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Picture of How to clean Stainless Steel Appliances
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If you own a stainless steel appliance, you know that it rarely ever lives up to its name. It is hardly ever stainless! I cannot seem to remember a time when finger print marks and water stains did not decorate the surfaces of my dishwasher, oven and refrigerator. Woe is stainless steel!

What adds insult to injury is the harsh chemical cleaning products that promise to return our stainless steel appliances to their showroom origins. With the hefty price tags of these cleaners, and their pestilential nature, why own anything stainless steel? Do we really want those adorable little toddler mouths and fingertips in contact with the cosmetically fragile contraptions, coated with chemical cleaners?

Here is a 'how to' on how to clean stainless steel appliances without harmful chemicals for a flawless finish!


 
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Step 1: Understanding the direction of the grain

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Just like wood, steel also has a grain. These are the very faint striations that can be found on the surface of your appliance. An entire sheet of steel will have the same direction grain. That said, an appliance will usually have other steel pieces attached, such as handles and knobs. These other pieces may have a different direction grain, so make sure you are aware of this.

Will your appliance be ruined if you do not clean in the direction of the grain? Nope. Nothing dramatic will happen! Only that If you wipe perpendicular to the grain, more cleaning residue (mixed with any grime already on the steel) may get deeper into the tiny little crevices of the grain. For optimal shininess, its best to go with the grain.

This rule applies to any cleaning agent you use on any piece of stainless steel.

Step 2: Gathering Supplies

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- 2 non-abrasive cleaning rags. I went with 100% cotton because it has almost absolutely no residual lint. However, in the past, I have used run-of-the-mill paper towels, which worked ok (they do leave some lint)

- Dish soap. Here I used "Dawn"

- Baby oil or any mineral oil

- stained steel
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harrisholt1 month ago
Help see dog nose smudge marks. Over the counter stainless steel cleaners made it worse.
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For organic dirt I use this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001339ZMW/ref=as...

This sponge use enzymes to break the organic stuff.

Than you can use baby oil or lubricant for stainless steel surfaces after that.

About the dog nose marks... My theory here is that something in the dog snot (salt maybe?) also removes oxidation on the stainless. In this case, you can try to polish the whole appliance, with Rejuvenate or some other type product that is safe for stainless. Another solution that I found early on in my research was olive oil. It covered the shiny spots up pretty well, and smoothed out the appearance of the appliance. Now, it didn't actually fix the uneven finish, that was still the same under the olive oil. But it was a quick fix to make it look even. When I washed the olive oil off with Dawn dish soap, my door was as uneven as ever. Given that your furry friend will likely always be putting nose to door, you'll need to figure out which solution will work. I would not want to have to polish up the whole door all the time, that was a chore. So olive oil might be a cosmetic solution you can life with. I hope this is some help to you. Please let me know if I can answer any further questions for you. They are only my opinion, but I'm glad to share.

Lynnebsmith9 months ago

Rebecca - I have the exact same problem. I used a professional stainless cleaner and it left a bright shiny patch (where the rag first made contact with the door). I called GE and they were no help at all - would not even answer basic questions, but would sell me a cleaning product. I'm hoping someone can explain exactly what happened and how to solve it. Is there a factory finish that was 'eaten' off by the cleaner? If so, is there a way to refinish it? Who would do this and how? I read this on one site regarding uneven streaks: "Leave the appliance as it is and over time oxidation will most likely return the steel to its original color." So is the shinier/lighter color caused by removal of oxidation? Is the solution just really to leave it be for a time? I see a lot of thoughtful recommendations by folks who have had luck cleaning their stainless, but I'd love for a professional to explain exactly what caused the shiner/lighter spots and how to solve. I'm worried about doing more permanent damage, so I've been too scared to try some of the suggestions. I've also been very surprised by the lack of information on this, as I've been searching for days.

How did you resolve this? I am in the same boat?

I'll leave two posts, one about my situation, and then my thoughts on the dog nose spots.... No pun intended, but my solution was 'hair of the dog that bit me'... After a ton more research, testing products on inconspicuous spaces, and more frustrating conversations, I finally got some resolution. My conclusion: stainless steel does oxidize over time, and some cleaners may leave 'build-up' that may not be noticeable. The cleaner that caused the shiny spots is called Rejuvenate Stainless Steel Foam. The MSDS on this product lists alcohol and also limonene (in the turpentine family). I believe that the cleaner stripped off all the oxidation and all previous cleaner build up. But it only did so in the places where the fresh cleaner was concentrated on the surface. So I ended up using more of that cleaner, and I painstakingly went over the whole refrigerator with heavy doses of the cleaner. I had also tested CitriSolve (which has limonene, but didn't work) and Wrights Silver Cream (which worked, but was just too much to do over the whole appliance).

Then, I washed the surface down with water and a bit of dawn dish soap to remove all of the oily residue left by the Rejuvenate. This left me with a fridge that was much shiner than the rest of my appliances. So I finished off with Weiman's Stainless Steel Cleaner. Which seems to work the best so far for regular cleaning. This brought the finish of the appliance back closest to what it was. It feels to me like it takes more effort to keep it streak free now, but at least I don't have permanent shiny spots. The worst part was just the lack of helpful info on the basic properties of Stainless Steel on the part of the refrigerator manufacture, the cleaning product company, Stainless Steel restorers (who wanted to sand down the surface - eeek!), and professional cleaning companies.

TheresaS61 month ago
I used olive oil on fridge and pam on dishwasher.. Worked great for both!
steinie441 year ago
When shopping for stainless steel appliances, take a magnet with you. If the magnet sticks to the appliance, don't buy it. It will be low quality and may rust.
This isn't entirely correct. If a fridge is magnetic it just means it has a thinner gauge stainless steel, it has nothing to do with the finish which is what really prevents tarnishing. That said more inexpensive fridges tend to have thinner stainless steel. This is better an indication of the quality of parts (which is what you should really be concerned about) but shouldn't discourage you from purchasing a certain fridge/brand.

Source: I sell appliances.

I bought a SS refrigerator about 10+ years. I love it - it is a freezer on bottom which I've always wanted but they were not easy to find & their price way out of my budget. Plus it has the french doors on top. It was reasonably priced too. But I realized right away nothing magnetic would stick to the front the refrigerator, the sides yes, & they are not shiny but black. I thought maybe it was just a "stainless look". But it gets smudgy & needs to be cleaned once a week at least.

I do not have baby oil or mineral oil in my home. I like the natural veg/nut oils.

I read on another site to just use a damp cloth over the stainless, then using 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a clean cloth wipe over refrigerator & buff to shine. Can reuse the oil rag again too. I might do both - one way on each side of french door & see what worked best. Similar to someone else who wrote about spraying a bit of pam after wiping with water. That sounded like a good idea too! Thanks to all - very informative!

Bullpoop, if the magnet sticks it is not stainless steel but just steel coated to make it look like stainless steel, stainless steel is a non ferrous metal and magnets should not stick to the surface, well pointed out steinie44.

You are incorrect. Just because it is non-ferrous does not it is a force field against all magnetism. You can still attach a magnet to it if the material behind it is magnetic. I currently work for a refrigerator manufacturer and the below picture is a magnet that is sticking to a panel that is 201 stainless steel.

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Yes i agree if there is a steel frame behind the magnet will stick, but in catering many fabricators use what is known in the trade as catering stainless steel which is really steel sheeting that is coated with a finish to make it look like stainless steel, as this is not a non-ferrous metal a magnet will stick to the surface.

But that has nothing to do with what I said. A magnet will stick to fake stainless and also some stainless appliances meaning the original claim is incorrect because using a magnet will not distinguish between the two.

Stainless steel is a non-ferrous metal and magnets will not stick to them, this is how people in the cleaning industry check to see if the catering equipment is stainless steel or just steel which is coated to make it look like stainless steel, again if cleaning stainless its best not to use traditional type stainless steel cleaners or baby oil as all you are doing is putting a false finish which is oily/greasy and will just attract dust and soils onto the surface.

I've always used a magnet in order to buy ss cookware because if it doesn't stick it means it's aluminum. I prefer steel.
Just so you know, standard stainless steel has very little magnetism. By standard, I mean 300 series (e.g. 18-8/304). 400 series stainless steel is either ferritic or martensitic, meaning it is (more) magnetic.
Not entirely. 316 SS (food grade) is generally non-magnetic however, sharp folds and long stretches can become magnetic. Try it on your kitchen sink.
ellgisme2 months ago
james.wortz.73 months ago
So my stainless refrigerator has stains from a decrotive bottle of tequila that had peppers in it .iv tried water andd soap stainless cleaner vinager and still stains remain any ideas on what to use now .

A golden rule, never use baby oil to clean stainless steel, this is just an old wives tale and will only leave a false oily/greasy finish behind which just attracts dust and soils.

boonzaier1 year ago
Vinegar works wonders!!!
BradI boonzaier7 months ago

I beg to differ. I just cleaned our stainless steel refrigerator with vinegar and it left a smoky look to it - nothing like the shiny look I was trying for.

Thats because vinegar is corrosive as it contains acetic acid, and should never be used to clean stainless steel or mirrors.

Baby oil or any mineral oil are the worst products to use for cleaning stainless steel, as they will just leave behind greasy/oily residues and just end up leaving a false finish behind. if you want to know how to clean stainless steel properly send me an email to info@jskcleaning.ie and i will be happy to forward you on a live video demonstration on how to clean stainless steel the right way.

Regards

Tadgh

fixappliances3 months ago

Nice tip! I also use mineral oil to buff my stainless steel countertops, and the appliances look great after a once-over, too.

slo5oh1 year ago
Bar Keepers Friend. IMHO the best stainless steel cleaner out there. Running strong since 1882 and still on the shelf.

I ruined some very good stainless steel cookware by cleaning them with Bar Keepers Friend. I surely would not try using it on any stainless product.

urbaneve4 months ago
The dawn trick worked great. But I recommend taking Windex first and cleaning the dirt and food particles then use the dawn and then I use wd40. (Of which I'm strange asbestos live the smell of)
hucane20005 months ago

Vinegar works great on Stainless Steel. I use to work for a appliance repair company and they sold all kinds of cleaners and polishes but nothing could beat vinegar. The citrus acid in the vinegar gets into the pores and removes all the dirt. Try it on gas ranges to remove the burn marks from the flames. It also works great on ss dishwashers. If you use to much soap and it looks like burn marks on the inside, wipe it with vinegar and watch it come clean, it is also good to run you dishwasher once a month with it to clean the inside and the hoses. Put it in the dispenser like you would the soap and let it run though a regular cleaning cycle without any dishes.

dsantil715 months ago
I love Bar Keepers Friend cleaner. It cleans Stainless Steel, porcelain, glass & more. Is less than $3 for a 26 oz bottle @ my Home Depot in GA. I suggest getting the liquid version in the bottle since it's also sold as dry powder too. You have to wet the powder anyway. It's been around since 1882. There's even an eBook on Amazon about, lol. It's made from rhubarbs, it contains oxalic acid. It may be natural but it is powerful so you still have to take precautions. I hated my porcelain sink until I got Bar Keepers Friend, lol. I think the lemon & baby oil r really good ideas for stainless steel appliances & cookware though. I will try it too!
diana.berker5 months ago

I tried chrome polish from the boat and it worked for oxidation stain not the whole frig

booka2326 months ago
Okay...my 7yo threw up on the kitchen floor night. My brand new ss fridge and stove were in the splash zone. I wiped it, but there are these little spots that I can't get to come off. Any ideas?
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Elguapous6 months ago
clorox wipes then pawn with paper towel. i cut my dog liking it!! Lol so next time baby oil.
dropkick1 year ago
I've been a professional cook/kitchen manager for many years. I've worked in many different kitchens and I've delt with a lot of stainless. I wash it with soapy water, dry it, and then spray it with a PAM style cooking spray and wipe it down.

I used to buy spray cans of "stainless cleaner" until one day I read the ingredients and saw that it was basically a can of aerosolized cooking oil. After that I just used the cheaper cooking spray.

I'm not worried about any fire danger, as the oil isn't being applied to a porous surface and so doesn't leave enough residue behind to create a danger.
(I still wouldn't tell any inspector about it, as over the years I've found several of them to be petty dictators, who often try to stretch their power into areas where they have no actual authority, and who's only true knowledge of the realities of running a kitchen and/or bar came from a two day class they attended in order to get the inspector's job. - I've also had many knowledgeable and good inspectors - but why take a chance?)
kbarb dropkick7 months ago

I was going to say the same thing about the fire danger.

I'm pretty sure if you polished the SS with any kind of oil, and held a match up to it, you'd be hard pressed to get the thing to light. There's just not enough left on the surface, and oils have very high flashpoints (temps at which they would light) anyway.

I had a hard enough time trying to get the brandy to light on my holiday pudding last night. It's not going to happen.

good

I had read on Pinterest that a home remedy to clean water drips from stainless appliances was to cut open a lemon & run it over the stain, clean it with warm soapy water, wipe dry. I have done this several times & it worked beautifully. I noticed several streaks on my refrigerator door that would NOT come off with warm soapy water or even a light rubbing of the lemon. It faded slightly. I decided to let the lemon sit a little longer, got distracted & didn't remember until the next day that I had not wiped it off. I could see the lemon residue still stuck on the door but saw NO STAINS underneath! Yes, it was gone...but when I wiped the door down with warm soapy water & dried. The door was discolored-- the area was lighter than the rest of the door. See the picture below!! Please HELP. The refrigerator is barely a year old & I can't afford to replace it. Is there anything I can use to bring it back to the original look? DESPERATE!

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The citric acid in the lemon oxidized your finish. Some SS products come that way. Thus, this would work well in some cases. You will essentially need to re-finish your SS. Not that big of a deal but you will need to use a professional scratch remover kit to remove the oxidation. Obviously you should be able to skip the higher grip steps (usually sand paper and move to the medium, lower then polish phases. The good part is, once you have done this and you do scratch the finish down the road, you will be a pro at removing them. PS that is why mineral oil is commonly used of these as it protects the finish fro oxidation.

Citric acid (lemon juice) should not harm stainless steel, even less diluted as it is in lemon juice. Some SS apliances have a coating to protect the metal. It also makes the surface of the metal to appear slightly darker. It looks like your fridge has that kind of coating, and the lemon (citric acid) has removed it. If this is the case, you will be able to notice the relief in the edge of the dark area.

If this is the case, i would try to remove it completely. It will take you few lemons, repeat the procedure you followed over the whole surface. The next day, all the surface should look even. Then you can try to follow the steps in this instructable to have a nice finish.

If it is not the case, and you are desperate, you can go take a more drastic approach: stainless steel can always be polished using abrasives. Scotch Brite pads work well for this purpose. Use it with long uniform strokes following the "grain" (which is not grain, as in wood, but this is another history) of the metal.

Good luck, let us know if it worked

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