Removing cloudy film from pots and pans?
November 23, 2004 8:13 PM   Subscribe

BachelorFilter: The outside of my once nice and pristine pots and pans have developed a "cloudy" film on the outsides, despite (or in spite of) repeated washings, sort of like soap scum. Is this happening because of the tap water I'm washing them in? The soap? How can I remove the film and return the pots to their normal black appearance? (the film seems to "disappear" temporarily during the wash, but reappears once dried.
posted by robbie01 to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
It's almost certainly not a "film", but a layer of microscopic scratches that has been worn into the surface by repeated washings. (When that happens, the cloudiness seem to disappear when wet because the film of water gives the pans a temporarily smooth surface.)

You can see the same thing happen to plexiglass when it's been scrubbed too hard, and many other plastics and enamels. Basically, there are two ways to fix that kind of cloudiness: either _add_ a smooth film back over it, by applying some kind of polish, or using an even finer scrubbing surface to buff the scratches back down.

Since your pots are going to be heated over and over, and they're used to cook food, polish almost certainly isn't an option. I don't know of any polishes that are certified safe to use on cookware, and it's probably not a good idea to try.

If you really love these pans, though, and can't stand how they look, you could probably get some kind of polishing compound (which is basically a paste with a very, very fine grit to it), and get them shiny again. That's almost certainly going to be a lot of effort and time, but it's also your best bet, I think.
posted by LairBob at 9:03 PM on November 23, 2004

What are the pots and pans made of? You said they were black; are they Calphalon? Cast iron? Shiny enamel?
posted by bcwinters at 9:38 PM on November 23, 2004

Uhm, they're Circulon brand "hard-anodized exterior" cookware, with non-stick interior.

Could it be something other than scratches? The "film" is not uniform in any way, and in fact has more of a random "cloud-like" texture than the type of mark that would be left by back-and-forth scrubbing/scratching. It also appears to be multi-layered. The pattern also appears in areas of the pot (under and around the handles) where there's no way I could have scrubbed it hard enough and in such an amorphous pattern to have left scratches.

Could it be some form of oxidation?
posted by robbie01 at 10:57 PM on November 23, 2004

I'm not sure what the cause is, but I have black Calphalon pots & pans (also hard anodized) that from time to time need to be "restored." Calphalon sells some sort of compound that is used to return the cookware to it's original black surface. I'm not sure how it works, but it does work.
posted by spaghetti at 11:18 PM on November 23, 2004

From your description, it might be hard water deposits. They look kind of cloudy, and tend to disappear when a dish is wet, only to reappear again when it dries.

Try soaking the problem areas in some vinegar. This will dissolve hard water deposits, and it won't hurt your pan if hard water isn't the culprit, so it's worth a try.
posted by vorfeed at 11:19 PM on November 23, 2004

I've had the same problem, and vorfeed is right - vinegar works like a charm.
posted by letitrain at 11:34 PM on November 23, 2004

i've seen cloudy deposits on some pans that went through the dishwasher; oxidation of the aluminum, as it coes off with scrubbing. but this calphalon? and it sounds like hand-washing... so i'd think hard water is your thing.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:36 AM on November 24, 2004

vinegar works like a charm.
Is that why ketchup is suggested for copper, adding you can easily acquire it in free packets.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:31 AM on November 24, 2004

A splash of vinegar in a stainless steel pot will frequently eliminate the cloudy stains of pasta starches.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:11 AM on November 24, 2004

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