Does Stainless Steel Cookware Rust?

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Sometimes—but, it’s not the end of the world.

By Team Made In
Aug 1, 2022
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Stainless Steel Cookware is among the most popular cookware options for both professional and home cooks. While it’s a great choice when it comes to stocking your kitchen, some types of Stainless Steel Cookware can still rust and become corroded if it is not properly maintained.

While Stainless Steel pots and pans are corrosion-resistant, note that they are not corrosion proof. This means that not only can rust ruin your favorite Stainless Steel Cookware, but it can also cause safety concerns when cooking.Luckily, we’re here to help you learn how to use and maintain your favorite tools for years to come.

Does Stainless Steel Rust?

Yes, certain types of Stainless Steel Cookware do rust. Pots and pans that contain the alloy chromium are more rust resistant because chromium oxidizes to create a protective coating on the cookware. Keep an eye out for 304 or 18/10 Stainless Steel—these both contain high levels of chromium, indicating that they’re more resistant to corrosion and rust.

Stainless Steel Cookware with lesser amounts of or no chromium, like 18/0, will rust faster as they lack the oxidation layer of protection that chromium provides.

Why Does This Happen?

Most of us are familiar with the brown/orange iron oxide seen on metal surfaces. Rust can form on any metal, even those with chromium. One of the main reasons this still happens is due to the fact that chromium actually reacts more to oxygen than iron.

While it does help to protect metal, when it becomes scratched from cooking and then exposed to water while cleaning, rust forms. In addition, there are actually certain foods that can cause rust and corrosion if you are cooking with a reactive pan. Foods that are highly acidic like tomatoes, those with lemon juice, and any vinegar-based foods should not be cooked in reactive stainless steel pots and pans to avoid the formation of rust on the cookware—luckily, our Stainless Clad line is nonreactive, so you can cook anything in our pans.

And finally, rust can also form on your stainless steel cookware if it is not properly maintained and cleaned well. Proper maintenance also includes polishing, which is crucial for longevity. Our Make It New Stainless Clad can help with that step, along with regular cleaning and maintenance.

How to Clean Rust

If your Stainless Pan manages to get a rust spot or two, there are a few options you can use to get your pan back to its original, shiny state. For both these options, make sure your pan is completely cool to the touch before cleaning it.

The Baking Soda Method

  1. Sprinkle your pan with enough baking soda to cover the rust spots, then mix with warm water until a paste has formed.

  1. Using a toothbrush, work the paste into the rust spot until the stain goes away.

  1. Wash as usual with warm water and dish soap and dry.

The Vinegar Method

  1. Cover rust spot with white vinegar and let sit for 5–10 minutes.

  1. Use a toothbrush to scrub at rust stains until gone.

  1. Wash as usual and dry.

How to Prevent Rust

Even the best Stainless Clad Cookware is susceptible to rust, but luckily there are a few tips that can help to prevent it from forming on your favorite pots and pans.

  • Do not allow metal to air dry. Instead, use a microfiber towel right after washing to dry your cookware, then store. If you stack your pans, place a dish towel or napkin between each pan to prevent scratching.

  • Purchase high quality cookware that contains chromium, which will help protect the pots and pans from rusting.

Ready to Shop?

Although no Stainless Steel Cookware is 100 percent rustproof, those made with chromium are corrosion-resistant and are the best choice for long-lasting cookware. By selecting higher quality performance cookware and following a few of the recommended care tips to prevent rust, your favorite Stainless Clad Cookware will last for years.