How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

During the manufacture of stainless steel, an alloy of iron (90%) and chromium (10%), a little of the chromium combines with oxygen from the atmosphere to form a hard oxide coating on the surface. This process continues in a passive form throughout the steel’s life and is what makes it “stainless;” should the finish be removed through corrosion or wear, the metal will no longer be “stainless.” It will rust just like any other steel.

Any contamination of the surface by dirt, or other material, hinders this continual oxidation process and traps corrosive agents, ultimately destroying the metal’s corrosion protection. Therefore, while excessive cleaning cannot wear stainless steel out (just so long as you avoid harsh abrasives), dirt and neglect can damage the steel.

Wash Stainless Steel Regularly

Aguirre suggests cleaning it with a cloth soaked in warm water. Dry it with a towel or cloth to prevent spots caused by minerals in the water. Wipe in the direction of any polish lines. On tougher jobs, you can add a mild detergent to the water without damaging the surface, but always rinse it thoroughly with warm water.

Other Tips

  • Brighten a steel sink by polishing with a cloth dipped in vinegar or ammonia, or sprinkle a little baking soda on a sponge, rub the sink gently, and rinse.
  • Fingerprints can be removed with glass cleaner or household ammonia. Some newer types of finishes resist fingerprints.
  • Cleaners made for stainless steel minimize scratching, remove stains, and polish surfaces.

Use olive oil to remove streaks and undiluted vinegar to clean and polish stainless steel or remove heat stains from cutlery. Club soda also removes streaks and heat stains.

  1. Take care not to spill dry dishwasher detergent on wet flatware, as this may produce dark spots.
  2. Rinse off acid, salty foods, or milk and milk products, which tend to corrode the metal, if the flatware or pots are not to be washed soon.
  3. Avoid discoloration – don’t let pans boil dry or overheat on a burner.
  4. Stainless steel pans don’t distribute heat evenly; if foods are not stirred while cooking, it tends to stick in “hot spots.”
  5. Do not use harsh abrasives or steel wool. Remove cooked-on food or grease by using a sponge with:
    1. A low-abrasion cleaning powder
    2. A paste of baking soda and water
    3. A paste of ammonia and rotten stone
  6. Place a perforated rubber or plastic mats in a stainless steel sink to reduce scratching and marking by pans and tableware.

Repairing Scratches in Stainless Steel

According to the Stainless Steel Information Center, organic solvents can also be used to remove fresh fingerprints and oils and greases that have not had time to oxidize or decompose, the preferred solvent being one that does not contain chlorine. Acetone, methyl alcohol, and mineral spirits are acceptable.

Many commercial cleaners compounded from phosphates, synthetic detergents, or alkalies are available for cleaning severely soiled or stained surfaces. But the fact that a label states “for stainless steel” is not necessarily a guarantee that the product is not abrasive, not acidic, or is low in chloride, so take care.
If the steel has a hairline finish, in which the grain is continuous and runs the length of the surface, scratches may be sanded over with a light grit or pumice; otherwise, scratches should be removed only by a specialist.


  1. Elaine says:

    Use instant hand sanitizer with a wet cloth and simply buff it dry. It kills bacteria as it is 99.9% bacteria free. It also has an oil base, which makes it very shiny when it is bugged.

  2. Angela says:

    A good way to make SS look great! WD-40. I would not spray on stove surfaces. Exterior surfaces shine right up!

  3. Deborah says:

    The best stainless steel cleaner, believe it or not, is Scott’s Liquid Gold.

  4. Rick says:

    I was at Home Depot once debating which SS cleaner to buy, when the gentleman who worked in appliances confessed to me that he used Pledge. I have been using it ever since and it works great; spray it on and wipe, that’s it.

  5. Mary says:

    Pledge wipes are the best! The spray is fine, but the wipes are the best because you don’t have to use your paper towels!

  6. Ann says:

    I spent a bit of time using stainless steel cleaner and no matter what I did there were still streaks. Your tips inspired me. I didn’t have WD-40 or Pledge handy, so I tried baby oil and a paper towel. It worked instantly and looks great. No streaks and smells nice too. Just polish it up with a dry paper towel to get any excess oil off. My refrigerator looks brand new!

  7. Jen says:

    I swear by PLEDGE as well for cleaning my stainless steel, as well as for my granite AND marble and then carry it onto my cabinets as well. PLEDGE is my new friend.

  8. Edie says:

    I use Hope’s Perfect Stainless Steel cleaner for my stainless steel appliances. You can find it at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I use two microfiber towels (one for cleaning, then the other for buffing). Works like a charm!

  9. Kim says:

    When unpacking my new fridge, I have the adhesive from the tape on the front of the appliance.

    I’ve rubbed and rubbed with the stainless cleaner that is oil based… not working.

    Any suggestions?

  10. Betsy says:

    For Kim: Try GooGone. Read the directions on the bottle, but would bet if you leave this oil-based product on the tape for a bit, then wipe off with a soft cloth, you’ll have good results. GooGone works to lift adhesive material.

  11. Joe says:

    WD-40, takes tape adhesive off quickly, if you have a built up spot, use your fingernail to scrape it off, then wipe with a white cloth with WD-40 on it. (A little bit goes a long way.)

  12. Jerry says:

    Hi Kim,

    I myself work at a hospital and am a house keeper.

    I am always discovering new ideas, etc., for different situations that occur. I find that a spray bottle full-strength vinegar sprayed on stickers is a safe way for sticker removal. Good luck. E-mail if you have other questions.

    Thanks, Jerry

  13. Rachel says:

    I used nail polish remover to take the sticker off of my new stainless steel refrigerator and it worked like a charm!

  14. Claudia says:

    Hi all,
    I just bought a new home and noticed that the appliances in the kitchen are stainless steel and have some water stains in the bottom. Any suggestions on how to get rid of them? I tried Windex, Goo-gone and Pledge – didn’t work! :(
    Thanks in advance!

  15. Karen says:

    I have a stainless steel refrigerator and used a rust, lime, and calcium liquid cleaner to remove the calcium streaks that drip down from the water dispenser on the front of the freezer door. It worked great in the past when I would wipe it off quickly. The last time I used it, I left it on to sit, hoping it would really get rid of all the calcium or lime streaks. Unfortunately, now the stainless looks like the cleaner is still on the surface. It’s like a dull, streaky stain. I’ve tried soap and water, an ammonia-free all-purpose spray cleaner, and stainless cleaner, but still have the CLR stain or residue showing. Is there anything I can do to get rid of this “dirty dish water” look now covering my refrigerator? It is true stainless, and has a fine hairline-type finish going up and down the whole thing. I heard about fine grit or pumice. Is this what I’ll have to do? I was also thinking about using a car polish. What can I use to bring the stainless back to it’s original luster? Help! Thanks! Karen

  16. Rose says:

    I used a mixture of baking soda and dish detergent to clean fingerprints from my stainless steel fridge, which worked great, but now I have marks left from where I used the baking soda mixture. Any suggestions on how I can remove the mark left behind?

  17. Jenn says:

    I was cleaning the grout in my tiles with detergent, and a splash got on my stainless steel refrigerator by mistake. Now it has black marks on it that I want to get off ASAP! Any suggestions?

  18. Dianne says:

    Bar Keepers Friend removed the stains on my stainless steel appliances. I use it for everything, including showers with glass enclosures. It’s magic stuff!

  19. Janice says:

    I used baking soda on my KitchenAid stainless refrigerator and it left a light stain on it. It looks like a different color of stainless in that area. Any ideas about what might have happened and how to fix it?

  20. Brenda says:

    I have a stainless steel electric grinder and my son accidentally put the parts in the dish washer, so now it is dull and has a black coating on it. The more you wash it, the more black comes off. How can I get all the black oxidation off of it?

  21. Finally! says:

    So frustrated with my stainless appliances; I thought I’d never have pretty appliances again. After reading many comments, I thought I had nothing to lose and tried liquid 401. Wow!! I knew it looked bad, but I had no idea how dark and streaked and spotted my appliances were. Presto change-o! 401 dissolved all of the built up SS cleaning products I had used and they look like new! I rinsed it off with hot water and dried it with paper towels and am really thrilled with the result. Now that the products are gone, I will never use them again…hot water and maybe a mild dishwashing detergent if it needs it. Period.

  22. Margie says:

    Hello…I have a metallic dishwasher and I am not too sure how it obtained oil-like splatters and how to remove them, as it is not finished in stainless steel.
    Please help!!!
    Thank you.

  23. Bruce says:

    EASY SCRUB is a product that can remove scratches, stains and all that build-up from oil-based cleaners that you used on your SS.

  24. Upset Momma says:

    My daughter scratched my new refrigerator and I tried to remove the scratches with a kit. The scratches are gone, but now you see where the repair pad scratched off the finish. Can it be fixed? I have tried all of the cleaners, olive oil, etc. to rub it out and bring back the shine.

  25. Bob says:

    I used Pine-Sol on clean paper towels to clean the stainless dishwasher. Then wiped with a clean warm wet sponge, then immediately dried with a towel; always work with the grain. I did it in sections so nothing would dry improperly. It was nasty with spots of water, fingerprints, dog nose prints, dust, and grease from cooking bacon on the counter over the dishwasher. I then applied mineral oil with a clean cloth to help prevent the nasty looks from coming back.

  26. Pamela says:

    I was told to use a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar to strip off all of the stainless steel polish and Pledge (which discolors over time and shows fingerprints, etc.), then only use vinegar water and a soft cloth to clean. If the stains are really bad, use straight vinegar. If not, use 2 cups vinegar to 1 gallon water to keep it clean and spot free. Wipe with soft cloth or sponge; nothing abrasive.

  27. Linda says:

    I scraped grease off my stainless steel finish on the back of my stove with a razor blade, but damaged the finish. Nothing would take the grease off. Any ideas on how to make it look decent again?? The grease looked better.

  28. Melanie says:

    This article might help: How to Remove Scratch Marks from Stainless Steel.

  29. Anthony says:

    I work at a commercial building they have stainless steel refrigerators and my utility guy got stripper on them I tried a cream cleanser to remove and it did not come off. Any suggestions how to remove stains?

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