5 Things You Should Never Do with Steel Wool Pads

updated Aug 17, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Bringing out the steel wool means bringing out the big guns — the last resort to solving any kitchen’s worst burned-on, stubborn messes. While soap-filled steel wool like the popular brands S.O.S. and Brillo are commonly found under kitchen sinks, these cleaning pads can be used all around the house. In addition, regular steel wool can be used both in the kitchen and elsewhere. (It’s great for filling in holes and cracks that mice might try to get through!) There are just a few things you should never do with steel wool.

1. Don’t use it with bare hands.

Although steel wool looks and feels somewhat soft, being rough with it or not taking the proper precautions can leave you with badly cut fingers. Avoid the risk altogether by always wearing thick gloves such as gardening gloves or heavy-duty kitchen gloves when you use steel wool. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Don’t use it on stainless steel.

Never use steel wool to clean stainless steel. The abrasive nature of the steel wool removes the finish from your stainless steel and makes it more likely to rust and stain. In addition, steel wool can leave unsightly scratches that are impossible to remove. 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

3. Don’t use it on oak.

Steel wool is often used for sanding wood, and it’s a great option because it’s easier to get steel wool to conform to intricate trim and carving than it is to manipulate sandpaper. But using it on oak can be a big mistake. Traces of iron in the steel wool can react with the tannins in the oak to create a blue or black permanent iron stain.

4. Don’t forget that steel wool is flammable.

Even if you’re using steel wool mostly in the kitchen, make sure that you do not store it near batteries or near flammable liquids like varnish or paint. Even letting your steel wool sit near a power source (like the end of an adapter) can cause it to catch on fire.  It’s safest to store steel wool on its own in a sealed container.

Credit: Erika Tracy

5. Don’t let them get rusty.

Rusting steel wool pads are not only unusable, but they also create a mess. To keep them from rusting before you get a chance to use them (and to always have a ready one on hand), store your steel wool in a zip-top bag in the freezer

Do you use steel wool? Got any fun and surprising uses for the stuff? Tell us in the comments below!