Can Steel Wool Be Used to Clean Aluminum Pans?


Katherine asked: Why is it not advisable to use sandpaper or steel wool in cleaning aluminum pots and pans?

Though sandpaper is not a commonly used cleaning tool, steel wool is quite often used to clean aluminum pots and pans. Some worry that the steel wool will contaminate the alum and cause the piece to lose its original look. This pertains more to shiny aluminum on bikes and cars than pots and pans. Here are some tips when cleaning with steel wool.

Tips for Cleaning With Steel Wool

  • Steel wool is best for cast aluminum pans. For sheet aluminum pans, use a green scrubbing pad or plastic mesh pad.
  • Use a fine grade of steel wool to keep from creating large surface marks while cleaning.
  • Use a back and forth motion, rather than a circular motion while scrubbing. This keeps the look of the pot or pan uniform.
  • There are pads with soap already in them, such as SOS pads that work well for stubborn stains.
  • If you are hesitant to use steel wool, but need something more aggressive than a sponge, try a green scrubbing pad. They are abrasive enough to remove many tough food stains and debris, but will not markĀ  up the surface like steel wool can.


  1. Esta says:

    I have found that using “S.O.S” soap-filled steel wool pads on my aluminum “professional” cookie sheets (Costco 3-pk, cheap!), actually aids in making them more non-stick. The way I do it is to use hot water, sometimes a few drops of dish liquid, and go to town in little (4″) circles, moving back and forth in straight rows till I’ve cleaned the entire surface. Then I wash the whole thing with a paper towel and new hot water and dish liquid, to get off all the S.O.S soap, as well as any fine particles of aluminum. Also, dispose of the S.O.S pad after using on aluminum, as it may be holding aluminum particles, which you don’t want to deposit on other pans (do stainless steel, etc. first, then alum. last to get the full use out of your S.O.S pad).
    I find that the S.O.S pad leaves the surface really smooth and slick, and since most cookies say to bake on an ungreased cookie sheet, they are much easier to remove, and to clean because nothing seems to stick. The green scrubby sponge seems to scratch more, and actually seems to make it easier for food to stick, IMHO.

    No need to use an S.O.S pad every time, since food sticks so much less; it’s often easier to clean cookie sheets with just dish liquid and a paper towel. RINSE well!
    Have fun. =-)

  2. Miche says:

    The black scrubby pads scratch even more than the green ones – just an FYI.

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