how to clean stainless steel appliances and protect the finish (plus how to avoid streaks)
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Need to know how to clean stainless steel appliances? We’ve got you covered, plus tips on what not to do, and how to avoid those unsightly streaks.

Stainless steel is a durable surface for appliances that brings a modern aesthetic to any kitchen. Although it’s tough as nails, your sleek stainless steel fridge, microwave, or stove can look unsightly when it’s covered in fingerprints and smudges. Fortunately, it’s also easy to clean and you really do not need specialty cleaners to do it. Follow these easy cleaning tips to get your stainless steel appliances looking new again.

Common Mistakes When Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances

Cleaning stainless steel surfaces really requires just a bit of elbow grease. You can use specialty stainless steel cleaners to quickly wipe away fingerprints and other oily residues if you like, but there are also DIY cleaners you can make with pantry items that work just as well.

Before you begin, it’s important to understand the “don’ts” of cleaning stainless steel. Common mistakes when it comes to cleaning stainless steel include:

  • Using abrasive cleaners. Although it’s a durable surface, ​stainless steel does scratch easily. Abrasive cleaners, even natural ones like baking soda, are designed to scour a surface in order to remove dirt and are more likely to damage your stainless steel.
  • Using steel wool or abrasive cleaning pads. Like abrasive cleaners, abrasive cleaning pads and steel wool will scratch the grain of the steel and make your appliances appear dull. Even a paper towel can be too rough, so go with a gentle microfiber cloth instead.

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  • Using bleach. Bleach is great for whitening and disinfecting surfaces. It is not made for use on stainless steel surfaces. Although it may not be noticeable at first, bleach will remove the finish of stainless steel over time.
  • Letting dirt and grime sit. Allowing dirt and grime to sit on the surface of stainless steel will make it harder to remove later. Dried messes require more scrubbing, which may lead to scratches on the surface. Wiping up messes as soon as they occur will save you cleaning time and minimizes the chance of accidentally scratching the stainless steel.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

how to clean your kitchen with vinegar (microwave, sink, dishwasher, pots, pans)


Now that you know how not to clean stainless steel, you’ll be happy to hear that cleaning it properly is relatively easy. Forget those expensive commercial cleaners and make your own. Here are a few items that you can use to make your own stainless steel cleaning products without harsh chemicals. You will need:

1. For light, everyday cleaning, dilute white vinegar in a 1:2 ratio with water. Place the diluted vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray a dry microfiber cloth with the vinegar solution (or you can use ammonia or vinegar-free window and glass cleaner, such as Windex) and then wipe the surface clean.

Related Reading: More Places in Your Kitchen You Can Clean with Vinegar

2. For heavier, stuck-on grime, mix one teaspoon of dish detergent into a quart of hot tap water. Dip a microfiber cloth into the cleaning solution and wipe with the grain over the surface of your appliances. It’s OK to gently rub stuck-on grime, if needed (microfiber will not scratch). Work in small sections. Rinse the towel in clean, hot water and wipe the surface again. Use a dry microfiber towel to dry the surface.

3. To help prevent dirt and grime sticking on the surface of your stainless steel appliances and make them look shiny and new, apply a light coating of mineral oil to the surface. Buff it well with a flour sack cotton cloth to avoid any tacky buildup. Do not use food-based oil, including vegetable and olive oil, because they can turn rancid.

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More Stainless Steel Cleaning Tips

Now that you removed the dirt and grime, what about all those unsightly streaks? The key to preventing streaks is to wipe with the grain. Wiping with the grain of the stainless steel enables you to clean the microscopic grooves where dirt gets trapped and keep streaks at bay. Streaks occur due to wiping against the grain or in a circular motion.

Another thing to consider is the hardness of your water. Hard water will leave deposits on stainless surfaces. So, if your water is hard, consider using filtered water when making your cleaners and wipe up any water splashes on the surfaces before they dry.

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Also, remember that each stainless steel appliance is different, so cleaning may vary with each surface. Always review the manufacturer’s guide that came with your appliances for specific cleaning directions.

Chowhound’s sister site CNET has more stainless steel cleaning advice, including an interesting way to use your leftover orange peels.

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Header image courtesy of gerenme / E+ / Getty Images

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