When it comes to kitchen design, stainless steel appliances have been a lasting trend for many good reasons. They’re durable, offer multiple color options, and hold up against dirt and heat better than other finishes.
However, if you own stainless steel appliances, you know they need to be cleaned more often because smudges, streaks, and fingerprints show easily on their reflective surfaces. Never fear, knowing how to clean stainless steel appliances and keeping them looking their best is a simple job with the right tools.
What Do You Need for Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances?
The brushed, non-porous surface of stainless steel makes it easy to clean and disinfect, and you have to have the right cleaning products and methods that won’t scratch or discolor it.
If this sounds expensive or difficult, rest assured the majority of the cleaning products necessary are do-it-yourself (DIY) or homemade from ingredients that already exist in your pantry or purchased at the grocery store for a few dollars.
The decision comes down to whether to choose professional cleaning products or things you find around the house. Once that is decided, it’s time to start cleaning!
DIY Cleaning Products
Before you buy the commercial products with their higher price tags, you may wish to try a DIY cleaner. There are multiple options for what to use to clean stainless steel appliances. The simplest and cheapest option for daily maintenance cleaning can often be the best.
Many readily available household products can be great for cleaning stainless steel, including:
- Warm water
- Dish soap
- White Vinegar
- Club soda (not seltzer)
- Ammonia free glass cleaner for cleaning off fingerprints.
- Olive oil or mineral oil for polishing
The first step is warm water and clean cloths. It’s that simple! If you have overly hard water, you may wish to use filtered water.
With more and more households moving away from cleaning with chemicals and focusing on eco-friendly solutions when possible instead, natural cleansers are in high demand. The eco-friendly option for cleaning is white vinegar, sometimes labeled as distilled white vinegar. Do not use malt vinegar.
Apply the vinegar to a clean microfiber cloth or spray onto the surface and wipe it away in the direction of the grain. This method can be done as many times as necessary to remove all the dirt and smudges.
As well as vinegar and dishwashing soap, other household items are useful cleaners. With club soda or ammonia-free glass cleaner, make sure to rinse well after using and spray onto the cloth rather than spraying the surface directly to minimize streaks.
Cleaning Stainless Steel
While cleaning against the grain won’t ruin the stainless steel’s surface, it can dull the shine or allow dirt into the little scratches that appear around the grain.
Before you begin cleaning, find the grain of the stainless steel. Just like the grain you find in leather or wood, look for a horizontal or vertical “brushing” pattern of little lines you’ll be able to see and feel if you rub your finger over them.
As you clean, be sure to move in the direction of the grain and not against it. If the grain is vertical, start at the top of your appliance and wash in the direction of the grain. With a horizontal grain, you should start at the top and clean down to the floor.
- Get two soft, clean microfiber cloths. Don’t use abrasive cloths or scrub pads as they can scratch the surface. Avoid using paper towels for this task as they may leave dust or material behind when wiping.
- Wet one of the cloths with warm water and wring out the excess. Keep the other microfiber cloth dry for drying at the end.
- You can put a small amount of ordinary dishwashing soap in the warm water (a ratio of roughly one teaspoon to a quart of water) if there is a significant amount of dirt. For stubborn dirt, put the dish soap directly on the cloth and wipe multiple times.
- Scrub in small, circular motions to clean, but wipe with the grain to keep the steel luster.
- Rinse with hot water after cleaning and dry with the other microfiber cloth.
Cleaning with just water is the safest option for cleaning stainless steel appliances. It eliminates possibly abrasive or harsh chemicals, and as long as it’s dried thoroughly after rinsing, it shouldn’t leave spots or stains.
Now that your stainless steel appliances are clean, there is one more step to protect the surface and enhance the shine. Every time you clean your stainless steel appliances, you should dry them and polish the surface immediately afterward, done with a few drops of olive oil or mineral oil and a clean, soft microfiber cloth.
Make sure not to use too much oil to avoid streaks or smears; a little goes a long way. Avoid using vegetable or canola oil as these oils can go rancid.
Professional Cleaning Products
Sometimes vinegar or dish soap can’t handle the task of cleaning life’s stubborn messes, and until the surface is clean, you can’t address fingerprints. While DIY products can clean off dried tomato sauce, it often takes professional-grade cleaners to remove stains and fill in scratches, especially on older appliances.
A quick search online or at a brick-and-mortar store for stainless steel cleaners will give you hundreds of results of wipes, sprays, creams, and buffers, all from different companies. How can you choose one? Reading reviews are an excellent place to start or using products from companies you already know and trust.
One place to look is to check the documentation given to you by your appliance manufacturer or check their website. The manufacturer will often make recommendations for brands and products to use or have their product line to use with their appliances.
No matter what product you choose, always test the solution in an inconspicuous place on your appliance if there is discoloration or a reaction to the product.
Things to Avoid
- Steel wool or abrasive tools like scrubbing pads: These could scratch the stainless-steel surface, which could leave dents where rust may set in.
- Unclean cleaning cloths: Food particles, dirt, and cleaning chemicals left on cleaning cloths can scratch, discolor, and destroy your appliances’ smooth surface.
- Bleach or cleaning products containing bleach: Bleach can stain or discolor stainless steel appliances, save it for other cleaning projects.
- Going against the grain: When cleaning, wiping, or buffing your appliance, always wipe in the direction of the grain.
- Letting soap or cleansers dry without rinsing: This can cause blemishes, and overtime, the soap will become layers of residue.
‘Smudge-proof’ and ‘fingerprint-resistant’ stainless steel does exist, and many appliance stores now carry appliances that use it as an alternate option. While this type of stainless steel is not true stainless steel and has a higher amount of nickel to help make it smudge-proof, this difference in makeup has its own benefits, such as making it magnetic.
The Shine Is Worth the Time
Even with simple cleaning and polishing methods, stainless steel does require a little bit of upkeep to maintain that brilliant shine. However, knowing how to clean stainless steel appliances with a regular schedule and correct techniques ensures that the long-lasting benefits will outweigh the time and effort.