How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans?

Stainless steel pans are a staple in every kitchen worldwide, celebrated for their durability, aesthetic appeal, and excellent cooking performance. But every home cook knows the dread that accompanies the cleaning process, especially when it involves stubborn food residues and stains. It’s a common struggle that invites countless cleaning methods, some more effective than others.

What about pumice stones? These porous rocks, typically used to exfoliate skin or scrub other surfaces, are now being considered for cleaning duties. But the crucial question remains – can they handle stainless steel pans without causing scratches?

Steel is well-known for its resilience, but no cookware is invincible. The last thing anyone wants is to ruin a favorite pan. So, let’s take a closer look at this issue and reveal what every stainless steel pan owner needs to know about using pumice stones for cleaning.

Common Stainless Steel Pan Cleaning Methods

Conventional Cleaning Solutions

Before we dive into pumice stones, let’s consider what’s already in the market. When you browse cleaning aisles, you’ll find a myriad of options, from specific stainless steel cleaners to all-purpose cleaning agents. These products offer convenience and usually deliver on their promises, but they often contain harsh chemicals that some individuals may want to avoid.

DIY Home Remedies

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s a host of DIY cleaning solutions. From baking soda and vinegar concoctions to the classic lemon and salt duo, there are several recipes available online that can handle grimy pans. However, the effectiveness varies, and there’s always the concern of potential adverse effects on the pan surface.

washing the pan

Exploring Pumice Stone

Origin and Composition

A pumice stone originates from volcanic eruptions when the molten lava cools and hardens rapidly. It’s primarily composed of silica, with some aluminum and other trace minerals. Its most distinctive feature is its highly porous nature, making it lightweight and abrasive, perfect for scrubbing applications.

Uses in Cleaning

Pumice stones have found their way into several cleaning routines due to their abrasive properties. They’re popular for removing hard water stains, descaling fixtures, and even cleaning barbecue grills. But, like every cleaning tool, they must be used correctly and on appropriate surfaces.

Compare burnt pan image before and after cleaning

Pumice Stone and Stainless Steel Pans

The Pumice Stone Cleaning Process

When it comes to cleaning stainless steel pans with a pumice stone, it’s quite straightforward. You wet the stone and gently rub it over the pan, focusing on stained or sticky areas. The abrasiveness of the stone works to remove the grime, hopefully leaving you with a clean and shiny pan.

Potential Issues

However, the keyword here is ‘gently’. Given its abrasive nature, the stone can potentially scratch or dull the surface of the pan if applied with too much pressure or without enough lubrication. It’s a balancing act that requires care and attention.

Compare burnt pan

Will Pumice Stone Scratch Stainless Steel?

Understanding Pumice Stone Hardness

The hardness of a material plays a significant role in its ability to scratch another. In this context, pumice has a hardness value of around 6 on the Mohs scale, a measure of mineral hardness. It’s relatively soft compared to other minerals but can be abrasive enough to scrub off hardened grime.

Comparison with Stainless Steel Hardness

On the other hand, stainless steel has a hardness of around 5.5 on the Mohs scale. It means the pumice stone is slightly harder than the stainless steel, posing a potential risk of scratching if not used carefully.

Analysis of Possible Scratching

While pumice stone has the potential to scratch stainless steel, it’s not a guaranteed outcome. The actual risk depends on several factors, including the force applied, the stone’s grit size, and the presence of lubrication. The key lies in cautious and mindful use to mitigate the risk of damaging your pans.

burnt and dirty stainless steel pots and pans

Alternatives to Pumice Stone for Stainless Steel Pans

Non-abrasive Cleaning Agents

If the potential for scratches seems too great a risk, consider alternatives like non-abrasive cleaners designed for stainless steel. These cleaners can effectively remove dirt and stains without the risk of scratching your pans.

Safe Home Remedies

Home remedies involving gentle ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, or lemon can also be excellent options. They may require a bit more elbow grease but can deliver satisfactory results without compromising your pan’s finish.

Stainless Steel Pan Care Tips

Prevention Better than Cure

In the long run, preventing stains and burns from occurring in the first place can save you a lot of cleaning hassle. This includes using moderate heat, avoiding empty pan heating, and cleaning spills promptly.

Routine Maintenance for Longer Life

Regular cleaning after every use will also contribute to the longevity of your stainless steel pans. Establish a routine that works for you and stick to it. Your pans will thank you for it!

Man Washing Stainless Steel Pans In Sink

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a scouring pad on stainless steel pans?

While scouring pads can be used, they can be too abrasive for stainless steel surfaces and may leave scratches. It’s best to opt for softer cleaning tools or non-abrasive cleaners.

Can vinegar damage stainless steel pans?

When used correctly, vinegar can be a great cleaning agent for stainless steel. However, prolonged contact should be avoided as it can potentially damage the pan’s surface.

How often should you clean stainless steel pans?

Ideally, stainless steel pans should be cleaned after each use to prevent food residues from sticking and burning onto the pan.


Cleaning stainless steel pans is an inevitable part of the cooking process. While pumice stones are effective cleaning tools, their abrasive nature may pose a risk to your stainless steel pans if not used correctly. As we’ve discovered, the pumice stone is slightly harder than stainless steel, implying a potential risk for scratches.

Instead of resorting to potentially damaging cleaning methods, consider safe alternatives. Non-abrasive cleaners and home remedies can be just as effective while preserving the pan’s integrity.

Above all, regular maintenance and proper use of the pans are the best ways to extend their lifespan. Regardless of the cleaning method you choose, a mindful and consistent approach can ensure that your pans remain in excellent condition for many meals to come.

I'm Justin, co-founder of AllofKitchen and your knife and steel specialist. My extensive experience ensures accurate and hands-on advice on every topic. Turn to me for insights on selecting the best knife or maintaining your steel tools to perfection. Knives aren't just tools; they're an extension of the chef, and I'm here to guide you to the perfect fit.

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