Can You Use Steel Wool on Stainless Steel Pans?

Can You Use Steel Wool on Stainless Steel Pans?

So you’ve cooked a delicious steak but your pan looks less than appetizing now. And now, you’ve got a pad of steel wool in hand, ready to attack the mess. Hold up! Before you start, we need to talk about whether that’s okay for your stainless steel pan. Let’s get into it.

Can You Use Steel Wool on Stainless Steel Pans?

Well, you can, but you really shouldn’t.

Here’s why. Stainless steel pans are pretty tough, but they’ve got a smooth surface that’s actually delicate.

Cleaning a stainless steel pan with steel wool

When you use steel wool, it’s like rubbing sandpaper over it. It’ll scratch and damage that smooth surface. And, of course, you don’t want that.

Why, you ask? Well, those scratches will make your pan look bad, sure. But it’s more than that.

Every time you cook, food bits can get stuck in those scratches. Then when you cook again, those bits burn and it can affect the flavor of your food.

Plus, it’s just harder to clean a pan with scratches on it. You might end up scrubbing even harder, causing more damage, and it’s a whole cycle.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: your pan has already got some tough spots that aren’t coming off and you’re desperate. That’s well understood. But instead of steel wool, there are other, safer options.

Something as simple as a soft sponge with some warm water and dish soap can do wonders. If that doesn’t work, there’s also cleaners made especially for stainless steel that you can try.

So basically, steel wool is not the best choice for cleaning your stainless steel pans. It might seem like a quick fix to you, but it will do more harm than good in no time.

Will steel wool remove rust from stainless steel?

Woman questioning whether steel wool can remove rust from stainless steel

Seeing rust on your stainless steel can be pretty worrying. You start wondering how it got there and how you’re going to get rid of it. And it struck your mind that steel wool is the answer. But hold on, it’s not quite that simple.

Steel wool can indeed remove rust, that’s true.

But using it on stainless steel, even for rust, is risky. We told you earlier that steel wool can scratch your pan. And those scratches are not just a cleaning problem. They can actually encourage more rust to form.

Here’s the thing: stainless steel is resistant to rust because it has a layer of chromium oxide on the surface.

This layer is what protects the steel underneath from rusting. If you scrub your pan with steel wool, you risk scratching off this protective layer.

And once it’s gone, the steel underneath is exposed to air and moisture, which can lead to more rust. So, you might get rid of the rust temporarily, but you could be setting yourself up for more problems in the future.

So what can you do instead?

Well, there are so many ways to go about it, but one of the best ways to tackle rust on stainless steel is to use a paste made from baking soda and water.

This can help remove the rust without scratching the surface. But keep in mind that you must do it gently. Don’t scrub too hard, or you might cause some damage.

Can you use steel wool on pots and pans?

You’ve probably seen all sorts of pots and pans at the store: stainless steel, nonstick, cast iron, copper, and more.

Each type has its own characteristics and needs different care. And when it comes to using steel wool, it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.

First, let’s look at nonstick pans. You should never use steel wool on these! Nonstick pans have a special coating to prevent food from sticking.

Steel wool can easily scratch and damage this coating, which ruins the pan’s nonstick feature. So when cleaning these, always stick to soft sponges or cloths.

Now, what about cast iron pans?

Well, you can actually use steel wool on cast iron, especially if you’ve got tough, stuck-on food.

But, you must make sure you reseason your pan after you’ve scrubbed it. Reseasoning involves coating the pan in a layer of oil and baking it in the oven. This protects the pan and keeps food from sticking.

And when it comes to copper or aluminum pots and pans, you should simply avoid steel wool as it can scratch and dull the surface. For these, a better option might be a sponge with some warm, soapy water, or a cleaner made specifically for that type of metal.


While it is actually possible to use steel wool on your pans, we don’t advise it and you shouldn’t use it either.

Of course, it’ll do the cleaning as you want, but you’ll be messing around with the quality. There are some cleaners out there that can do a better job.

And unlike steel wool, those ones designed to be gentle on your pans while still getting rid of the dirt. With them, you’ll avoid damaging your pan and also keep it in good shape for much longer, and your food will taste better too.

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