How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances: A Complete Guide
| Published September 20, 2023
Stainless steel appliances are designed to be almost-smudge proof, but this doesn’t make them immune to dirt or smudges.
Grime, stains, and especially fingerprints can still accumulate on your appliances. You still need to clean stainless steel appliances regularly.
However, how do you properly clean stainless steel without leaving a scratch on its protective coating?
Onix Cleaning Services has made this guide to show you how to properly clean stainless steel appliances without damaging them.
Understanding Stainless Steel Appliances
Stainless steel is ideal for any kitchen or bathroom surface. The material is called “stainless” because it can withstand heat and humidity.
However, the name is a misnomer because stainless steel appliances are still vulnerable to stains, grime, and oily fingerprints.
Introduction to Stainless Steel Appliances
Stainless steel is a popular coating for kitchen appliances because it resists corrosion from food spills and the rigors of high-paced cooking.
Unlike other metals like iron, a stainless steel surface doesn’t affect food or the air around it.
Stainless steel also has a high heat tolerance even when used for extended periods, plus it’s fairly easy to wipe clean afterward.
Common Problems Faced While Cleaning
However, for all their benefits, stainless steel appliances still have issues.
First, you need to eventually wipe the accumulated debris with a clean wet cloth. Stainless steel can become discolored if you don’t clean the mess quickly enough.
Next, stainless steel appliances can accumulate scratches from carelessness and by going against the direction of the grain when cleaning.
Importance of Regular Cleaning
Keeping your stainless steel appliances clean is part of routine maintenance.
Stainless steel isn’t impervious to rust or discoloration; too much of either will cause the material to lose its effectiveness.
A weakened exterior coating can leave your appliances vulnerable to disrepair. The life expectancy for most appliances is 15 years before you need to find a replacement.
However, if you are careless in your handling and negligent in your cleaning, its service life will drastically decrease.
What to Avoid When Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances
Although stainless steel surfaces are meant to be easily cleaned, not all products work effectively on them. They might leave streaks instead of removing grease.
Keep an eye out for these products;
Although steel wool is very effective against particularly stubborn stains, we don’t recommend using it. Steel wool will do the job but leave heavy scratches against stainless steel.
Other harsh abrasives (like scouring powders or bleach) are likely to damage the stainless steel, too.
Chlorine and chloride are other chemicals that can damage the sheen of stainless steel. Ammonia is another harsh chemical with similar effects.
Even tap water can damage stainless steel, as it can potentially leave water stains and spots on the surface of a stainless steel appliance.
Aside from using steel wool, ensure you’re aware of the direction of the grain on your stainless steel appliances: either vertical or horizontal. Going against the grain thoughtlessly will result in scratches along the surface.
After cleaning, do not allow dirty water or the cleaning solution to dry on the surface. This can discolor and dull the finish, leaving permanent stains.
Not every all-purpose cleaner is compatible with stainless steel due to its ingredients. So pay close attention to the listed ingredients.
Essential Supplies for Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances
Before you start cleaning your stainless steel appliances, gather the following supplies first;
List of Supplies
Before you can clean a stainless steel surface, you need the following everyday items for cleaning and personal safety;
- Rubber gloves: To protect your hands from chemicals and prevent fingerprint stains.
- Dish Soap: Dish soap is ideal for removing oil and grease.
- Warm water: Warm water to rinse any surfaces of germs and stains.
- Microfiber cloth: A clean microfiber cloth won’t scratch your stainless steel appliances as you clean.
- Dish sponge: For very tough stains.
- Baking soda(Sodium Bicarbonate): Baking soda is an extra-strength staple for cleaning tough stains and counteracting smells.
- Glass cleaner: Very effective at removing greasy fingerprints along any surface.
- White Vinegar: Vinegar is an acidic natural cleaner, but should be used in small, diluted amounts.
- Olive oil: Olive oil can be mixed with vinegar as a safe homemade cleaner.
Best Brands/ Choices
When selecting a stainless steel cleaner, we recommend you choose cleaners with essential oils. Although grease causes fingerprints, essential oils can buff smudges away.
Onix Cleaning Services recommends using the following commercial cleaning products and stainless steel appliance cleaners;
- Koala Eco Natural Glass Cleaner: The Koala Eco Natural Glass Cleaner has a peppermint oil base that can remove smudges.
- Weiman Products Stainless Steel Wipes: The Weiman Products Stainless Steel Wipes are wipes strong enough to remove thick grease.
- TriNova Premium Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish: TriNova Premium Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish is an effective cleaner against grime, especially when used on oven or dishwasher doors.
- Wright’s Silver Cleaner and Polish Cream: Wright’s Silver Cleaner and Polish Cream is ideal for cleaning the interiors of stainless steel appliances, like grills.
Preparatory Steps for Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances
Here’s how to make cleaning your stainless steel appliances easier.
Cleaning Supplies Preparation
When choosing the best cleaning products, learn how they interact with stainless steel.
White vinegar is excellent for removing stains, it is also acidic enough to corrode the surface.
Instead, we recommend mixtures of clean hot water and dish soap or commercial stainless steel cleaners for guaranteed safety and effectiveness.
Before any appliance application, be sure to read the manual of your stainless appliances.
Many stainless appliances are covered in a fingerprint-resistant finish, but they can still easily accumulate smudges, especially from oily fingerprints.
Lastly, remember to remove any items on top of the appliances, such as magnets on a stainless steel refrigerator.
How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances
Cleaning stainless steel appliances is quite simple. You only need patience and elbow grease.
The amount of time it takes to clean stainless steel depends on the size of your appliance. It will often take anywhere from 10-30 minutes.
First, wear rubber gloves and dampen a microfiber cloth in a cleaning solution. You want to cover the stainless steel surface with a wet finish to help the dish soap cut through stains more effectively.
Next, dampen a second microfiber cloth and a few drops of dish soap. Gently wipe down the appliance to remove stains.
Reapply the warm water and dish soap mix, depending on your appliance’s surface area. When cleaning stainless steel appliances, remember to follow the direction of the grain.
Get a cleaning agent and spray directly onto the appliance, then wipe in a circular motion in the same direction as the grain. This allows you to better detect water spots and smudges.
Afterward, rinse the entire surface of the appliance. You need two things for a complete rinse: Knowing how much dish soap to use and a damp microfiber cloth.
Use a soft or dry cloth to gently wipe the appliance and remove leftover stains. Remember to rinse your damp cloth with clear water to remove any remaining suds.
You’ll know you are done when you see no suds, only a wet finish. Finally, dry your stainless steel appliance with a clean microfiber cloth or soft cloth and leave it to air dry.
Cleaning Specific Stainless Steel Appliances
Stainless steel kitchen appliances may have different methods of getting clean, but each method works with a cleaning solution and cloth.
Here’s how to clean specific appliances.
Cleaning Stainless Steel Refrigerators
A stainless steel refrigerator follows the typical method of cleaning stainless steel. After all, the appliance has a stainless steel exterior.
When cleaning a stainless steel refrigerator, towel dry the appliance instead of air drying to avoid leaving a mess on the floor.
Cleaning Stainless Steel Ovens
Here’s how to clean a stainless steel oven:
First, remove the racks and wash them. You can leave them to dry in the sink.
Then, you clean the interior. Expect heavy to mild amounts of debris, depending on how often you use your oven.
Mix a half cup of baking soda with three tablespoons of water to form a paste, and spread it over the interior for 20 minutes before scrubbing.
Spray everything with vinegar or lemon juice before wiping it with a cloth.
Some odors may linger, so we recommend pre-heating a mixture of one inch of water with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to eliminate the smell.
Lastly, scrub the exterior with a cleaner and a non-abrasive sponge, especially the oven window. Gently clean around the burners for glass electric stovetops.
Cleaning Stainless Steel Dishwashers
A stainless steel dishwasher and larger appliances, such as a sink, can be cleaned with flour.
First, wash the debris off all surfaces, then disinfect it with your choice of solution.
Next, apply the cleaning solution to the whole appliance to remove any leftover buildup or stains. (NOTE: Use a non-abrasive sponge for this step.)
Then dry the appliances using a clean cloth or a paper towel roll.
Cover the appliance with a quarter-cup of flour mixed with some solution, then buff the surface in circular motions. Keep applying the solution as you wipe the surface.
You can also use wax paper instead of cloth to further dry the appliance. This is good for cleaning small spots without leaving fingerprints behind.
Remember to clean the dishwasher’s door. Remove the excess flour, and you are finished.
Cleaning Stainless Steel Microwaves
To clean a stainless steel microwave, you need to be able to clean three areas: interior, exterior, and turntable. Prepare your choice of cleaning solution and apply it to a clean cloth.
For the interior, we recommend heating a cup of water with a teaspoon of vinegar for a few minutes. The resulting steam will loosen up the grime inside.
Afterward, wipe the interior with a damp cloth before rinsing and drying the interior.
Either unplug or set the control lock for the exterior to prevent accidental activations. Then wipe and rinse with a homemade cleaning agent before drying.
Wash the turntable in the sink or dishwasher with a sponge. Return it once it is dry.
NOTE: Ensure the turntable is dishwasher safe by checking the appliance’s manual.
DIY Solutions for Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances
A home remedy for cleaning can save you time and money. Here are some effective cleaning solutions.
1. Using Vinegar
Although it is acidic enough to damage stainless steel, white vinegar (once diluted with lemon juice and tap water) can make an effective stainless steel cleaner.
Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and water with a few drops of essential oils or lemon juice for the smell.
The typical method still applies with this DIY solution with some baking soda for deeper cleaning.
However, apply another layer of dish soap on your now-clean stainless steel using a clean cloth. This extra layer of soap keeps your appliances free from acidic residue, protecting its surface.
2. Using Baking Soda
Baking soda is an effective cleaner against burned or caked-on spots on your stainless steel pots and pans.
Here’s how to create a cleaning agent with baking soda:
- First, mix a tablespoon of baking soda and water each.
- Mix until a paste forms for you to apply to stains.
- Let the paste sit for 20 minutes.
- Damp a clean cloth with water and dish soap.
- Scrub in the direction of the grain.
- Give it a complete rinse with warm water and dry.
3. Other Home Remedies
Most methods for cleaning a stainless steel surface can be boiled down into; wipe with a clean cloth and then dry immediately with a soft cloth.
This typical method applies as you use other homemade recipes to clean stainless steel surfaces, such as with the classic baby oil and dish soap combination.
Mix one teaspoon of dish liquid with a quart of water. Dampen a microfiber cloth with this mixture, and using a circular motion, wipe it onto the surface of your appliances.
Mix one teaspoon of dish soap with a quart of water. Dampen another cloth to wipe away leftover residue and apply baby oil as a sealant.
You can also use club soda as a cleaner when in doubt. Club soda is effective because its carbonation and slightly acidic properties can remove stains.
Prevention and Maintenance Tips for Stainless Steel Appliances
Proper maintenance is the best way to keep your stainless steel appliances clean and functional.
Otherwise, you risk damage, discoloration, and corrosion in some cases. Some methods for proper maintenance include;
General Maintenance Habits
Buff the stainless steel surface with olive oil on a dry cloth in the direction of the grain. This will keep your appliance’s surfaces shiny and fingerprint-free.
A commercial polishing paste is another way to ensure your stainless steel surface stays clean. The paste provides a protective waxy layer, which lasts for months and is easy to clean.
However, this wax is only meant for the surface of decorative ornaments, not cooking ware.
You can use your microfiber cloth to find the direction of the grain. You feel the surface vertically and horizontally for how the grain is placed.
When you feel resistance in a certain direction, the inverse should be the direction of the grain for that stainless steel appliance.
Dealing with Stains/ Marks/ Scratches
Most stains are easy to wipe with warm water and dish soap, but when dealing with particularly stubborn stains, we recommend using a gentle scrubbing sponge with dish soap and water.
Another method against tough stains is to soak the spot in dish soap and hot water to soften the debris. Then, you can gently wipe it away.
You can also sprinkle baking soda over stains with vinegar in small amounts. Club soda is another effective stainless steel cleaner; simply put it into a spray bottle and spritz.
We recommend sealing with olive oil to prevent water spots and hard water stains. Olive oil can add a protective anti-smudge coat over your appliances.
Simply add the olive oil to a clean microfiber cloth and wipe it in the same direction as the grain. This will add shine to the appliance once you are finished.
If you do not have any olive oil, mineral oil can be a viable substitute.
Frequently Asked Questions
You may still have questions regarding how to clean a stainless steel appliance. Here’s some more info to keep your kitchen appliances clean.
Can I Use Windex on Stainless Steel Appliances?
Do not use Windex or any other window cleaner on stainless steel appliances. Windex’s main component is ammonia, which can easily corrode stainless steel.
Although you can get ammonia-free Windex, stainless steel can react unpredictably to different kinds of cleaners.
How Do I Clean Stainless Steel Appliances Without Leaving Streaks?
You can clean stainless steel appliances with a steam cleaner, an appliance that cleans and uses steam to immediately sanitize and dry stubborn spots of dirt.
Thanks to its nozzle attachment, a steam cleaner can clean a stainless steel surface without leaving streaks. Remember to clean in vertical lines to avoid leaving streaks.
However, remember to avoid using your steam cleaner’s brush attachment; it could scratch the appliance’s surface.
Can Vinegar Damage Stainless Steel Appliances?
Yes, vinegar is acidic enough to remove most grime, but it can corrode and damage stainless steel appliances.
That’s why it’s important to dilute vinegar with either water or olive oil before applying it to an appliance with a soft cloth.
However, if you use it for removing water stains, remember to use a damp microfiber cloth or paper towel in the direction of the grain, or you risk scratching the surface more.
What Is the Best Cleaner for Stainless Steel Appliances?
A home remedy would be the best stainless steel cleaner for appliances. Homemade cleaning agents will ensure your stainless steel surface is clean, and can save you money.
A more natural recipe will also leave a better smell on stainless steel surfaces than some commercial products.
How Often Should I Clean My Stainless Steel Appliances?
In our experience, we recommend cleaning stainless steel appliances whenever they get smudged or at least once a week.
Regularly cleaning your stainless steel appliances will prevent them from accumulating stains and grime, ensuring they last longer.
Everything from a stainless steel refrigerator to the smallest appliance needs regular cleaning and maintenance.
Stainless steel may be very durable, but it can still accumulate scratches and grime.
Keep your stainless steel clean with the methods and products above, and remember to clean them regularly.