Keeping the Gleam: How to Polish Stainless Steel

stainless steel stove top getting cleaned
What You'll Need
Chamois cloth
Glass cleaner
Olive oil
Club soda
Baking soda
Warm water

When most people hear the words “stainless steel,” they tend to think of this indestructible metal, resistant to rust and corrosion. While more resistant than ordinary steel, stainless steel is not stain-proof; it just stains less often than regular steel. You may already be aware of this if you've noticed any of the stainless steel objects around your home, particularly those in prolonged contact with a heat source, beginning to look worn. Luckily, there are a few different methods you can use to polish and clean that stainless steel back to its usual luster and shine.

Polishing Technique

As durable as stainless steel is, it's still susceptible to scratches and abrasions. For this reason, only use soft cloths when cleaning or polishing stainless steel items. Avoid using brushes, scrubber pads, or cleaning substances that have abrasive properties.

1. Water

Sometimes all it takes is a little warm water to wipe the dullness out of stainless steel objects. Just take a cloth that’s been dampened with warm water and wipe off the object. Then, before the water beads have time to dry, wipe the object with a clean, dry cloth. A chamois cloth or shammy will work perfectly for this, as either will soak up the water instantly while simultaneously buffing the stainless steel surface.

2. Glass Cleaner

For stainless steel objects that aren't used in the kitchen or for food purposes, cleaning them with ammonia or glass cleaner is an effective means of restoring and polishing them.

This method makes easy work of removing old water spots and built-up grime that has accumulated on your stainless steel. However, once the cleaning is finished, be sure to rinse the object with warm water and dry it thoroughly to remove any chemicals left behind. Drying it quickly and completely will prevent the formation of new water spots.

3. Vinegar

If you need to polish stainless steel items used in the kitchen, vinegar is safe to use on food-related items and can effectively get the job done. White vinegar and cider vinegar work equally well, so whichever one you have access to will do. Just moisten a clean cloth with the vinegar and start cleaning your stainless steel cutlery or other items. This same technique can also be performed using olive oil or club soda.

4. Baking Soda

Similar to vinegar, baking soda is another common kitchen item that has great cleaning potential. In a clean bowl, mix baking soda with some warm water until you make a paste. Use a clean cloth to rub the paste all over the stainless steel item and then rinse it with warm water and dry it with a clean cloth. The benefit of using this method is that it doesn't leave behind an odor, as using vinegar can sometimes do.

5. Specialized Cleaners

On the cleaning aisle shelves of your local store you will see certain products sold exclusively for cleaning and polishing stainless steel. These are best used if the item you need to clean is highly tarnished or scratched. It’s important to know that not all of these products are safe for use on items that come into contact with food.

Additionally, you should only use these cleaners in a well-ventilated area while wearing a filtered mask. Before applying the cleaner to the entire item, try using it on an inconspicuous spot to make sure it doesn’t cause any discoloration of the metal.

Avoid using specialized stainless steel cleaners that contain chlorine, as it will more than likely damage the item. Instead, use a cleanser that contains ammonia.