How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances So They Sparkle

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Once you know how to clean stainless steel, those streaks, smudges, and stains will be ancient history.

Stainless steel appliances are a popular option for anyone looking to upgrade their kitchen. For starters, those gorgeous reflective surfaces catapult your room from ordinary to refined. Plus, stainless steel appliances go with every decor choice, from bold colors to retro finishes. No matter how many makeovers your kitchen may get over the years, these glimmering silver appliances will always fit right in—provided you know how to clean stainless steel.

The downside to stainless steel refrigerators, ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, and other appliances: They seem to attract every fingerprint and water stain within a three-mile radius. You’ll definitely earn your cleaning stripes trying to keep them shining; they deserve that spot on your cleaning schedule. But once you learn how to clean stainless steel, you can keep your appliances looking good as new.

How to clean stainless steel

First thing’s first: Read the appliance’s instruction manual. Most brands provide a list of safe ingredients to use for cleaning as well as any harmful ingredients to steer clear of so you don’t damage the appearance of your brand-new appliance or mistakenly use a flammable product.

Stainless steel is beloved as much for its beauty as it is for its durability, but its sparkling finish is delicate and prone to scratches, making abrasive cleansers enemy number one. Skip the bleach, chloride, chlorine, ammonia, and alcohol-based products as well as scouring powders and oven cleaners. Instead, stick with simple solutions to clean stainless steel.

When you’re using a cleaning product for the first time, do a spot test before using it liberally.

Best stainless steel cleaners

Stainless steel is easy to clean, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular. These cleaners will help you get the job done.

DIY stainless steel cleaners

It’s best to follow the cleaning recommendations for your specific appliance, but there are a few gentle DIY alternatives.

  • Baking soda: Sprinkle a bit of baking soda onto a damp cloth and lightly buff out any marks. Then use a second damp cloth to wipe away the powder residue.
  • Dish soap: Mix a few drops of a degreasing dish soap, like Dawn, into hot water. Wash the stainless steel with a microfiber cloth, rinse with hot water, and dry immediately with a fresh, dry cloth.
  • Vinegar: Pour distilled white vinegar into a spray bottle and spritz it onto the appliance. Wipe the vinegar off with a microfiber cloth or a paper towel.

How to get rid of streaks

As you clean, rub with the appliance’s grain, rather than against it. Wipe it dry in wide, left-to-right movements—similar to windshield wipers—to avoid streaks. Cleaning with distilled (not tap) water can also help, especially if your tap water runs hard.

To prevent streaks, avoid buffing in a repetitive, circular motion or against the steel’s natural grain. This can cause a streaky film.

Stainless Steel Refrigerator DoorLOOK Photography/Getty Images

How to preserve stainless steel

Stainless steel is durable, which makes the initial cost an investment worth every penny. Regular (at least weekly) wipe-downs with safe ingredients will keep stainless steel in tip-top shape and your kitchen looking clean.

Avoid letting any food spills harden and set in. Aside from looking messy, they get harder to remove the longer they sit. Worse, they can interfere with the appliance’s functionality and can potentially be a fire safety hazard on your stove top.

While stainless steel is overall resistant to rust, excess water and water spots should still be wiped away immediately to prevent prolonged contact. If rust does start to form, create a paste of baking soda and water, then scrub the soda solution onto the rust stain using a toothbrush.

How to shine stainless steel

To enhance stainless steel’s natural shine, you’ll need to use a commercial stainless steel cleaner and polish, like Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish. It contains a heavy dose of coconut oil for a glimmering, post-clean finish.

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