Do Stainless Steel Pans Rust? (Yes! 8 Ways to Get Rid of It!)
Oh, my god! Is that rust?
These knives are only a few years old and they’re also stainless steel. How can stainless steel rust?
We’ve been there and we’ve got a few rusty stainless steel knives in our drawer as well. But we didn’t have to throw them away because we got rid of them.
We want to help you with that too. Here’s everything you need to know about rusty knives and how to bring them back to new again.
Do stainless steel pans rust?
Stainless steel pans can rust under the right conditions. Most stainless steel pans are going to be resistant to rust, which means that they are not going to rust from just daily use.
They can rust if they are corroded, if they are not properly maintained and cleaned, and if they are not stored properly as well.
If you do not care for your stainless steel pans properly, they certainly can rust and they can become very damaged very easily.
Why does stainless steel rust?
It’s actually kind of a weird phenomenon. The reason it rusts is that stainless steel is an alloy, meaning it’s a mixture of two or more metals. Stainless steel is made up of iron, chromium, and nickel, among other things.
One of the properties of stainless steel that makes it so useful as a metal is its ability to be resistant to corrosion. It does this by forming a protective layer on its surface when exposed to oxygen. That’s why it doesn’t rust like regular old iron does!
However, despite this great feature, there are still some conditions under which oxidation can occur on the surface of stainless steel.
- When stainless steel comes into contact with water or humid air (which can contain dissolved oxygen) for long periods of time without being dried off regularly;
- When there’s dirt or debris blocking the pores in the metal’s surface;
- When there’s salt present in your water supply (like in seawater).
How to Care for Stainless Steel
There are a few different things that you need to do to ensure that your stainless steel remains stainless and remains without damage.
- First, make sure you let your pan cool completely before you try to scrub, submerge in cold water, or wash it in any way. Submerging your pan into cold water when they are hot can cause the pan to warp.
- Make sure you get rid of water spots as soon as you see them. If you leave water spots on your pan for too long they can leave a mark on your pan. To get rid of it, get some baking soda on a sponge that is slightly damp and then scrub and rinse.
- You do not want to put any salt in the pan before the water has boiled if you are using a pot that is stainless steel. The salt added to a cold pan can cause corrosion which can cause pitting and can cause the pan to rust.
- When you are adding oil, you want to heat the pan before you add any oil to prevent sticking.
- Cold foods are going to be more likely to stick to the warm surface of the pan. You should either help to thaw foods or warm them up a bit before you put them in the pan. Room-temperature foods are less likely to stick than foods that are frozen or that are very cold.
- You should preheat the pan, not overheat Mommy it. You want medium to low heat to preheat your pan before adding your food and before cranking up the heat higher.
- When cleaning, you want to use non-abrasive sponges and cloths. Though you may be tempted to use a scrubber to really get into the crevices, it is always best to use a sponge or a cloth that is not going to scratch or damage the surface of your pan.
- You should be washing your pan every time you use it. This is going to help prevent build-up and is going to help keep the pan clean no matter what.
How to tell if it’s rust vs discolor?
There are a few ways that you can spot the difference between rust and discoloration in a stainless steel pan.
- The texture of the spot makes a big difference. If you run your hand over the discoloration and it is smooth and only slightly raised, odds are it is just discoloration and not rust.
- If you run your hands over the surface and it is pitted or sunken in, there is likely corrosion under the discoloration.
- Rust on a stainless steel pan might not look like typical rust. It is likely going to be pits and small sunken areas in the pan that are obvious and easy to spot.
- There are a few different types of discoloration to watch out for. White is often calcium deposits and is often the result of the water that was used in the pan.
- You might also see the discoloration from the food that you have cooked if it stuck to the pan.
Is it safe to cook with a rusty pan?
Rust is caused by iron reacting with oxygen in the air, and it’s not just on the outside of your pan, it gets inside the pan, too!
When you cook something in a rusty pan, you run the risk of ingesting tiny bits of iron that have leached into your food.
If you’re wondering whether or not this iron will hurt you, it depends on how much you eat.
If you’re eating a lot of foods cooked in a rusty pan, it may add up to more than what is considered unsafe.
The key question here is “what are you ingesting?”
Rust is a chemical compound that’s made up of iron oxide and iron hydroxide. Both of these compounds are safe for humans to ingest, but only in small amounts.
If you’re eating rust, it’s likely because it has become contaminated by other materials.
Rust does have some nutritional value to it—it contains iron, which can help boost your body’s ability to produce red blood cells (which carry oxygen throughout your body).
However, there are safer ways to get this mineral into your diet than by eating rust!
This isn’t necessarily dangerous for most people, but if you already have an iron deficiency or suffer from anemia, it won’t hurt. But again, there are safer ways to consume iron.
If you find yourself accidentally eating rust, discontinue using the rusty pan until you’re able to clean and completely get rid of it.
Seasoning your pan can prevent it from rusting
There are a few steps you can follow to help season your stainless steel pan and get it ready for use.
- Wash your pan with warm soapy water and a gentle sponge.
- Oil the pan when it is completely dry and heat it up on the stovetop.
- Allow the pan to cool entirely
- You can repeat this process as needed when the food begins to stick to the pan.
Ways to get rid of rust on stainless steel pans
1. Rust Kutter
If you have rust on your stainless steel pans, you may be able to remove it with a product called Rust Kutter. It’s basically diluted phosphoric acid, which can dissolve rust on contact!
Rust Kutter is a rust removal product that can be found at most hardware stores.
To use Rust Kutter, simply apply it to the affected area and scrub with a brush or sponge. Rinse the area well with water and dry thoroughly.
If the rust is still present, repeat the process until it dissolves.
2. Baking soda
Baking soda is a powerful natural cleaner that can be used on a variety of surfaces. It is effective at removing rust and cleaning stainless steel.
Baking soda is a base, not an acid like other cleaners.
When you mix baking soda with water and apply it to the rusted area, the baking soda reacts with the acid in the rust (the iron oxide) and neutralizes it.
Baking soda is also great for cleaning coins, laundry, and tile grout.
To remove rust from stainless steel, mix a ¼ cup of baking soda and ¼ cup of warm water together to form a paste.
Apply the paste to the rust with a toothbrush, and scrub until the stain is gone.
Rinse the area with clean water and wipe it clean with a dry cloth.
You can repeat the process several times until you’ve completely removed the rust.
Vinegar is a natural ingredient and is used almost every day in cooking.
It is a powerful household cleaner, with uses ranging from practical to surprising. It can remove rust from metal and help you unclog drains and clean your toilet bowl. It can also be used to remove stains from clothing and whiten your teeth.
But why does vinegar remove rust? The answer lies in its acidity level, which causes an oxidation reaction that breaks down rust
To clean rust off of your stainless steel pans, mix vinegar and water in a 1:3 ratio and spray it on the affected area. You can also create a bath of this mixture and pour it into the pan.
Leave it on for at least 30 minutes, then wipe it away.
For a more effective approach, use a coarse scrub.
4. Lemon (citric acid) and salt
Lemon, salt, and water can remove rust from metal.
This is because the lemon is acidic and the salt is alkaline. The acidity of the lemon reacts with the rust on the metal to produce a new compound called an oxide.
The alkaline salt then neutralizes that compound to make it non-reactive and easier to remove.
However, if left on for too long, lemon juice can damage the surface of your pan.
For best results, only leave the lemon juice on for an hour or two before rubbing it off.
You can also mix the lemon juice with vinegar to increase the rust-removing potential.
5. Cream of tartar
Cream of tartar is the by-product of winemaking. It’s what’s left over after wine has had its yeast removed through fermentation.
It consists primarily of potassium bitartrate crystals and is also known as potassium hydrogen oxalate dihydrate. In other words, it’s salt!
When cream of tartar comes into contact with water and oxygen (which are present in all dirt), it produces an acid called potassium hydrogen oxalate (pH 2).
This acid dissolves iron oxide (rust), freeing up iron ions that can be washed away with water
If you have rust spots on your stainless steel pans, you can use cream of tartar to clean them.
Just mix cream of tartar with lemon juice to form a scouring agent.
Then, dip a sponge or dishcloth in the mixture and apply it to the stain.
Gently scrub at the stain until it lifts away. Rinse the spot with clean water and wipe it dry.
6. Hydrogen peroxide
If you have a stainless steel pan that is starting to show signs of rust, you can use hydrogen peroxide to help remove the rust.
Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizing agent that works best when it’s mixed with an acid. In the case of rust removal, you usually want to use a weak acid such as white vinegar or lemon juice.
When you apply hydrogen peroxide to rust, it breaks down into water and oxygen gas. The oxygen gas is what removes the rust—it gets into the spaces between your metal surface and the rust, displacing both water and oxygen molecules.
Simply pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide onto the rust spot and let it sit for a few minutes.
Then, use a scrub brush or sponge to scrub away the rust. Rinse the pan well with water and dry it with a clean towel.
If you have a stainless steel pan with rust on it, you can use onions to help remove the rust.
Onion is a natural ingredient that can be used to remove rust. It is not only safe but also effective in removing rust from metal.
Onion contains sulfur, which helps reduce the oxidation process and therefore, prevents the metal from rusting again.
First, cut an onion in half and then rub the cut side of the onion over the rust.
You can also place the onion half in the pan and let it sit for a few minutes before rubbing it over the rust.
After you have rubbed the onion over the rust, rinse the pan with water and dry it with a clean towel.
8. Potato and dish soap
If you have a stainless steel pan that is starting to show signs of rust, you can use potato and dish soap to help get rid of the rust.
The acid in the potato reacts with the iron in the rust, causing it to fall off. The potato has a high concentration of oxalic acid and potassium ions.
When these are mixed with water and applied to a surface contaminated by rust, they begin to interact with each other. The result is that they form salt crystals on the surface of your tool or piece of metal.
The salt crystals are then scrubbed away using a brush or cloth—and voila! Your tool or the metal item is clean again!
First, cut a potato in half and then rub the cut side of the potato over the rust spots on the pan. Next, squirt some dish soap onto the pan and scrub it with a sponge or brush.
Finally, rinse off the soap with water and dry the pan with a clean towel.
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