How to remove pitting stains from stainless steel cookware

Updated February 21, 2017

Formed as a result of sodium chloride exposure, minimal pitting does not typically compromise the functionality of stainless steel cookware. It does, however, detract from the aesthetic quality of pots, pans and other kitchen items. Pitting creates craters or flakes in the surface of the metal where rust collects and stains the cookware. If left unchecked, excessive pitting will start to compromise the strength of the metal. To clean the cookware, it is necessary to grind out these pits. After grinding, follow preventive methods to avoid future pitting.

Treat the stainless steel with biodegradable, nontoxic rust remover. Follow the manufacturer directions for use. Typically, simply saturating the surface with rust remover dissolves rust. Rinse and towel dry the cookware once the rust is gone.

Affix a wheel grinder or a grinding stone bit into the chuck of a rotary tool or an electric drill. Spin the grinder to carefully sand down pitted areas.

Switch the grinder bit with a buffing wheel bit. Spin the bit on a bar of stainless steel polishing compound to pick up some of the compound on the soft head of the bit. Apply the compound to the cookware, using the bit to buff and polish the stainless steel. Pick up more compound as needed. Wash the cookware with warm water and soap, once finished.

Disallow direct, prolonged contact of stainless steel cookware with salt water, brine, salt solutions, salt-laden foods and acidic liquids, such as vinegar or citrus juice, to deter pitting from occurring again. Promptly wash stainless steel cookware after use.

Things You'll Need

  • Biodegradable rust remover
  • Grinding bit
  • Rotary tool or drill
  • Buffing bit
  • Polishing compound
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About the Author

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.