Introduction: How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

Picture of How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

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!

Step 1: Understanding the Direction of the Grain

Picture of Understanding the Direction of the Grain

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

Picture of Gathering Supplies

- 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

Step 3: Cleaning

Picture of Cleaning

Mild and quite loveable, dishsoap is amazing in fighting grime off dishes...and appliances! Who knew? This step will clean excess oils off the steel, and make polishing much more enjoyable!

Apply a small amount to your cleaning rag. Rinse with a small amount of water, just enough to make your rag damp

Wipe along the grain line of your appliance. For extra stubborn fingerprints, you may need to go over the area a few times.

When thoroughly finished cleaning an area, dry any water marks with a dry towel.

Step 4: Polishing

Picture of Polishing

This is the rewarding part.

Put a *small* amount of mineral oil or baby oil on your second rag. Really, a couple of drops will be more than sufficient!

Similar to cleaning, follow the grain of your steel, and move in either direction.

Polishing the steel in this way will give you optimal results.

Step 5: You're Done!

Picture of You're Done!

Your stainless steel is once again stainless!

Your rag, on the other hand, needs to be tossed in the washer


Step 6:


hjg77 (author)2017-11-02

I have spots on my stainless steel frig door. Just looks different in areas, not stains. I had house cleaners that started cleaning my house in March. These spots have come in the last two cleanings. I have no idea how to get it looking right again or if it can. They are using an echo friendly cleaner.

tadgh.oshea.10 (author)2015-11-05

For anyone that is interested the below links show the safest & most effective method for Deep Cleaning & Maintaining Stainless Steel Surfaces

Instructional Video's

Deep Cleaning of Stainless Steel

Deep Cleaning of Stainless Steel Base

escapist (author)tadgh.oshea.102015-12-26

"Videos", not "Video's"

Gremxulu (author)escapist2016-01-13

He is refering to the tutorial of those videos ..Hence >> Video's Tutorial

drizzy77 (author)Gremxulu2016-08-13

escapist is correct. There is really no correct use for the term "video's" except in the possessive or intrinsic sense, and I can't think of an example where a video would possess anything, unless you're describing the "effect" of the video on your emotion, etc.. (e.g., "the video's depth captured my imagination").

In the example above, tadgh.oshea.10 improperly used an apostrophe to denote the plural "videos." Gremxulu further muddled the conversation with something that makes no sense.

dspathaky (author)drizzy772017-05-19

Jeepers, grammar's own police!

tadgh.oshea.10 (author)dspathaky2017-05-21

Exactly my thoughts as grammar has SFA to do with cleaning stainless steel properly.

drizzy77 (author)tadgh.oshea.102017-05-21

Nor was it implied that grammar has anything to do with cleaning stainless steel. If you can't navigate simple English, best to say nothing. Besides, Tadgh Oshea is a shill for JSK cleaning products and should disclaim that fact on every comment. A lengthy conversation on this, below.

tadgh.oshea.10 (author)drizzy772017-05-21

Well your method of cleaning stainless steel is completely wrong as it will only end up actually leaving a greasy/oily film which is proven when people make the mistake of using any type of oil after they have initially cleaned the stainless steel surface.

If you want to see and hear how stainless steel appliances can be cleaned properly just go and clink on the links i Tadgh O Shea from Jsk eco cleaning solutions was happy to share with everyone.

No one is saying you have to use the products from Jsk eco cleaning solutions as if you listen and watch the video's the method and the products used are mentioned and anyone can go to their local Jan San supplier purchase these same products use the method we have developed and have been happy to share with everyone under no obligation.

And guess what then you also can clean stainless steel properly.

And just to share more information for anyone who uses any type of oil after they have initially cleaned the stainless, oils will just end up leaving a false cleaned finish on the surface which will just end up attracting dust and show up fingerprints more easily.

Always remember if a surface is deemed to be clean there should be no SSR's (Streaks,Smears,Residues,) left behind, so any type of oils used on stainless steel will just end up leaving SSR's behind therefore the stainless steel won't be deemed to be clean.

Happy to share and full name provided.

Tadgh O Shea

tadgh.oshea.10 (author)drizzy772016-08-13

I have never found a traditional type stainless steel cleaner that will actually clean stainless steel surfaces properly as they are all derived from using mineral oils and just end up leaving greasy oily residues behind on the surface. I am confident in sharing the above video links that our cleaning method whether deep cleaning or maintaining stainless steel surfaces is the safest and most effective method available anywhere on the market today. I also know cleaning chemical manufacturers with turnover of billions and their stainless steel cleaners will not match our method and results when it comes to cleaning stainless properly. I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who has come across a traditional type stainless steel cleaner whether in an aerosol can or trigger spray bottle that will clean stainless steel surfaces properly.


drizzy77 (author)tadgh.oshea.102016-08-14

vinegar removes most streak-stains from most stainless steel. Follow with a VERY light coating of clear coconut oil. Use a microfiber applicator on both. Easy peasy.

tadgh.oshea.10 (author)drizzy772016-08-14

Just sharing and to err on the side of caution when cleaning stainless steel its best to use a cleaner which is non-caustic and non-corrosive, vinegar is derived from acetic acid which is corrosive and will cause detrimental damage to many surfaces from its continuous use, its best to keep the vinegar for when having fish and chips. Also using any type oil based product will just lleave a false finish behind on the surface and will just end up attracting dust. Its just not possible to clean stainless steel properly using any oil based product. Just ask your janitorial supplier for a neutral based cleaning solution one that dose not contain any mineral oils and use it in combination with microfiber cleaning cloths and microfiber shinning cloths and your done, no more SSR's (Streaks,Smears,Residues,) left behind on your stainless steel appliances.

drizzy77 (author)tadgh.oshea.102016-08-14

I've used vinegar to clean stainless appliances for 15+ years and have seen nothing of what you describe. Nothing. Always looks great and gets the job done. Stainless steel doesn't react with acids like high-carbon steel, as the high chromium content adds a protective barrier from corrosive elements, including many acids.

If you use too much oil, yes, will attract dust. And, yes, never use mineral oil. But a very light rubbing of clear coconut oil looks great, in fact people comment on how good my stainless appliances look (hint: it's the light rubbing of coconut oil).

Ha... I think we must live on two different planets, or you're a shill for JSK Cleaning Products.

Here's the coconut oil I use - raw and fractionated:

tadgh.oshea.10 (author)drizzy772016-08-15

Most stainless steel appliances are not produced from stainless steel, many of the manufacturers use what is called catering stainless steel which is produced from steel and then coated to make it look like stainless steel. Best way to tell is put a magnet on the surface as stainless steel is a non-ferrous metal the magnet should not stick to the surface, if it dose then you can tell its catering stainless and need to be cautious on which type of cleaning products are used upon these type false stainless steel surfaces.

Hence why many of these appliance manufacturers will never recommend to use vinegar on their appliances as they know it will cause detrimental damage to the steel finish on their supposed to be stainless steel appliances.

Back to oil based products, Its said that if a surface is deemed to be clean properly there should be no SSR's (Streaks,Smears,Residues,) left behind on the surface, for this reason its just not possible to clean any stainless steel PROPERLY if using any oil based product.

In over 30 years of looking i have never come across a traditional type stainless steel cleaner which is capable of cleaning stainless steel properly as they are all oil based.

drizzy77 (author)tadgh.oshea.102016-08-15

You must not be from USA. In USA we have a law which specifies the minimum chromium content for a product to be called "stainless steel." It is against our laws to use "stainless steel" with less than 14% chromium content, which is ample to prevent any kind of acidic reaction (vinegar, etc.). Sometimes, a manufacturer will put a carbon steel backing plate behind a stainless steel panel, hence your magnet trick is somewhat useless. In fact, with all respect, most of what you've posted here is somewhat useless.

My experience is that vinegar is the #1 cleaner for stainless steel, and a very light wipe of clear vegetable oil completes the job. I know you're shilling for a cleaning company, so let the reader beware.

tadgh.oshea.10 (author)drizzy772016-08-16

Far from shilling, i have shared on video how to clean stainless steel or a supposed to be stainless steel appliance, all you require is a non-caustic and non-corrosive cleaner in combination with microfiber cleaning and shining cloths and a magic eraser pad for deeper cleaning if required, all these items are available from local janitorial suppliers.

If there is any oil based product used after the stainless steel will not have been cleaned properly.

There you have it a safe and effective method for cleaning stainless or supposed to be stainless appliances, and all required products will be available from janitorial suppliers in your area.

harrisholt (author)2015-05-30

Help see dog nose smudge marks. Over the counter stainless steel cleaners made it worse.

GeeDeeKay (author)harrisholt2016-02-21

Maybe try rubbing the dog's nose all over the surface to even it all out?

Just kidding! ;^)

dspathaky (author)GeeDeeKay2017-05-20

excellent solution!

dgd22 (author)harrisholt2015-06-20

For organic dirt I use this:

This sponge use enzymes to break the organic stuff.

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

Lynnebsmith (author)harrisholt2015-05-30

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.

emeyeraway (author)2015-11-11

Nothing on this site worked for me, so I tried a different one and discovered that a simple paste of baking soda did the job. I was especially frustrated by little rusty-looking drop-marks, but the baking soda paste easily removed them.

SuzyQ08 (author)emeyeraway2017-03-31

I just tried this an my stainless looks good, no more smudge marks.

skåur7 (author)emeyeraway2015-11-23

I found this intractable pretty helpful. But yeah I agree nothing can beat baking soda.

insanityltd (author)2017-02-05

Try a spritz of Orange Glo or Murphy's Orange Oil Furniture polish per surface. Buff as instructed with the grain. It will take almost no time at all and even removes finger smudges!

tadgh.oshea.10 (author)2016-09-03

Just discovered a phenomenal product to clean shine and protect all types of stainless steel appliances, called MastiClean 3 in 1 glass and multi-surface cleaner contains no mineral oils so it really dose a great job in cleaning stainless steel as it dose not leave any oily/greasy residues behind, i see MastiClean also provide specific microfiber cloths for cleaning and polishing stainless steel surfaces to achieve optimal results, well worth checking out this company.

DanielleD54 (author)2016-08-25

A lot of the time you can just use water. Lots of soap can wear down the chromium layer. I use soap if necessary but if water will do the job, just use water! This guide has some extra tips to cleaning stainless steel -

HelenHamrick (author)2016-08-25

I suffered with a streaky stainless steel dishwasher for five years, tried a lot of suggested solutions--the Weiman's cleaner/polish would make it look ok for about a day and a half. Just recently I used a soft, damp cloth with baking soda on it and it worked great! It looks brand new. I waited to see if the streaks would come back and they have not. Soda, that's the stuff!

AnnieW4 (author)2015-09-13

Can someone please help me figure out how to clean these odd "swirl" marks on my dishwasher? They're not scratches. More like weird discoloration swirls? Anyway, would love to know if anyone else has had this problem. I've attached a picture below.

MelindaP8 (author)AnnieW42016-04-05

hi AnnieW4

This helped me. My refrigerator. I was sick the three products I tried did not improve my doors at all. I could not find sprayway for stainless but this one worked. MAGIC stainless steel wipes. Got mine at Lowe's. Slathered doors with 2 wipes and wiped em down with paper towels. I thought was going to cry. Back to brand new!!! Give em a try.....good luck!!

jazzyjanna (author)MelindaP82016-07-29

I tried the Magic spray, it doesn't work for me, it leaves splotches all over the appliance, guess I can try the magic wipes, it only does that on my freezer part of my refrigerator, do they work good on that part of your appliances?

debbiem112 (author)AnnieW42016-04-24

use bar keepers friend soft cleanser. Use a wet/damp fiber rag with the cleanser, rub gently with the grain. Rinse with clean cloths and rerinse, then dry. It is a pain, but it does work. Just remember gently.

RedRock (author)2016-04-11

I have found a product called 'Quickleen-S' - it does a great job of cleaning & polishing S/S as well as other metals. I have been in the restaurant business for over 25 years and nothing cleans my S/S like this.

memyselfandmind (author)2015-11-12

i HATE WHEN i WASTE TIME & MONEY ON TRYING TO GET MY STAINLESS STEEL SINK to SHINE {lol} but seriously i have used VARIOUS products on my STAINLESS STEEL SINK and only found 2 TIPS that actually worked better than the MANY i came across -- here are the 2 ive used



*** Please feel free to enlighten me with any other tips you can recommend on how to clean stainless steel sink***

I rub on baby oil. It's like magc! We also used lemon oil on the stainless fridges at a restaurant I worked at years ago.

Jet6581 (author)2015-10-25

I use lysol disinfecting wipes. The wipes need to be almost dry and a litte buffing for the final shine. Go with the grain.

blueye81 (author)2015-10-22

I thought the other way would work better: Cleaning old greasy spots like extraction/cooker hood with oil, then use the a detergent to remove the old and new oil. Worked fine on my extraction hood.

KarlB12 (author)2015-10-08

after reading many sites an looking at many ways to do things an tried many many of them i stumbled on what worked .

the brown goo tarnish was stripped leaving a new finish that we then applied our normal appliance polish

guess what it was ..

just a dampened cloth of 409 .

geez could it be any simpler. cleaned an polished then shined .

TX School Girl (author)2015-09-17

Please help! My new SS sink has somehow managed to be stained by coffee and tea. I one time accidentally used a Chlorox wipe on the sink but have otherwise always used a vinegar and water solution with a microfiber towel. Did I strip the finish? How can I remove the coffee/tea stain? Any advice is greatly appreciated! :)

AnnieW4 (author)2015-09-13

Ok, so I'm not sure if you can zoom in on the picture I just posted so I'm posting another. Hopefully this one shows it better.

AnnieW4 (author)2015-09-13

Ok, so I'm not sure if you can zoom in on the picture I just posted so I'm posting another. Hopefully this one shows it better.

Kingfisherkate (author)2015-08-21

has anyone tried reverse osmosis water? It is super purified and is used in the window cleaning industry to clean windows. I use it everywhere, especially carpets but have a hunch it would be great for stainless steel.

Bassdoctor (author)2015-08-15

Stainless Steel comes in several alloys and graded. Magnets cane be used to test the carbon content which will make the appliance eventually oxides and rust. Try using "White Distilled Vinegar" for removing grease and puppy dog prints. Lemon huice is also known to be a good degreaser.
Ever considered a light coat of wax to protect.

Nina243 (author)2015-08-05

I must b doing something wrong. I still see streaks on my refrigerator ..I used asmall amount of dawn, rinsed it with little water. Then used baby oil and dried. Still streaky ?

GrannyI (author)2015-07-27

I use WD-40, very, very sparingly. One or two quick sprays on a heavy duty (blue from Costco) paper towel. Wear a disposable glove. Rub in well in direction of the grain using long, even strokes. Finish with a clean, dry paper towel. It eliminates shiny spots, streaks, and water spots. Only needs to be done once every other year or so. Then clean with a damp paper towel and dry and shine in between, maybe every month or so. It works on my vent hood (Kobe) , dishwasher (Bosch) door, and mini fridge (Perlick) door. No noticeable order.

Lynnebsmith (author)2014-09-27

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.

harrisholt (author)Lynnebsmith2015-05-30

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

Lynnebsmith (author)harrisholt2015-05-30

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.

TheresaS6 (author)2015-05-16

I used olive oil on fridge and pam on dishwasher.. Worked great for both!

steinie44 (author)2013-11-24

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.

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