7 Cleaning Methods To Clean Stainless Steel

person wiping down stainless steel sink with yellow sponge

To clean stainless steel, spray a vinegar and water mix onto the stain, gently wipe with a soft cloth or sponge, rinse, and hand-dry. For extra shine and protection, apply a small amount of olive oil evenly to the appliance.

There's no better feeling than adding a new, shiny, sleek stainless steel appliance to your home.

While the distinct look of stainless steel appliances has only added to their popularity over the years, knowing how to clean them properly is key to maintaining that brilliant, just-like-new shine for years to come. To achieve this, it’s best to skip harsh, store-bought chemicals and opt for a homemade, natural stainless steel cleaner instead. Here, we break down how to clean your stainless steel appliances step by step and offer seven different methods to keep appliances like pots, pans, tumblers, and other stainless steel objects looking shiny and new.

How To Clean Stainless Steel in 5 Simple Steps

The five steps for cleaning stainless steel

You can clean stainless steel naturally with various nonabrasive techniques like microfiber cloths, sponges, and cleaning solutions like baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, mild soaps, and more. To get your appliances looking their best, follow these steps to learn how to clean stainless steel using everyday household items and non-toxic alternatives.

Materials you will need:

  • Spray bottle
  • Three soft cloths (regular or microfiber)
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • Natural dish soap (like Dawn or Dr. Bronner’s)
  • Olive oil
  • Baking soda
  • Soft brushes
  • Stainless steel-friendly cleaners (like Therapy Clean)

You don't need to use every one of these cleaning supplies to clean your stainless steel appliances — just use the ones that suit your needs and preferences.

1. Prepare To Clean

If your stainless steel appliances come with an owner's manual, get familiar with the section on how to care for your appliance. The owner's manual generally includes special cleaning instructions tailored to your appliance, which will help you avoid accidentally exposing the material to harsh cleaning agents.

2. Clear and Wet Surfaces

Remove any magnets, stickers, or decorations from your stainless steel appliances, such as stoves and refrigerators, to avoid causing damage. Then, use a moist cloth—ideally microfiber because the fibers won't scratch your stainless steel appliances—to wipe down the surface. Wet the surfaces to soften and loosen any dried stains or residue to ensure a thorough cleaning.

3. Address Stains

Next, you'll want to address any soiling or stains. To do so:

  • Wet the surface and let the water soak in.
  • Apply your preferred cleaning solution (baking soda, detergent, vinegar, lemon, etc.)
  • Begin wiping the area with the cloth in the direction of the stain. For example, if the stain goes down the pan, work the fabric down the pan in a circular motion to remove it.
  • Avoid scrubbing too hard or too long to prevent scratches. For tough stains, soak the pan for about half an hour in a solution of one part water to one part cleaning solution.

4. Rinse and Wipe Down Surfaces

After addressing stains, rinse off your appliance thoroughly to prevent soap residue from lingering. Wipe the excess water with a damp microfiber cloth to preserve your appliance's sleek shine and give it a polished finish.

5. Dry Surfaces

After rinsing and wiping down surfaces, take a dry microfiber cloth and hand-dry your stainless steel appliance instead of letting it air-dry. Doing so will prevent water spots from appearing once it dries. Carefully dry your appliance from front to back and pay close attention to rims and edges to avoid water collecting in these tight areas. Following these methods will mitigate wear and tear from elements like hard water and extend the lifespan of your appliances.

7 Best Stainless Steel Cleaning Methods

The seven best ways to clean stainless steel appliances

There are numerous ways to extend your appliance's lifespan and keep its flawless shine, from microfiber cloths to cost-effective household cleaning supplies. Learn how to clean stainless steel with these seven best cleaning techniques, whether you're dealing with fingerprints and stubborn stains or looking for natural ways to clean your refrigerator or cookware.

1. Olive Oil and Vinegar

Vinegar is all-natural, non-abrasive, and acts as an effective sanitizer. The acidity in vinegar helps break down stains and grime, while olive oil adds a protective layer against acidity and smudging. Combining these two substances delivers a premium cleaning agent that adds a brilliant shine and prolongs your appliance's appearance.

To clean your stainless steel appliance using olive oil and vinegar, try the following:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water.
  2. Spray the mixture onto the appliance.
  3. Add a small amount of olive oil onto a dry microfiber cloth.
  4. Polish the appliance in the direction of the grain.
  5. Wipe away any leftover residue.

If you try this method, avoid rinsing off the olive oil and vinegar down the drain since oil can clog your drain pipes over time.

2. Dish Soap and Baby Oil

You can combine dish soap and baby oil to restore your appliance's luster. Products like Dawn dish detergent are effective at removing grime, while baby oil works as a sealant with the detergent or on its own to add shine and prevent scuffing.

To clean your stainless steel appliance using dish soap and baby oil, try the following:

  1. Mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water to make a soapy solution.
  2. Use a soft cloth to remove the stains, working in circular motions.
  3. Rinse off the soap and hand dry the appliance with a clean cloth.
  4. Add a small amount of baby oil onto a dry cloth and gently coat the appliance for a shiny look.

3. Club Soda

Club soda is a unique method for cleaning stainless steel due to its carbonation. The bubbles and acidity in the club soda work to gently loosen and remove stains and leave a polished look. This method is cost-effective and quick for those with busy lifestyles who want to avoid chemical cleaning agents.

To clean your stainless steel appliance using club soda, try the following:

  1. Pour a small amount of club soda onto a soft cloth.
  2. Gently and evenly rub the stain in the direction of the grain.
  3. Work in small circular motions to remove the stain.

Allow stubborn stains to soak in the club soda for a few minutes.

4. Steam

Surprisingly, steam cleaning has proven to be an effective stainless steel cleaning technique alongside traditional methods. The high temperature of the steamer not only breaks down stains but also coats the appliance more evenly for a chemical-free shine.

To clean your stainless steel appliance using steam, try the following:

  1. Fill your steamer with water and turn it on.
  2. Apply steam directly onto the appliance to soak the stain.
  3. Use a dry cloth and gently rub the stain in the direction of the grain.
  4. Continue to work in small circular motions until the stain is removed.

5. Baking Soda

Baking soda has many uses, including acting as a natural and cost-effective cleaning agent. Baking soda contains tiny particles abrasive enough to remove stains yet gentle enough to prevent scratching and restore shine to stainless steel.

To clean your stainless steel appliance using baking soda, try the following:

  1. Mix a small amount of baking soda and water into a paste.
  2. Apply the paste to the stained area until it's evenly covered.
  3. Soak the stain in the baking soda for a few minutes.
  4. Gently rub the paste in the direction of the grain with a soft cloth.
  5. Rinse the appliance and gently dry it with a microfiber cloth.

6. Powder Cleanser

Like baking soda, powder cleansers are abrasive yet gentle enough to clean appliances without damaging them. The powders break down and lift stubborn stains for a brighter-looking appliance. Not all powder cleansers are safe for stainless steel, so check the ingredients or reviews before purchasing.

To clean your stainless steel appliance using powder cleanser, try the following:

  1. Sprinkle a small amount of powder cleanser on the stain.
  2. Work the powder into the stain with a damp cloth or sponge.
  3. Gently rub in the direction of the grain. Do not rub too hard since the powder should easily lift the stain.
  4. Rinse the surface off with water and hand dry with a clean cloth.

7. Stainless Steel Cleaner

If natural household products aren't doing the trick, opt for store-bought products designed to keep stainless steel appliances clean, polished, and protected. Some stainless steel cleaners have harsh chemicals that can break down your appliances over time, so always read the label and aim for ones with gentler ingredients, like the brand Therapy Clean.

To clean your appliance using a stainless steel cleaner, try the following:

  1. Spray the solution directly onto the appliance or on a damp cloth.
  2. Coat the stain evenly and gently wipe in the direction of the grain.
  3. Wipe away the solution with a dry cloth.

Quick Tips for Keeping Stainless Steel Clean

Before cleaning your stainless steel, keep the following precautions in mind:

  • Follow the grain's direction: Follow the grain instead of working in the opposite direction of your appliance to avoid scratching the metal.
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners: Avoid using abrasive cleaners like calcium carbonate, commonly found in scouring powders or pads. Instead, try natural solutions like baking soda.
  • Protect against fingerprints: Fingers have oils that smudge your appliances. Use olive oil as a sealant to protect against fingerprints.
  • Invest in polishing paste: Invest in a polishing paste formulated to clean and restore stainless steel. Double-check the ingredients to ensure they are free of harmful chemicals like ammonia or denatured alcohol.
  • Don’t reuse an empty cleaning bottle: If you don’t already have vinegar in a spray bottle, you’ll need to buy one specifically for this purpose. Vinegar is an acid, and mixing it with unknown chemical cleaners could be dangerous.
  • Don’t forget to label the spray bottle: Make a quick note in a permanent marker to ensure no one mistakes the vinegar mixture for plain water.
  • Never use steel wool or scouring pads: No matter how grimy your appliances are, these abrasive cleaning products will only worsen things by leaving scratches behind.

Following these quick tips will enhance your cleaning routine and improve preventative maintenance for your kitchen appliances to ensure they last for many years.

Keep All Your Stainless Steel Appliances Working Efficiently

Learning how to clean stainless steel appliances will keep them beautiful on the outside, but they must also work well on the inside for the best performance and long-term use. Trust your local Mr. Appliance® for kitchen appliance maintenance and repair. We are a leading home appliance repair franchise with locations across North America, specializing in appliance repair and maintenance.

Contact us today to schedule the services you need.

This article is intended for general guidance only and may not apply to every situation. You are responsible for determining the proper course of action for your property and your situation. Mr. Appliance is not responsible for any damages that occur as a result of any advice or guidance derived from blog content. For the most accurate guidance, contact an independently owned and operated Mr. Appliance business for a professional custom and on-site assessment.