan back to its optimal performance capability.

Tips on Cleaning

To remove burnt food from your stainless steel cookware, we have 2 methods that have worked very well for us:

  • Baking soda
    • Fill the pan with water to cover the burnt food marks (1-3 inches depending on the depth of the pan)
    • Pour ~¼ cup of baking soda into the pan, mix well, and bring mixture to a boil
    • Let it cool for 30-45 minutes
    • Gently scrub the burnt food
    • Repeat the process as necessary for especially stubborn stains
  • Barkeeper’s Friend also works well to remove burnt food stains

Stain 3: Pitting or Discoloration Dots

If you have ever boiled water to the point of evaporation or boiled something like potatoes with a little salt and left it for some time, you might have noticed the development of small reddish/brown/grey dots known as discoloration dots. Adding salt to the water you boil is normal for things like rice and pasta, but when undissolved salt is left in a stainless steel pan or pot, it can cause pitting. We have seen this happening with hard water too. 

Why Does This Happen?

Stainless steel pitting occurs when the chloride in salt attacks the layer of chromium oxide (mentioned above) and leaves little pit marks where it removes some oxide.

Effects on Performance and Food

While the pitting may be unappealing, it will not affect the performance. The chromium will have formed a new layer over the pitted areas, so it should be as corrosion resistant as ever.

Tips on Cleaning

To remove the discoloration dots, you can follow the same steps we discussed for the rainbow discoloration, and that should work well. Again, Barkeeper’s Friend is a go-to cleaning agent with no corrosive properties or bleach.

Contact Our Stainless Steel Cookware Experts

At Avacraft, we are always happy to hear from our customers! If you have a question or concern about stainless steel stains, contact us. We will personally return your email and give you the answers and advice you are looking for. Because we believe in and use our products in our home kitchen, we want you to be happy with your purchase and keep your cookware around for years to come.