Instructables
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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lortaud17 days ago

We have lived in our home for three years and this is the first remedy for streaks that has worked on our stainless steel appliances. I previously used Greenworks glass cleaner and Pledge multi-surface cleaner but they both still left streaks. I also used Method stainless steel polish but it still left streaks. Thanks for the tip!

Lynnebsmith28 days 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.

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!

IMG_20140922_081234438.jpg

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!

IMG_20140922_081234438.jpg
Windycity0002 months ago

I have been using a product called Steel Meister which is located in the appliance department at Home Depot. Sometimes hard to find, but this has changed my approach to stainless. A little more expensive then magic, but delivers on the performance! I now use it on all my faucets, outside bbq (not a food safe product) and all appliances. I love my home again!!!

tennis1722 months ago

I have a stainless steel dishwasher. There are streaks running against the grain all the way down the front of it. I've tried ss cleaners, windex, soap and water, etc. Nothing is helping. I have no idea what actually caused the streaks. Any suggestions about how to proceed?

Pledge works for me.

Rdownunda9 months ago
Do what we do at my workshop. Use glass cleaner, that's right, the same stuff you clean your car windows with. No streaks, no fuss and leaves it shiny.
thecapper11 months ago
If you really want a one-step solution, I have found Citrushine to be the best commercial cleaner. I got mine from Amazon based on the favorable reviews. It smells "lemony-orangey" kind of like Goo Gone. It does say to "keep out of reach of children", so I would keep the kids away from it while it's wet. I don't have little ones, and love the convenience.
Awesome oven/range shown in the first pic, BTW!
Tampaguy11 months ago
Excellent presentation. I will be giving it a try later today.

One note - seems to me that I once read that using "WD40" on a cloth would also do a great job. I'll try your way first, then the WD40 - I'm lazy, so I'll see which is easier...
charlie Tampaguy11 months ago
At the very least, WD40 would leave a faint smell of kerosene behind. That may or may not be a problem for you. I prefer microfiber to cotton for stainless steel use.
nrobinson3 charlie11 months ago
Wd40 no longer contains kerosene, lets refer to it as WD41...
charlie nrobinson311 months ago
Interesting. Didn't know that! It still retains the smell though, doesn't it?
Tampaguy charlie11 months ago
@charlie - I am VERY familiar with the odor of KEROSENE. That is NOT what you smell. Granted, it IS some sort of petrochemical.

Yes, there is an odor left by it, but it seems to diffuse overnight, and does an excellent job. I just used a quality brand of paper towel, and it came out very well.

As they say, "There's more than one way to skin a cat". - Let me assure you, I have never skinned a cat, nor do I intend to.
TossManual11 months ago
I've heard olive oil is also good for this. Any +/- from the peanut gallery?
I would avoid olive oil as it can spoil. Last thing you'd want is your fridge to start smelling.
ClareBS11 months ago
Great Instructable, thanks. I had thought I'd replace my white fridge with a stainless when the time comes but with a stainless stove, dishwasher and microwave I think I'll stick to a white fridge. At least I can more easily keep the other stainless appliances clean now.
I don't think, once dry and evaporated, baby oil would be flammable.
Some companies offer a smudge proof stainless (Frigidaire offers this in their Gallery and Professional lines) that prevents smudges as the name implies. I sell them and the smudge proof stuff makes worlds of difference as far as keeping them fingerprint free.
steinie4411 months 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'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.
desw2011 months ago
baby oil or any other oil should not be used to polish stainless steel, especially on cooking appliances as it is flammable. used to use it in an elevator to polish SS until a fire Marshall told use it was a fire hazard.
beefsupreme desw2011 months ago
I was under the impression there would be a magnetic metal surface underneath the stainless sheet metal specifically so that using refrigerator magnets would be possible. Is that crazy?
Whether your fridge is magnetic depends on the thickness of the stainless steel. More expensive fridges tend to have thicker gauge stainless and are less likely to be able to take magnets.
Some stainless has a surface that is magnetic but don't use it! I ruined the front of a Thermador Fridge with little word magnets that caused a chemical reaction (little rust spots) and had to be cleaned by a professional.
jjoefish7411 months ago
it is cheaper to use rubbing alcohol and mineral oil, and you get the same results. or even window cleaner,( it has alcohol and ammonia) and mineral oil.
Never use Windex on stainless steel! It will destroy the finish. I sell appliances and have dealt with people who ruined their shiny new appliances this way.
treyrak42011 months ago
The stainless steel used on many grills and many other appliances seems to be far from what it use to be 10 or so years ago when SS grills were very expensive and for professionals or upper class but I live on a coastal island and after buying over 200 outdoor grills over the years found that as recycling increased the price went down as did the quality unless it specifies that it is constructed of a certain grade , China seems to be the largest source of poor grade SS , but I have thrown away a grill or two w/bad surface rust and seen people clean up the nicer ones to almost like new. I was like NICE
theverastig11 months ago
Excellent Very Helpful
slo5oh11 months ago
Bar Keepers Friend. IMHO the best stainless steel cleaner out there. Running strong since 1882 and still on the shelf.
hammer987611 months ago
But wouldn't anything oily (baby oil, mineral oil, WD40 (or WD41), lemon polish, etc. leave an oily finish which in turn would show fingerprints very easily? Not to mention glob onto any dust particles in the air. Not to mention the fire hazard. I would think you would want something that is not oily, like a water/vinegar solution.
Sequimania11 months ago
I'm going downstairs to try this right now.
sparkleponytx11 months ago
Nice! My mother used to have a house cleaning service. She used to finish off all her metal surfaces -- stove, sink, fridge and even the bathroom shower and sink faucets with lemon oil. It gave the metal a nice glean and protection from waterspots.
Mmmmmmm! I love lemon oil!
bgcyclist11 months ago
I use mineral oil instead of baby oil. No smell and less expensive. This is how I polish y stainless steel sink. Makes it really shine.
boonzaier11 months ago
Vinegar works wonders!!!
dropkick11 months 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?)
mmorales2911 months ago
Accidentally Flag sorry
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