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These Pantry Staples Will Melt Ugly Cookware Stains in Minutes

If your best cookware is losing its shine, break out these pantry staples and watch those baked-in stains disappear.

David Watsky Senior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's spent more than a decade covering all things edible, including meal kit services, food subscriptions, kitchen tools and cooking tips. He earned a BA in English from Northeastern, and has toiled in nearly every aspect of the food business, including as a line cook in Rhode Island where he once made a steak sandwich for Lamar Odom. Right now, he's likely somewhere stress-testing a blender or the best way to cook bacon. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
Expertise Kitchen tools, appliances, food science, subscriptions and meal kits.
David Watsky
2 min read
baking soda white vinegar and scrub brush on counter

Here's everything you need to get that stainless steel cookware shining like new. 

David Watsky/CNET

Stainless steel cookware doesn't always look so stainless, but it's still good to use. You just need the right ingredients and even the most baked-in skillet stains can be scrubbed away with ease. 

The internet is full of hot takes on the best way to clean cookware and there are hundreds of products that make the same promise. Bar Keeper's Friend is one and it works well, but you don't even need to spend the $8 on that. A mixture of white vinegar and baking powder is the best way to clean cookware. It only takes a few minutes to do and will have your best pots and pans looking shiny and new.  

Two pantry staples and a stiff scrubber or sponge are all you'll need to lift cookware stains from even the dingiest pans. Here's how to do it.

The secret ingredients for cleaning stubborn cookware stains

skillet with stains

Nobody likes a dingy frying pan. 

David Watsky/CNET

How to get stubborn stains out of stainless-steel cookware

Step 1: Sprinkle the stained pot or pan with one tablespoon of baking soda.

Step 2: Fill the pot or pan with one part vinegar and two parts tap water. It will cause a little temporary fizzing and foaming, so be sure to add the liquid carefully. 

Step 3: Boil the pan or pot on high heat for about five minutes -- or longer, if the stains are particularly heavy. Cover the pan so the boiling solution can reach up the sides without spilling over onto the stovetop.

skillet with boiling water on stove

Make sure the vinegar and baking soda solution gets up to a rolling boil.

David Watsky/CNET

Step 4: Remove the pot or pan from the heat and drain most of the hot liquid carefully leaving only a few ounces. Let it cool enough so it won't burn your hands but is still warm. 

Step 5: Scrub any visible stains vigorously using the special nonmetal scrubber and remaining liquid until they lift.

Step 6: Dry the cookware thoroughly before putting it away. 


clean frying pan on stove

Look at the baby shine!

David Watsky/CNET