How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

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Brand new stainless steel appliances look great in the kitchen or throughout the home. However, by the end of the week, they’ve usually succumbed to fingerprints, grease, grime, spillage, and accidents involving food or beverages. Fortunately, once you know a few of the dos and don’ts, cleaning stainless steel appliances is relatively easy.

Dos

  • Use microfiber cloths. Microfiber cloths don’t leave scratches and absorb most of the surface moisture.
  • Test the cleaning product on an inconspicuous part of the appliance first to make sure the product doesn’t damage the appliance.
  • Use a little elbow grease to remove stubborn stains.
  • Consult the appliance’s cleaning instructions in the manual or on the manufacturer’s website.

Don’ts

  • Don’t use abrasive scrubbing pads, steel wool cleaners, steel brushes, bleach, ammonia, or scouring powders when cleaning a stainless steel appliance.
  • Don’t clean in a circular motion or against the grain of the appliance.
  • Don’t leave the appliance to air dry after cleaning it. Drying it with a microfiber cloth or towel minimizes streaks and prevents stains.

How to clean a stainless steel appliance

Stainless steel appliances should be cleaned in the direction of the grain to avoid leaving streaks and to provide the surface with a better shine. If you’re wondering where the grain is, it either runs horizontally or vertically. If you can’t see it, you should be able to feel it with your fingers. Be aware that if the appliance has knobs, door handles, or additional panels, the grain may run in a different direction on those surfaces.

When cleaning a stainless steel appliance, various cleaning products (listed below) can be used. If you don’t have any cleaning products, warm water can be used although a stainless steel appliance cleaner from the manufacturer should provide the best results. Cleaning products that you shouldn’t use are listed above.

What products can you use to clean a stainless steel appliance?

Dish Soap and Warm Water

Most of the time, a teaspoon of dish soap mixed with a quart of water is all you need to clean stainless steel appliances. After cleaning the appliance, wipe it again with a cloth and hot water to complete the cleaning process. Once the appliance has been cleaned, dry it with a clean, dry microfiber cloth or towel to avoid leaving stains and streaks.

Commercial Stainless Steel Cleaner

For best results, a stainless steel cleaner can be purchased from a store,  an appliance parts website, or possibly from the manufacturer. Stainless steel appliances also often come with a cleaning solution when the appliance is purchased. While dish soap and water will do the job, a cleaning solution supplied by the appliance manufacturer will have been specially designed to provide the best results without damaging the appliance. Cleaning solutions come with instructions for you to follow.

Glass Window Cleaner

Window cleaner is particularly good at removing fingerprints from stainless steel appliances and can be used to clean the entire surface. However, make sure the window cleaner is free of ammonia or vinegar. It’s best to spray a microfiber cloth with window cleaner and then wiping the appliance as directly spraying the appliance can cause unnecessary drip marks and splatter residue. After cleaning the appliance with a window cleaner, dry the surface with a clean, dry microfiber cloth or towel. Make sure to wipe in the direction of the grain.

Mineral Oil

Like window cleaner, mineral oil is effective for removing fingerprints and can be used to clean a stainless steel appliance. However, food-based oils, such as olive and vegetable oils, should generally be avoided or at least tested before use as they can leave an unpleasant smell and may damage the surface. If using mineral oil, apply it to a microfiber cloth and wipe in the direction of the grain. Then, dry with a clean microfiber cloth or towel.

Lemon Oil Furniture Polish

While lemon oil furniture polish is designed for cleaning wooden surfaces, it can also be used on stainless steel appliances. It has been shown to provide a great shine with a pleasant smell. If you’re using lemon oil furniture polish, put the polish on a microfiber cloth and then wipe in the direction of the grain. Dry with a clean microfiber cloth or towel when you’ve finished cleaning.

WD-40

Another product not often associated with cleaning stainless steel appliances is a product like WD-40, which is designed for protecting metal from rust and corrosion. However, WD-40 is a petroleum-based product, so it’s best to avoid it when cleaning on or around surfaces where food is handled. WD-40 should be sprayed onto a microfiber cloth rather than the appliance itself to avoid unnecessary drip marks or splatter residue. After cleaning the appliance, dry it with a clean microfiber cloth or towel. Make sure to clean and dry in the direction of the grain.

Warm Water

If you don’t have access to any cleaning products, simply using warm water to clean the appliance often does the job. Make sure to dry the appliance with a clean microfiber cloth or towel, and remember to clean and dry in the direction of the grain.

Can I use vinegar to clean a stainless steel appliance?

While vinegar can be used to clean stainless steel sinks and some cookware, stainless steel appliances tend to have a more delicate finish that can be damaged by mildly abrasive or acidic cleaners, like vinegar. Therefore, we don’t recommend using vinegar to clean stainless steel appliance surfaces.

How to make stainless steel appliances shine

If you want to bring out the shine in your stainless steel appliance, a commercial stainless steel cleaner is most likely to achieve the results you’re looking for. An added bonus is that such products often include a protectant to help repel fingerprints and other stains, which means they won’t have to be cleaned as often.

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