How To: Clean Stainless Steel
Gleaming and shiny, stainless steel brings a bright and polished air to any kitchen. Keeping that brilliant sheen, however, takes a little bit of work—and some very specific cleaning products. Fortunately, this complete guide on how to clean stainless steel will assist you in preserving this metal finish’s like-new look.
RELATED: How To: Clean EVERYTHING
The first thing to know when considering how to clean stainless steel appliances, sinks, and countertops is what not to do. Some popular cleaning products will damage the finish on stainless steel, and even plain water can leave unsightly marks and spots if not used properly. Despite its name, stainless steel can and does stain. So first and foremost, for clean stainless steel surfaces, these are products and techniques to avoid:
• DON’T use chlorine bleach or any product containing chloride.
• DON’T use oven cleaners.
• DON’T use steel wool, steel brushes, or highly abrasive scrubbing pads—these can cause scratches or leave a residue of small particles that may rust.
• DON’T use abrasive cleansers on brushed stainless steel.
• DON’T clean a stainless steel surface unless it is cool to the touch.
• DON’T use gritty, dirty, or excessively hard water, as it can leave spots or brownish stains.
Although the list of what not to do may seem daunting, there are some very simple things that you can do to clean stainless steel appliances without going any farther than your kitchen sink. Keep in mind the following:
• Pay attention to your owner’s manual, following the cleaning and care instructions to the letter. Some new stainless steel appliances are treated with a clear-coat finish at the factory, and some cleaning products can strip or mar that finish.
• One of the best habits to adopt when cleaning stainless steel is to wipe down your appliances with a damp, soapy washcloth every time you do the dishes; rinse the washcloth with clean water, and wipe again to remove any soap; then finish with a wipe of a dry terry towel.
• Always wipe in the direction of the stainless steel “grain,” starting at the top of the appliance and working your way down towards the floor.
• To tackle heavier grease or baked-on foods, use a nylon scrubbie, a mild detergent, and hot water. Be sure to rinse the surface and towel dry to prevent water spots or staining after you have cleaned the stainless steel surfaces.
• Removing really tough dirt and stains requires a paste of baking soda mixed with liquid dish soap gently scrubbed into the grain using a nylon scrubbie or an old toothbrush. If some stains remain, use undiluted vinegar, again scrubbing gently with a soft brush. Be sure to rinse and towel dry.
• You may want to buff your appliances periodically after cleaning stainless steel with a stainless steel polish, lemon oil, or a silicone-based spray to maintain a lustrous finish. Apply the polish in the direction of the grain with a lint-free cloth; buff and dry with another lint-free cloth.
There are numerous non-abrasive cleaners and polishes that are designed specifically for use on stainless steel. My personal favorite to use when I clean stainless steel is 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish, but there are several other highly recommended brands, including Bar Keeper’s Friend, Cerama Bryte, Sprayway, and Weiman. When in doubt, always test your stainless steel cleaner on a surface that’s somewhat hidden, like the back or sides, before moving on to clean stainless steel on the most visible areas, including an appliance’s front or top of a kitchen counter.
Using abrasive cleaners on stainless steel is a common mistake that typically results in a damaged finish. To learn about other cleaning mistakes to avoid, watch our video below.