8 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Clean with SOS Pads
Using these handy cleaning tools wrong could leave certain household surfaces and objects worse off than you found them.
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Use with care
SOS pads, a brand of steel wool cleaning pads, are a handy product to have in your cleaning arsenal. The steel wool can easily cut through grime on your cookware, oven racks, and more. But just like plenty of other cleaning products like bleach and antibacterial wipes, there are mistakes you could be making with them. The abrasive surface of the steel wool could harm some of your household items and surfaces.
Editor’s note: Of course, SOS pads are only one brand of steel wool cleaning pads, but their name has become one of the trademarked names that have become commonly used terms. This can apply to any similar type of soap-coated steel wool.
Starting off general here, you should not use SOS pads to clean wooden surfaces as the metal could scratch them. “Wood is a soft material; it can get scratches, and the last thing you want in any type of wood is scratches,” says Abe Navas, General Manager of Emily’s Maids, a house cleaning service in Dallas, Texas. He says that this could make your wooden surfaces more vulnerable to moisture, which could seriously shorten their lifespan. This doesn’t just apply to wooden furniture and surfaces, but also to kitchen apparatuses like cutting boards. In fact, wood is also one of the things you shouldn’t clean with antibacterial wipes.
What to use instead: Water and dish detergent should suffice for cleaning most wooden surfaces, or any water-based cleaner!
In addition to wood, you should also avoid using steel wool cleaning pads on plastic. Similar to wood, plastic is very susceptible to scratching from contact with metal. “If you try hard enough, you can scratch it with anything,” Navas says. “Using something metallic to rub it is just asking to break it down and wear it down fast.”
What to use instead: Navas suggests just using ordinary sponges to clean plastic items and surfaces.
Here’s where it gets a little trickier. Yes, SOS pads are super helpful for cleaning your cookware, but you have to be careful what you use them on. Using them on nonstick pans could be a recipe for disaster. “SOS pads or steel wool are great for cleaning stainless steel or aluminum cookware, but not all cookware is the same,” explains Kathy Turley, Director of Marketing at Home Clean Heroes. “You definitely don’t want to use it on a non-stick or Calphalon pan, for example, as the steel wool can scratch or damage those surfaces.”
What to use instead: She adds that the SOS brand does make a type of “non-scratch” scrubbers, which are safe for use on non-stick cookware.
When it comes to toilet cleaning, it’s tempting to want to use whatever works to keep it clean. But—you guessed it—you shouldn’t be using steel wool pads to remove stains inside your toilet bowl. “The porcelain is delicate and the pads may scratch the finish [beyond] repair,” says Justin Carpenter, owner of the Dallas house-cleaning service Modern Maids.
What to use instead: “Try using Magic Erasers, toilet bowl cleaner, and some elbow grease,” Carpenter suggests.
Stainless steel appliances
It might seem like a tempting process to take an SOS pad and scrub it back and forth on your stovetop, removing any remaining food grime without too much trouble. Unfortunately, the idea is too good to be true if your stovetop is stainless steel—in fact, any stainless steel appliance shouldn’t be cleaned with SOS pads. “Avoid using SOS pads when cleaning stainless steel appliances such as stove tops,” Carpenter confirms. “The pads can leave blemishes and scratches if you aren’t careful. This will be a costly mistake, as the only option is to replace it.”
What to use instead: Natalie Barrett, cleaning expert and quality supervisor at Nifty Cleaning Services, uses white vinegar combined with olive oil to remove grease stains from stainless steel. “Either spray the mixture onto the surface or use a piece of cloth to wipe away any dirt or imperfections,” she says. She offers another suggestion as well: “You can also use club soda directly onto the surface to remove fingerprints and food leftovers.” Savvy cleaners will want to know these tips for self-cleaning your oven.
This joins the ranks of spots in your bathroom you should avoid using SOS pads on. Ceramic bathroom tile is fair game but refrain from scrubbing down the actual tub. “You can carefully use SOS pads to clean shower doors, but you should never use them on the actual shower or bathtub floor,” Carpenter says. “The steel wool pad will likely scratch the finish of the tub leaving black and gray marks.” You should also avoid using them on your tub or shower if it’s made of fiberglass; they’ll be too abrasive for a fiberglass surface.
What to use instead: “The best cleaning products for the bathroom are any products that are bleach or peroxide-based, like Lysol with Bleach or Comet,” says Monica Bowman of Two Maids & A Mop. “These products effectively remove all bacteria, mold/mildew, and soap scum without damaging the surface.”
Cast iron cookware
Here’s another kitchen no-no: Don’t use steel wool cleaning pads on your cast iron cookware. If you use cast iron a lot, you probably know how important its protective seasoning is, and so does John Bedford, founder and editor of Viva Flavor, a food company that also specializes in cookware maintenance. “Developing and maintaining good seasoning on cast iron cookware is a labor of love,” he told RD.com. “An SOS pad is a quick way to undo a lot of hard work, especially if you use soap as well.”
He says that the only time it might be OK to use an SOS pad on cast iron is if the pan has rusted. “In that case, I remove the rust as gently and precisely as possible, and then re-season the cookware properly before cooking with it again,” he says.
What to use instead: There are all sorts of other products that can clean your cast iron, so avoid the SOS pad.
Glass is a tricky one, too. As we already mentioned, you can gently clean a glass shower door with SOS pads, but Helena Wilson, Editor at Better Home Squad, says that you shouldn’t use it on your glass stovetop. “Abrasive cleaners and cleaning supplies, like the steel wool SOS pads, cause scratches on glass-top stoves,” she says—and she knows from experience. “My son, bless his heart, cleaned up the kitchen for me once and completely covered our glass top stove in scratches after scrubbing up some spills with one of those pads.”
- Abe Navas, General Manager of Emily’s Maids
- Kathy Turley, Director of Marketing at Home Clean Heroes
- Justin Carpenter, owner of Modern Maids
- Natalie Barrett, cleaning expert and quality supervisor at Nifty Cleaning Services
- Monica Bowman, Two Maids & A Mop
- John Bedford, founder and editor of Viva Flavor
- Helena Wilson, Editor at Better Home Squad