Did BarKeeper's friend ruin my pan?
December 28, 2018 11:10 AM   Subscribe

My stainless steel pan has somehow been ruined. It is 18/0 if that matters.

This is an induction pan so the outside later is 18/0 stainless steel. The inner layer is 18/10. I've used BKF on 18/10 stainless steel and had no issues, but when I tried to clean the very bottom of the pot this happened.


Is there a way I can fix this? Its weird because even on the website of the pan company it says to use bar keeper's friend. What the hell? Oh and I used the version of BKF that is specifically for cookware too!
posted by fantasticness to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Doesn't look ruined to me. Stainless steel works by building up a layer of chromium oxide on the surface, which stops rust. Probably when cleaning it, you took off the CrO layer (probably with the oxalic acid in the BKF) that formed in the factory in some places; it reoxidized as it dried, creating a new pattern. The patterning on the lighter part of your pan in the photo is what the bottoms of most of my stainless pans look like.

You could probably clean the thing very thoroughly to remove the older finish everywhere and make it look uniform, though I personally wouldn't bother. It may darken over time and with use to be less noticeable, though perhaps less on an induction range than on a gas range (where the bottom of the pan is constantly impinged by hot water vapor).

Oxalic acid is a totally legitimate way to clean stainless steel, although usually it's followed by neutralization with bicarb or some other base. I have never tried following BKF with baking soda to see if it produces a different surface finish, though now you've got me a bit curious to try it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:34 AM on December 28, 2018 [10 favorites]

To add to what Kadin2048 says, I don't think that you should see any impairment of heating as a result of light corrosion to the surface. Induction of heating takes place throughout the body of the pan, rather than being conducted through the surface, so there should be no noticeable effect unless there are substantial changes to the makeup of the metal.
posted by howfar at 12:01 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

The pan is fine, just a little discolored on the bottom. It's not damaged in any way, go ahead and keep using it as normal.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:04 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

It's a surface discoloration, dishwasher detergent will do it too. It's only ruined if you were using it for film/photographs. If you're using it for cooking food, carry on.

(The bottoms of most people's pans don't look like new after a bit of use, even on induction/ceramic, because stuff sloshes, and if you don't clean it very dutifully any fats involved will polymerize and become extremely difficult to remove the stains. So really, if you were a set decorator or propmaster, you'd want them looking well-used on the bottom, so it'd only be ruined for stuff like advertising photography where nobody ever cooks or eats.)
posted by Lyn Never at 1:21 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm a little confused. Are you saying that baking soda will fix the discoloration?

Even if the pan can still be used, this pan is literally brand new and kept looking brand new until I tried to use BKF for pots on it. It's a real pain.
posted by fantasticness at 1:32 PM on December 28, 2018

Something was gonna happen to it someday, somehow. Nothing stays new forever outside of movies and TV. My mom has a set of stainless steel pots & pans that she won at the county fair over 40 years ago, and they work just as well today as they did when they were brand new. They do not, however, look new—they have some discoloration, some scratches, some handles have been replaced, etc. That's because she uses them.

My serious, no-joke suggestion here is to just let it go. Accept that life is not like TV. Accept that with time and use, even very durable things like stainless steel pans will change their appearance somewhat. Accept that this does not mean they are ruined, just that things change over time. Trying to fight against that is a battle you will not win, although it's possible to drive yourself insane by trying. Focus your energies elsewhere.

Or, if you really must, get yourself a drill with a wire brush attachment and go over the bottom of the pan until it looks uniform. Then apply steel wool and lots of elbow grease, working your way down through progressively finer grades, until you have a nice, even look that's similar to what it had from the factory. It won't be exactly the same because you don't have the same equipment, but you can probably get close. That will remove this minor discoloration—until the next thing, whatever it may be, inevitably happens to it.

But by far the easiest and healthiest thing to do would be to accept that this is no longer a brand new pan and just move on with your life. Nothing stays brand new forever. This pan may well have literally centuries of working life ahead of it, and for almost all of that time it's not going to look brand new.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:16 PM on December 28, 2018 [13 favorites]

I don't know if baking soda will fix the discoloration. It won't by itself, almost certainly.

But applying a paste of BKF (oxalic acid, plus a bunch of stuff we don't care about as much) to the entire bottom of the pan, letting it sit a while, maybe scrubbing a bit, then rinsing with water and then rinsing again with a slurry of baking soda (to neutralize any remaining acid), followed by another rinse in water... possibly repeating on any areas that are still different... that would be my next step if I was shooting to make it look even on the bottom.

I don't know if that will make the pan look "factory" on the outside, because I'm not sure what exactly they do at the factory to finish it. They may put some coating on it when it's still hot out of the mold / stamping press, or maybe the lubrication from inside the press die itself leaves a color that's distinct from the raw stainless steel itself as it oxidizes the first time, or when you heat the pan. Hard to say. There are a bunch of variables there we just don't know about.

But, if you use oxalic acid and scrub and neutralize enough, you'll get bare stainless steel uniformly across the bottom of the pan. It will even take off mild rust stains, which is probably why the manufacturer recommend it. Probably they should warn you that it'll change the factory finish, but maybe they assume you're not going to clean it until it's really dirty with burned-on polymerized fats, who knows.

Personally, I probably wouldn't bother—the pan is clean right now—but that's me. (Cleaning the outside of pans? That's what the flames on the stove are for!) And if I was going to spend a bunch of time doing what amounts to cosmetic enhancements of a stainless steel pan, I'd probably forgo oxalic acid completely, and go straight for the big guns, which is mechanical polishing rather than chemical cleaning. Using a buffing wheel and "green stainless" rouge will bring it to a mirror finish. It'll end up looking like one of those really gucci "hand finished" All-Clad pans.

I once cleaned a cookie sheet with a Dremel tool; it's totally a kitchen appliance.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:16 PM on December 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

I guess your other option is to go to the manufacturer and explain that you're dissatisfied with the fact that following their advice tarnished your pan. I think it's perfectly reasonable for you to point out that their guidance should specify any risk of tarnish, and I also think it would be entirely appropriate for them to offer you a new pan as a gesture of goodwill for your help. If you approach it in a constructive criticism manner, while making clear that you think they should replace the pan, I think you've got a good chance of getting a replacement pan without getting into an awkward/confrontational situation.
posted by howfar at 3:32 PM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

There's no "if" here, friend. The pan can still be used; heck, the pan is fine! All of my cookware has more staining than that. It's just part of cooking, cookware will always get dirty for one reason or another. If you had put it in the dishwasher you would see similar tarnishing.

No one is looking at the bottom of a fry pan, fry some bacon in that bad boy and relax.
posted by smoke at 3:50 PM on December 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

You can make that pot like new with two 9"x12" sheets of wet/dry silicon carbide sandpaper you can buy at almost any good auto parts store.

I would get 400 grit to take the corrosion off quickly, and 600 grit to finish. Wear rubber gloves and keep the pot wet. You might want to tear or cut each sheet into 4 pieces.
posted by jamjam at 4:18 PM on December 28, 2018

I feel your pain! Apparently, Barkeeper's Friend is only supposed to be left on for a minute, and making a paste and letting it sit can discolor stainless steel. If the company that makes the pans didn't warn against this, I'd say give it a shot trying to get a replacement. If they won't replace, you might try a suggestion I found here: "Ok.....I left Bar Keepers friend on too long and had dark stains on my stainless steel oven. I went to Wally World and bought in the automotive section a container on No Dull wadding stainless polish and it took out the dark stains left by Bar Keepers friend."

Good luck, and let us know how it turns out!
posted by taz at 5:03 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

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