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Easy Ways to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

Updated on March 27, 2016

Remove Fingerprints and Grease from Stainless Steel Appliances

Stainless steel appliances are popular in today's kitchens, adding a sleek, modern look. From stovetops to refrigerators, dishwashers to microwave ovens, stainless steel finishes are showing up everywhere.

Stainless steel is beautiful at first - glossy and shiny. But with frequent use in a high traffic kitchen, fingerprints and grease quickly build up and are more visible than those on traditional kitchen appliances.

How do you remove dirt and grime safely and effectively from stainless steel appliances?

Believe me - with four children, I have tried just about every product on the market. I have also tried making my own cleaning products to help save money and the environment. Based on my own trial and error, here are some easy ways to clean stainless steel appliances so that you have a kitchen you're proud of!

Stainless steel stovetop
Stainless steel stovetop | Source

There is a Difference Between Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish

If you have water spots on your stainless steel, or greasy handprints and smudges, you need to remove them first before using polish. Both stainless steel cleaners and polishes are sold in retail stores, but if you are not careful, you might be selecting the wrong product for the job.

I point this out because that is exactly the mistake I made. We have a stainless refrigerator, dishwasher, stove top, oven and even a stainless coffee maker. Handprints are everywhere! In fact, there was a long water stain running down the front of the dishwasher that I tried endlessly to remove. Once I discovered I was using polish instead of cleaner, I made the switch and finally got those surfaces clean.

Stainless steel polish won't clean your appliances. It will, however, help bring a glossy sheen to the surfaces, after you've gotten rid of fingerprints and water stains.

How to Clean Stainless Steel in the Kitchen

Commercial Stainless Steel Cleaners

Over the past 10 years, in two different homes, we have tried dozens of commercial stainless steel cleaners. And I'll say one thing: it is quite difficult to find one that works to my satisfaction.

Regardless of brand, there are aerosol sprays, pump sprays and even wipes that you can use to clean appliances. Some can be sprayed directly on the surface, while others should first be applied to a cloth before cleaning.

I'm not going to tell you which commercial stainless steel cleaners not to use. But I will tell you that our favorite product is Pledge specialty surfaces (commercial line), which was recommended to me at the Home Depot last month. It can be used for stainless steel, granite, and natural stone. But, as discussed below, I am a big fan of homemade stainless steel cleaners. My next favorite cleaner is "Bar Keeper's Friend," which can also be used on a variety of surfaces.

Commercial stainless steel cleaners are expensive and may damage flooring or other surrounding surfaces if care is not taken in application. Many people believe that commercial cleaners work most effectively to restore factory cleanliness and shine, however.

More Tips on how to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

Tips for Cleaning and Polishing Stainless Steel

  • Before using for the first time, test any product on a small, unnoticeable area
  • Work to remove stains as soon as possible to prevent setting, which may require use of potentially damaging cleaners and scrubbers
  • Use at least 3 fresh, clean soft cloths - one for cleaning, one for polishing and one for buffing to a shine
  • Work in the same direction of the grain, which is usually side-to-side
  • For best results, start by wiping the appliances down with warm, soapy water
  • Avoid product build-up by using amounts sparingly
  • Spread newspapers on the floor in front of the appliance you will be cleaning to avoid potential chemical damage to flooring surfaces

Make Your Own Stainless Steel Cleaner

If you want to save money and go a little more eco-friendly, you can make your own stainless steel cleaner. The simplest way to clean your appliances is with warm water, dishwashing soap and a soft cloth. Stainless surfaces are sensitive to harsh cleansers, so it is better to use too little soap than too much.

To cut grease, you will need more than just water and soap. A white vinegar or cider vinegar can do the job. Use undiluted vinegar on a soft cloth and work in the same direction as the grain. The vinegar cuts through the grease without smearing. Another effective and inexpensive stainless cleaner can be created by combining ammonia and water in a 1:4 solution. Alternatively, fingerprints can be removed from stainless steel using glass cleaner.

If you have streaks on your stainless steel, rub 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on the surface with a soft cloth. Alternatively, use club soda on a cloth to remove streaks or stains.

Other effective DIY stainless steel cleaners include combining cream of tarter with hydrogen peroxide in a 3:1 solution. Combine into a paste, apply to stainless steel with a soft cloth, allow to dry, then wipe clean with another soft cloth.

Combining 2 teaspoons of baking soda with 2 quarts of warm water is another homemade stainless steel cleaner. Put into a spray bottle, apply to stainless surfaces, then wipe with a clean cloth.

How to Clean and Polish Stainless Steel

How do you Clean Your Stainless Steel Appliances?

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© 2011 Stephanie Hicks


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    • carriethomson profile image

      carriethomson 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi steph!! vinegar is good for most of cleaning in the house. great tips! vote up


    • profile image

      Derdriu 6 years ago

      Steph: What an accessible, helpful, precise guide to keeping stainless steel's original clean, polished look intact! I do not have stainless steel, but I experience similar challenges in terms of maintaining a shiny surface on key parts of my VW. As you observe, polishing needs to be preceded by pre-cleaning as well as by testing.

      It is most helpful the way in which you share your experiences through explanations in the text which are backed up most helpfully with illustrative examples in the YouTubes.

      Thank you, etc.,


    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi stessily,

      I think that stainless steel appliances can best be described as follows - when they are clean and shiny, they look soooo good. When dirty and smudgy, they look awful. Thanks for the comments - Best, Steph

    • profile image

      stessily 6 years ago

      stephhicks68, Stainless steel looks so beautiful when it's maintained, and the maintenance, once in place, isn't that difficult. Baking soda, cream of tartar, vinegar, and olive oil are mainstays for me, so I am pleased to see you showcase them, as well as highlighting other cleaning/polishing products. And you are certainly right about the different applications for cleaning and polishing products --- I learned by trial and error as well.

      Thank you.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you mljd, I love making homemade cleaners from ordinary products. Specialized cleaning products are expensive and not necessarily more effective. Best, Steph

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 6 years ago

      Wonderful tips for cleaning stainless steel appliances. Ammonia, vinegar and baking soda are my main cleaning supplies. I use Olive Oil for cooking but never thought of using it for polishing.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks anginwu,

      I decided that after so many months trying to clean our stainless steel appliances, I would write about what we have found works, and what doesn't. Thanks for the comments! Steph

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 6 years ago

      You've given us many tips from using vinegar to baking soda that are eco-friendly and useful. I'm glad there are alternatives to cleaning stainless steel appliances. Nice information--voted up.