Steps to keep your pots and pans in top condition.

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For starters, avoid the dishwasher, even if the manufacturer says it’s OK. Temperature fluctuations and harsh detergents can dull and damage the finish of cookware over time. For all except cast-iron pans (which come clean with just hot water), experts recommend dishwashing liquid. Here, specifics on different materials.

  • Anodized aluminum: High heat can leave unsightly scorch marks on this common metal. To tackle discoloration, even if it has been there a while, boil a mixture of 2 tablespoons cream of tartar and 1 quart water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. For the exterior, apply the solution with a sponge.
  • Cast iron: For cooked-on debris that won’t budge with hot water, use coarse salt and vegetable oil to make a scrubbing paste, then rinse with hot water.
  • Copper: Wash it out with soap and hot water. To keep the exterior shiny, polish regularly using one of these home mixtures. Rub the exterior with lemon halves that have been dipped in salt. Or coat the surface with a thin layer of ketchup, let sit for 5 to 30 minutes, and rinse. The acids in the lemon or the ketchup will remove the tarnish.
  • Stainless steel: Wash with hot, soapy water. It can get splotchy; to brighten, rub with a soft cloth moistened with white vinegar, then rinse.
  • Nonstick: With a soft sponge, wash with hot, soapy water. For tough grime, put the pan in the freezer for at least 30 minutes after it has cooled; the burned-on mess should come off easily.