Here’s How to Clean Stainless Steel

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You'll need a few household items, a clean microfiber cloth and some elbow grease!

With our modern households and appliances, it’s likely you have stainless steel in your kitchen at this very moment. Whether it’s a pots and pans for cooking, a refrigerator or even a stainless sink, that shiny surface is made from the same material. And stainless steel looks best when it’s clean and free of smudges and fingerprints.

We get it—kitchen cleaning can be a hassle. But we know lots of easy ways to fight fingerprints and keep stainless-steel appliances looking nice and shiny.

stainless steel cleaning graphicTaste of Home

Methods for Cleaning Stainless Steel

Cleaning stainless steel doesn’t have to be a hassle—you may already have what you need in your kitchen cabinets. These methods make it super easy to make your stainless steel gleam.

How to Clean Stainless Steel with Dish Soap

First up, it’s our trusty kitchen cleaner—dish soap! All you need to do is put a small drop of dish soap on a microfiber cloth, then add a splash of warm water. Wipe down the stainless steel, rubbing with the grain of the metal. Then rinse it off to prevent staining and spotting from soap residue. Lastly, towel dry the metal.

To clean the microfiber cloth afterward, toss it in the wash with other lint-free fabrics and dry it on low or no heat. Or, if your dryer doesn’t have those settings, let the cloth air dry.

How to Clean Stainless Steel with Glass Cleaner

If you have stubborn fingerprints that can’t be wiped away by dish soap, grab a bottle of glass cleaner. Spray a little bit onto a microfiber cloth, and as always, rub in the direction of the grain of the steel. Rinse and towel dry the metal to prevent any spots.

How to Clean Stainless Steel with White Vinegar

If you haven’t used white vinegar to clean, you’re missing out on a cheap, easy solution. For stainless steel, just spray a little bit of distilled white vinegar on a microfiber cloth and rub in the direction of the grain. This method will get rid of especially stubborn grime and fingerprints in a jiffy!

Vinegar, however, is a bit more acidic than other cleaners, so while you can use it for sinks as well as cookware that’s been discolored due to heat, be more careful about appliances. Test it out on a small corner of your appliance to make sure there won’t be any problems.

How to Clean Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel Cleaner

Can’t remove that grease no matter what? You might want to grab a bottle of stainless steel cleaner. These specialty cleaners are made for hard-to-tackle stains, and they won’t leave any marks on your appliances or cookware. Just grab a microfiber cloth, spritz on a little cleaner, then rub in the direction of the grain.

How to Polish Stainless Steel

Clean stainless steelAvalon_Studio/Getty Images

So you got rid of all those smudges and grease, but maybe your stainless steel isn’t as shiny as you’d like it to be. Luckily, there are some easy fixes to make sure you can see your reflection in your refrigerator again—and, like the cleaners, you probably own them already.

How to Polish Stainless Steel with Olive Oil

This method is a great way to maintain your stainless steel—just give everything a quick wipe down whenever you open a new bottle of olive oil or after cleaning with another method. You don’t even need the expensive stuff for this job.

Add a few drops of oil to a microfiber cloth and buff your stainless steel in the direction of the grain. Keep buffing until all those smudges are gone and scratches are filled. Then simply finish with a dry microfiber cloth. You’ll leave behind a thin layer of oil that will resist fingerprints! Don’t forget to store your olive oil properly once you’re done cleaning.

How to Polish Stainless Steel with Flour

Love to bake? Then you can use this method every time you open a new bag of flour! As with the olive oil, that’ll ensure you’re cleaning and polishing your stainless steel regularly.

Before using this method, make sure your stainless steel is clean and completely dry. You don’t want the flour to make a goopy mess! Sprinkle flour onto your microfiber cleaning cloth and buff the surfaces until the flour “disappears” and they’re shiny. The flour gets into the grain and pulls out dirt in a way that other methods might not, leaving everything sparkling and shiny.

How to Polish Stainless Steel with Club Soda

This is a good (and cheap) method to have in your back pocket if you’re in a rush! Grab some club soda, pour it into a spray bottle, then spritz it onto any stainless-steel surface. Clean it off with a soft cloth and they’ll be sparkling like new in no time at all.

How Often Should You Clean Stainless Steel?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule—it depends on use and how clean and shiny you prefer your kitchen to be. Sinks might need to be cleaned more frequently with dish soap, while bigger appliances like the refrigerator can probably be cleaned of fingerprints and scratches every week or so. Ideally, you should try to give everything a good clean and polish at least once a month, just to keep things looking good. And, you probably guessed it: Clean your stainless-steel pots and pans after each use.

What to Avoid While Cleaning Stainless Steel

When it comes to stainless steel, there are a few things you should definitely make sure don’t get anywhere near it. These include:

  • Abrasive tools: it might be tempting to use steel wool or a metal brush to get rid of particularly stubborn grease or dirt, but these can scratch your stainless steel and increase the possibility of rust.
  • Bleach or strong cleaning solutions: These can damage and stain your stainless-steel appliances, leaving them pitted.
  • Dirty sponges or cloths: Always make sure you’re using something completely clean on your stainless steel. Other cleaning solutions or bits of debris (like crumbs) can scratch and discolor your steel.
  • Hard water: This might be difficult if not unavoidable, but if you can, try not to use hard water while cleaning as it’ll probably leave water stains behind. Distilled or filtered water is your best bet.

Research contributed by Melany Love

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Amrita Thakkar
Amrita is an Assistant Digital Editor at Taste of Home. As a writer and amateur photographer, she often ends up applying these skills to her one great love: food. She can usually be found researching global cuisines, at the farmers market, doing yoga, or looking up new places to travel to.