I recently bought a Teflon-coated pan and have been using it without cause for concern, but while greasing it tonight I found the butter stick I used came away with grey flecks / residue.

I typically handwash it, but I have also used steel wool in the past to get burnt food out quickly. Have I somehow removed the coating? Is it safe to use this pan?

  • 29
    I'm really sorry but... do you not read the instructions that come with the pan? Most Teflon pans specifically say not to use metal tools on them.
    – Catija
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 19:54
  • 5
    I would like to remind everybody answering that health issues discussion is off topic here. We only accept "is it safe" questions as far as they relate to regulations of food safety. So anything beyond "there is guideline issued by XX which says that the use of scratched Teflon pans is [acceptable | a health risk]" or "there are no guidelines regarding scratched Teflon" is off topic and should not be added to answers or comments.
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 14:56

4 Answers 4


Never use steel wool on teflon-coated pans!!!

You surely have scratched and damaged the teflon and some of it came off the pan.

I'd throw it away.


The residue could be actual flakes of the nonstick coating, or food residue that stuck (non-nonstuck if you will) to the pan where it was no longer nonstick, or the result of some reaction between food/cleaner and base metal (unprotected aluminium tends to create black residues when in contact with aggressive foods or dishwasher detergents...).

In any case, this pan, after being abused with steel wool (which is, as mentioned before, a metal tool), is no longer fully functioning as a nonstick pan.

The safety aspect has likely been discussed satisfactorily in The bottom of my black cheap pan has worn off and I can now see the metal below where food would go. Is that pan safe to use anymore?

  • Aluminium is one of few metals that reacts with both acids and alkalis. When exposed to air, it forms a powdery oxide which looks white or grey. Aluminium is generally not dishwasher safe as detergents are alkaline. Oxides are a little more reactive with alkalis than with acids. Many baking tins and molds are made from uncoated aluminium, is there any reason that a scratched non-stick Al pan may be unsafe but not these tins?
    – user110084
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 1:08
  • Thermal decomposition of PTFE is indeed a hazard, but there is no difference between an intact coating and flakes of PTFE in that regard if both are heated over a stove to the same cooking temperatures.
    – user110084
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 1:08
  • Not trying to sound like the mods, but any additional discussion about safety/unsafety of damaged nonstick is probably best attached to the linked question? Commented May 22, 2017 at 7:27

It has been said but it needs to be emphatically stated. If you have used steel wool on your non stick pan you have RUINED it. It may be food bits you are seeing but i would say It is not safe to use and you must not eat anything cooked in it.


There are a few inconsistencies here.

Exposed aluminium: bare aluminium baking tins and molds are common, and bare aluminium saucepans exist too. What is the difference between those and the aluminium partially exposed in a damaged non-stick pan?

PTFE: Manufacturers and chemists warn about toxic products of thermal decomposition (PFIB). If a complete coating of PTFE is safe at normal cooking temperatures, why should loose flakes of PTFE at the same temperatures be unsafe? If loose flakes were to fall into the flames of a gas burner or onto a hotplate or heating coil, I can see problems, but inside the pan and mixed with food? Surely in that scenario, anything unsafe about flakes in the pan/food would also be unsafe for intact coating too.

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