How to Preserve and Clean Stainless Steel

by Bill Welles

Stainless steel appliances remain the most popular choice in modern kitchen designs. Ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, and wall ovens boasting a sleek and well-polished stainless-steel finish outsell kitchen appliances with a white or black finish.

Stainless steel appliances have increased in popularity over the years, and with the pristine gleam that illuminates your kitchen, it isn’t hard to imagine why. For years, the avocado-greens and sunflower-yellows of the world were the popular color choice to brighten your kitchen space; however, as time went on and design styles matured, these finishes left a gaudy and distasteful aesthetic in many household kitchens.

The allure of stainless steel is its versatility and ability to blend seamlessly with any modern kitchen layout. Your cooking space should have some semblance of current design trends, and stainless-steel appliances allow you to embody any popular kitchen style. The only true knock against stainless is the routine maintenance it requires.

After a few days, your glistening new appliances can succumb to smudges, streaks, fingerprints, water spots, and spills. That means taking precious time out of your day to keep your appliances looking good as new. You don’t want to spend more time cleaning your appliances than you do using them, so there are a few easy ways to clean and preserve stainless steel to keep your surfaces shining and sparkling.

wiping down a stainless steel fridge

Stainless Steel Cleaning Basics

Stainless steel needs a little more love and care than other appliance finishes, but unlike many other kitchen surfaces, it is easy to clean. With a little elbow grease and some at-home cleaning solutions, you can wipe away unwanted smudges with little effort. It's also a good idea to take a look at the user manual to see if there are any cleaning instructions or recommended polishes before you spiff up your appliances. You don’t want to use any harsh or abrasive chemicals that can leave a dirty film behind or stain the finish.

Whether you’re using a store-bought cleaner or a do-it-yourself cleaning solution, be sure it’s safe to use on stainless steel. Avoid using scouring powders, steel wool, bleach, and ammonia, all of which can damage the texture and glossiness of the finish. Some manufacturers may even advise against using glass cleaners on stainless steel because they can leave streaks and damage the finish over time.

An at-home cleaning solution is the simplest and most cost-effective way to clean your appliances. There are a few different methods to safely and effectively clean stainless steel, so let’s get right to it!

NOTE: Before you wipe down the entire appliance, spot-test the cleaner on a small section of your appliance to be sure it will clean to your satisfaction.

wiping down stainless steel range

Stainless Steel Cleaning Tips

Option 1: Dip a soft microfiber cloth in a mixture of warm water and mild dish detergent. Use a detergent with degreasing properties. Wipe the surface along the grain of the metal and wipe dry with a separate dishcloth to prevent any water spots.

Option 2: For grease and food-related smudges, make a paste of baking soda and warm water. Gently rub onto the surface using a clean microfiber cloth, rubbing along the metal’s grain. Wipe clean with a wet cloth and towel dry.

Option 3: Spray distilled white vinegar onto your appliance and rub gently into the surface. Wipe away the vinegar in the same direction as the grain using your microfiber cloth. Using an additional clean cloth, rub a small amount of olive oil onto the appliance, working with the grain to prevent streaks. The olive oil will help produce a shiny finish.

Option 4: In your kitchen sink or a clean bucket, dilute dishwashing liquid in warm water and mix well. Apply a small amount of this cleaning solution onto a microfiber cloth and spread evenly onto your stainless-steel appliance. Wipe with the grain to get rid of fingerprints and smudges and leave to dry. Use another clean cloth to apply a small amount of baby oil to the metal; the baby oil helps to restore the shiny, like-new appearance of your appliance.

Option 5: Fill a spray bottle with club soda and spray it onto the surface of your appliance. Like the previous methods, use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe along the metal’s grain.

how to clean stainless steel oven

Helpful Reminders

Not every technique is safe to use when cleaning stainless steel appliances. It may be a durable finish, but an equally tough cleaning product can do harm. Again, scouring powders, steel wool, bleach, and ammonia have too many abrasive properties which can easily scratch or discolor the appliance finish.

If possible, switch to distilled water to clean your appliances if your home runs on hard water. The water type won’t damage steel, but hard water is more likely to leave spots and streaks due to the amount of calcium and magnesium in the water.

Cleaning in the same direction as the metal’s grain helps to reduce smudging and streaks. Any pesky smudges are the result of wiping in a circular motion. If you’re looking for greater natural shine, use olive oil, white vinegar, or a specifically formulated stainless steel cleaner.  

Always use a gentle microfiber cloth to prevent scuffs, use a light coating of mineral oil to avoid grime, and if any stainless-steel cookware is left in the sink, wash it right away. Leaving stainless cookware soaking for too long with prolonged contact next anything salty or acidic can cause the glossy finish to become murky.

What About a Fingerprint-Resistant Finish?

Implementing these cleaning tips into your daily cleaning routine will certainly help keep your kitchen in order, but a little extra protection can’t hurt, either. Our collection of fingerprint-resistant appliances helps to repel against smudges and fingerprints for a clean and seamless look. You’ll still have to give your appliances a good wipe down from time to time, but the fingerprint-resistant gloss provides added coverage for your kitchen and your cleaning regimen.

With a quality appliance finish, there’s no need to sweat kitchen cleanup. As we previously mentioned, stainless steel is durable—if your schedule doesn’t permit for daily cleaning, weekly or bi-weekly cleaning will do the trick.

And if you want to simplify your cleaning routine even further, don’t bother setting a schedule—just clean your appliances while you cook. When you’re done stirring the sauce or sautéing those veggies, wipe down the cooktop. After you take the cookies out of the oven, clean off those handles real quick and give them a good polish.

polishing electric cooktop

Cleanliness is Happiness

Spills and cooking-related messes should always be cleaned immediately, but aesthetic touchups are vital for keeping a spotless and sparkling kitchen space. To make things easier, we carry our own branded water-based stainless-steel cleaner that cleans and shines without scratching, ends water spotting, and maintains the original finish stainless steel.

If you’re still hesitant about stainless steel, there are other appliance finish options in classic white, black, matte black, and even black stainless steel.

But if your current appliances are a little too weathered to clean on your own, now’s the time for an upgrade. Experience the glisten and glow of an exemplary kitchen space with brand-new cooking and cleaning appliances from Don’s Appliances. You can shop for standalone appliance units or appliance packages if you’re upgrading a kitchen suite.

Give us a call, shop online, or visit us at Don's Appliances today.