Stainless steel offers a sleek, durable surface that has made it very popular in many kitchens. You might find stainless steel on your refrigerator, inside your microwave, or on your cooking top, just to mention a few different appliances. However, cleaning stainless steel can present some unique challenges.
Stainless steel can collect smudges and streaks more easily, and improper cleaning can result in scratches, stains, and even buildup of rust over time. Stainless steel is rust resistant – not rust proof. It’s important to know just how to clean your stainless steel appliances – and which products to avoid.
1. Dish Soap and Water
One of the simplest ways to clean stainless steel is to use a mild dish soap, warm water, and a damp cloth or sponge. Wipe down the surface with the product, making sure the cloth or sponge is thoroughly wrung out. Dry well afterwards, buffing with a soft cloth. Drying stainless steel is important, as otherwise the surface may get rusty over time.
2. Baking Soda
Stainless steel can become dull over time. You can brighten dull surfaces by sprinkling a small amount of baking soda onto a soft, damp cloth (ideally a microfiber cloth) and gently buffing the surface. Rinse well to avoid leaving streaks, and dry the surface with a soft cloth.
It’s important to be gentle, as abrasive cloths or vigorous scrubbing can scratch stainless steel surfaces.
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3. White Vinegar
If you prefer making your own DIY cleaning products, you likely already use vinegar in your daily cleaning routine. You can mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle, gently misting your stainless steel surfaces. Wipe down with a clean, damp cloth, and dry well.
If in doubt, it’s always a good idea to check your product manual, especially if you’ve bought a new stainless steel appliance. Not every cleaning product will be suitable, and it’s better to be safe than sorry!
4. The Steaming Method
When it comes to cleaning the inside of some stainless steel appliances, like microwaves, burnt-on food and buildups of grease can be difficult to remove. Instead of resorting to harsh chemicals and vigorous scrubbing, the steaming method can be gentle and effective.
Simply put, you mix a product like baking soda, vinegar, or lemon juice and slices in a microwave-safe bowl of water, and heat for a few minutes. This creates a lot of steam inside the microwave. This should gently remove baked-on food and unpleasant smells, without needing to scrub at your stainless steel.
5. How to Shine Stainless Steel
Regular polishing is the key to beautifully shiny stainless steel surfaces. A good way to polish is to use vinegar sprays, olive oil, or a commercial stainless steel cleaner. Use a soft, clean, microfiber cloth.
If you use vinegar, spray liberally on the surface and gently buff. If you’re using olive oil, add a few drops to the cloth itself, and use a paper towel to remove any excess afterwards.
For a commercial cleaner, follow the instructions on the bottle or packet.
Remember to always polish with the grain, and rub in circular motions.
6. Removing Streaks from Stainless Steel
Regular cleaning is the best way to stay on tops of streaks, smudges, and grease. A simple solution of dish soap, warm water, and a soft sponge or cloth is often all you need to get your stainless steel surfaces shining like new.
Then, it’s important to buff, polish, and dry. If you use any of the methods mentioned earlier for polishing, it’s vital to use a cloth or paper towel to wipe away any excess.
For drying, just a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth. While you can use very gentle scrubbers or sponges to get rid of stains, don’t use anything abrasive, like steel wool. This will lead to scratches that can eventually cause rust problems.
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7. How to Clean a Stainless Steel Refrigerator
You can easily add cleaning the front of your refrigerator to your daily kitchen cleaning routine. You can use a vinegar solution, or simply warm water and dish soap.
When you wipe down your kitchen counters, spray and wipe the front of your refrigerator too. Don’t forget the handle, which can collect plenty of fingerprints! Water can leave marks, so be sure to dry off the front of your refrigerator immediately.
For an extra shine, use a few drops of olive oil on a soft cloth, and buff into the steel. Use circular motions, and be gentle. Once you’ve finished, use a paper towel to wipe away any excess.
8. Chemicals to Avoid
As you likely already know, you should never use abrasive cloths, steel wool, or hard-bristled brushes on stainless steel, as this will cause scratches. Some chemicals to avoid include:
- Glass cleaner
- Products containing alcohol
- Products containing chlorine
If in doubt, spot test a cleaning product first, or consult the product manual.