How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

A kitchen with stainless steel appliances.
What You'll Need
Lint-free cloth
Cleaning solution
Polishing solution

Stainless steel appliances have been a popular choice in the consumer market for a while now. With so many people buying refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, ovens, and more in stainless steel, the material's unique cleaning needs have become apparent. Fingerprints, smudges, grease, lint, pet hair, and general dirt are much more visible on stainless steel than on standard colored appliances (in some cases, even white!). Needless to say, cleaning stainless steel appliances takes a bit more effort and time than other appliance finishes. Here's some product and application tips for keeping your stainless steel appliances clean and streak-free.

Daily Cleaning Tips for Stainless Steel Appliances

Stainless steel appliances should be wiped down on a regular basis to look and stay clean. If the appliance only has fingerprints or smudges, a simple wipe with a wet cloth should do. If the appliance is a little dirtier, you can use dish soap or mild detergent and water with a clean cloth. To remove fingerprints, use a commercial glass cleaner or household ammonia. Always remember to wipe the appliance with a clean, dry cloth to bring back the shine. Also, always wipe with the grain of the stainless steel to avoid streaking.

Commercial Stainless Steel Cleaning Solutions

Someone cleaning a stainless steel stovetop.

If there is a stain or a scratch that you need to remove, a commercial stainless steel cleaner that you can purchase in a store or online may be needed to do the job. Although these cleaners do not completely remove scratches, they do minimize the appearance of them. Make sure that you read the manufacturer’s instructions for the cleaner before using it on your appliance. When done with the application, always rinse the cleaning solution off and wipe dry with a clean cloth.

Eco-Friendly Stainless Steel Cleaning Solutions

There are a number of eco-friendly cleaning solutions that can be safely used on stainless steel. Some of these green cleaners include baking soda and water, a paste of ammonia and rotten stone (also known as rottenstone), or vinegar and water.

How to Remove Stubborn Dirt from Stainless Steel Appliances

A cleaning solution of dish soap or mild detergent and water can be used to remove dirt or staining that is a little more stubborn. If you can’t get the dirt off from a simple wipe of the cloth, try letting some of the cleaning solution dissolve into the grime for a few minutes and then attempt to wipe it off. If the dirt is dried on, you can scrape it off using something plastic that won’t scratch the stainless steel. Then, wipe the area with the solution of soap and water. When that's done, be sure to wipe the surface dry with a clean, dry cloth. (Again, wipe with the grain.)

How to Polish Stainless Steel

A woman polishing a stainless steel refrigerator.

An easy and inexpensive way to polish or remove streaks from a stainless steel appliance is to use a small amount of baby oil, mineral oil, or olive oil on a paper towel to wipe the surface. You could also use club soda, rubbing alcohol, or white vinegar that is applied to a lint-free cloth. These products will bring out the natural shine that stainless steel inherently has. When done using the oil of your choice, remove any residue with a dry, clean cloth. As mentioned earlier, always rub with the grain of the stainless steel to avoid streaking.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Stainless Steel Appliances

Never use an abrasive cleaner or abrasive cleaning tool on stainless steel. If you're unsure if the product is safe for use on your stainless steel appliance, don't use it until you can find proof that it is. If a cleaning solution is safe for stainless steel or made specifically for that material, it will usually say so on the container. Whenever using a new cleaning solution, whether it is commercial or homemade, you should test it on a small inconspicuous spot first. Never use bleach on stainless steel appliances.