Cleaning Stainless Steel

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As anyone who owns stainless steel appliances knows, “stainless steel” is not actually stainless. Cleaning stainless steel to remove those annoying fingerprints and smudges can be tricky.

Before cleaning stainless steel for the first time, it is important to read the owner’s manual. Some stainless steel products have a clear coat applied by the manufacturer to try to limit fingerprints and smudges. If your stainless steel has this coating, some cleaning products could damage or strip the coating away.

Cleaning Stainless Steel

Cleaning stainless steel can be as simple as wiping down the surface with warm, soapy water on a microfiber cloth every time you do the dishes. This is an easy habit to develop. Wipe once with water/dish soap solution, then rinse the cloth and wipe again to remove the soapy residue. Finish with a dry towel. Always wipe in the direction of the stainless steel “grain.” These are the brush marks on the surface of the stainless steel and they usually go in one direction, either horizontally or vertically. Start at the top and work your way down, or from the back and work your way forward.

For baked-on messes, use a nylon scrubber, which offers a bit of abrasion without damaging the surface, or a toothbrush. If you’ve got really stubborn, baked-on stains, a pated of baking soda and dish soap works wonders on cleaning stainless steel. Make a paste and work it into the stain with your nylon scrubber. Rinse with warm water and dry with a towel to prevent water spots or staining.

Buffing your stainless steel will restore its lustrous shine. To properly buff, you can apply a layer of cooking oil. Food-grade mineral or lemon oil works well. You could also use a stainless steel polish. A little goes a long way. Just a few drops of oil on a lint-free cloth will get the job done beautifully. Applying too much oil will make the surface tacky and cause issues in the future. Always buff in the direction of the grain and finish by removing excess oil with a dry towel.

Commercial Versus DIY Stainless Steel Cleaning

As you can see, cleaning stainless steel appliances is pretty simple once you determine if the appliances have a factory-applied clear coat finish or not, and you can use cleaners that many homeowners already have in their pantry: liquid dish soap, baking soda, and cooking oil. But what about commercially-available stainless steel cleaners?

There are also many non-abrasive cleaners and polishes you can use that are designed specifically for use on stainless steel and do a great job. When in doubt, test your stainless steel cleaner on a part of the appliance that is somewhat hidden, like the back or sides, before moving to the more visible areas.

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