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

Picture of 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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booka2323 days 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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Elguapous12 days 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 dropkick19 days 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

LynxSys20 days ago

Having read this Instructable and all of the comments, I believe I now know how to clean stainless steel. I also now know that I don't want any stainless steel appliances.

Flighterdoc20 days ago

I clean the BBQ with a 50/50 mixture of dawn and white vinegar. The baby oil is a nice touch.

The scent in WD-40 is isoamyl acetate, I believe

boonzaier1 year ago
Vinegar works wonders!!!
BradI boonzaier28 days 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.

lillouzoo.1 month ago

I tried the dish soap and the mineral oil and I was totally floored. As you can tell very little is needed to excite this homemaker these days. None the less, my kids watched me do the happy dance around the kitchen floor this afternoon. That's not something that occurs very often in my house with respect to housework. Every time I pass my fridge now I smile cause it's THE most glorious appliance in my kitchen as it was meant to be. Yes, we worship the fridge here. Now ever more glorious as it is not covered in hand and finger prints. May the homemaker gods bless you for your wonderful advice!!! It worked!! Now, I'm going to tie my kids hands to their sides:)

I will try the WD40 also. Like you, convenience is key. If it's easier than the other method and it works well, I'll have two ways to skin that cat!! Thanks guys, for the tips!! Take care.

lortaud2 months 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!

Lynnebsmith2 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.

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
Windycity0004 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!!!

tennis1724 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.

Rdownunda11 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.
thecapper1 year 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!
Tampaguy1 year 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...
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.
Wd40 no longer contains kerosene, lets refer to it as WD41...
Interesting. Didn't know that! It still retains the smell though, doesn't it?
@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.
TossManual1 year 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.
ClareBS1 year 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.
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'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.
desw201 year 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.
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.
jjoefish741 year 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.
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