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topic 28905

How to restore discolored stainless steel cookware


Q. I have stainless steel cookware. A friend burned one quite badly and it is now discolored. Is is possible to restore it by removing the discoloration? I tried baking soda and salt, baking soda, salt, and vinegar, and Ajax scouring powder. It now has flecks of silver showing through the discoloration.

Judith JoAnn Karr
missionary - Bucurest, Romania


A. First, I would boil water in this pot and loosen any burnt on debris.(Scrape with metal spatula while boiling) Then I would make a paste with cream of tartar and vinegar and try to remove any remaining baked on stain. Use a steel wool [linked by editor to product info at Rockler] pad. Finally to brighten the pot soak tomato juice, sauce, puree, ketchup, any tomato acid base. Hope that works for you!

DJ Voller
- Strongsville, Ohio


A. To clean our stainless cookware of such 'accidents', my wife uses a scouring powder containing Oxalic Acid [linked by editor to product info at Rockler] (chemical formula C2H2O4) as the active ingredient. Some brands here in the States are Barkeepers Friend [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], Bon-Ami [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], and [linked by editor to product info at Ebay]. Also, products sold for bleaching wood often use oxalic acid; they are found here in marine supply stores. If all else fails, you could try making an extract from the leaves of the rhubarb plant (they contain a fair bit of the acid) and mixing it with your scouring powder. Have Fun!

Tom Gallant
- Long Beach, California


A. I burnt my best stainless steel saucepan really badly but managed to restore it by first soaking the burnt food off with enzyme washing powder for a couple of hours. After removing the remaining particles of food with a scourer I cleaned it with Astonish [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] paste and the result is perfect, good as new.

Ann Legg
- UK

June 6, 2008

Q. What does it mean when a "supposed to be stainless steel" pan has 10188 etched into it?
What does 10188 stand for, and is it safe for cooking?

Victor Desa
employee - Huntington

June 6, 2008

Hi, Victor. It's probably a model number or a run number for that brand of pan. But if I found a pan somewhere with no history I don't think I'd be comfortable using it. More like "Eww, who knows where it's been" than concern about metals leaching out of it :-)


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

November 29, 2014

A. "10188". This is the quality of the stainless steel used in the manufacturing of the pans. 10188 is not as high a quality as 101810.

Robert Pugno
- Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia

November 2014

Q. Hi Robert. You seem to be implying that a pan stamped 10188 is made of 18/8 (18% chrome / 8% nickel) stainless steel; and that a pan made of 18/10 stainless steel might be marked 101810. Do you know the origin of such a stamping code, and what the initial "10" means?


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 28, 2009

Q. I let a stainless steel pan boil dry for an hour or more. I've cleaned it with barkeepers friend. The bottom has a dried and greyish look to it - no shine - with a few spots of rainbow coloration.

Is there a way to know when a pot is no longer safe to use?

Thank you.

Beverly Hughes
- Dallas, Texas

June 6, 2009

A. Hi, Beverly. I'm not sure that a stainless steel pan ever becomes unsafe to use. But if chemical cleaners can't polish it, it needs to be mechanically buffed with an abrasive polish and a buffing machine (or at least a buffing wheel on an electric drill). Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 22, 2010

Q. I have a Stainless fry pan that I used to saute some steaks. The pan turned amber gold everywhere EXCEPT where the oil and steaks were (bottom, lower sides). And that everywhere includes the outside of the pan, all over. I'm guessing this pan just didn't enjoy high heat. Part of a Calphalon set, none of the other pans have behaved this way. Any idea what I can do?

Duffy Hawes
- Kingston, Washington

January 24, 2010

A. Hi, Duffy. The answer to your question is probably exactly the same. Try a good made-to-purpose stainless steel cleaner like Revere copper cleaner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], and if it doesn't work then mechanical polishing is required. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 3, 2013

Q. Somebody used a de-limer on the inside of my oven at work and it has since baked on and is black smears. How do I get the black off of the stainless steel inside my oven and the racks. We use it frequently and needs to be safe as we are a restaurant.

Barb MacPherson
restaurant manager - Toronto Ontario Canada

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