The clean, classic look of stainless steel suits just about any décor. It lends a sophisticated, minimalist air to a kitchen or laundry room – until it’s covered in smudges, fingerprints and water spots. There’s a lot of conflicting information floating around about the best way to clean and protect stainless steel, but the truth is, it isn’t hard at all!
If you’re tired of cleaning your stainless steel appliances only to see a lackluster finish, keep reading for the definitive guide to getting that brand-new gleam back to your stove, sink and other fixtures. You’ll even learn how to get rid of rust, no matter how impossible it seems.
Use the Right Tools
For dried stains that won’t seem to go away, you may feel as though steel wool or wire brushes are your only options. Resist the temptation. Abrasive cleaning tools can scratch your stainless steel and damage its hard oxide finish. This leaves your surfaces vulnerable to bacteria as well as rust. Be sure to use gentler cleaning products, such as soft microfiber washrags and kitchen sponges.
Corrosive cleaning supplies can also damage the beautiful finish of your stainless steel. If a label contains the word “chloride”, it would be wise to steer clear. Instead, go with natural cleansing agents or supplies specifically manufactured for stainless steel. On another note, though it may look silver, stainless steel is not. Do not use polish designed for silver as it can eat away at the steel itself.
Best Cleaning Solutions
While there are many commercial cleansers on the market advertised specifically for stainless steel, the best way to clean your appliances is still with either all-natural ingredients or a little dish soap diluted in water.
For spaces where food is prepared or cooked, such as sinks, countertops or stoves, wipe up spills and dirt with a soft cloth dipped in diluted dish soap. This is gentle enough that it won’t harm the finish but powerful enough so that you can be assured it’s fully clean and sanitary. For more stubborn stains or heavy-duty messes, sprinkle some baking soda on the area, let it sit for a few minutes and then scrub away with a cloth dampened with vinegar.
In fact, plain water, white vinegar and a little baking soda are some of the best, most inexpensive ways to clean any stainless steel you may have. Concerned about specific appliances or situations?
Stainless Steel Washer/Dryer
If you have a stainless steel washer, it can be hard to keep the inside drum clean, which can affect the cleanliness of your clothes. If not cleaned every so often, they can also develop an odor of mildew. Help prevent this by running your washer on a hot water cycle, adding three cups of white vinegar and half a cup of baking soda. Let it run a full cycle with these ingredients, then another with plain water.
Getting your stainless steel dryer clean is a lot less time consuming. Simply rub a baking soda and water paste into the drum, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe away with a cloth dipped in white vinegar. You will want to then wash it thoroughly with dish soap diluted in water. This should take care of any unpleasant smells and leave it shining like new.
Stainless Steel Refrigerator and Dishwasher
Cleaning the outside of your stainless steel refrigerator or dishwasher is very easy, and the best part is that they will instantly make your whole kitchen look bright and gleaming. As with all stainless, you don’t want to use an abrasive cleaner or steel wool.
Instead, use a few drops of dish soap diluted in a cup of water and gently scrub in the direction of the grain. You’ll want to rinse away the soap very quickly with hot water in order to prevent a dull buildup, then dry with a soft cloth. If you have some stubborn stains, use a paste of baking soda and water, then gently wipe away with a damp cloth.
Stainless Steel Sink
Stainless steel sinks are one of the hardest areas in a kitchen to keep looking like new. They are constantly in contact with water, and depending on where you live, you may be subject to lime or calcium buildup. This can seriously damage the finish on your sink and create opportunities for rust to develop, so it’s best to get in the habit of cleaning your sink at least once or twice a week.
The best way to keep your sink looking like new is a twice weekly cleaning with baking soda. Just sprinkle it on the basin and surrounding areas, let it sit for an hour and rinse clean with hot water. To make it extra shiny, rinse with club soda before using hot water, then dry thoroughly. In fact, you should make a habit of drying your sink after every use to prevent water spots and corrosion.
To prevent stains, you should never leave damp cloths or sponges in or on your sink.
Now that you know the best way to keep your stainless steel appliances as clean as possible, how do you keep them shining like new? There are several commercial cleaners available, but the best, most natural way is simple cooking oil.
Although olive oil has long been touted for its cleaning and polishing abilities, it bears quite a strong scent. If you would rather not have your entire kitchen smelling like olive oil, try canola or vegetable oil. Of course, some people would welcome an olive scented kitchen, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
You should polish appliances and surfaces that are already clean, free of fingerprints and smudges. Dip a paper towel or thin cloth in the oil of your choice and rub it into the steel. As always, go in the direction of the grain. It will instantly look glossy, but also have an oily, slick feeling. Not to worry. Use a soft buffing cloth and really work the oil into the surface.
Your stainless steel will look the way it did when you first brought it home!
Removing Water Spots
Get in the habit of wiping away water spots whenever you see them. If they are particularly stubborn, dip a cloth in white vinegar and let it rest on the area for a few minutes. Water spots may seem like just a cosmetic issue, but if you live in an area that has hard water, they may corrode the steel and cause rust, so it’s best to take care of them right away.
Getting Rid of Rust
If your stainless steel appliances or surfaces do happen to collect rust, it’s actually quite simple to remove. It will take some patience and a little elbow grease, but by using the trusty powers of white vinegar and baking soda, they will come out looking new again.
If all you have is a few small rust spots, make a paste with baking soda and vinegar. Be sure to pour the vinegar very slowly into the baking soda. You want it to bubble a little, but not erupt. Spread a little of the paste over each spot, then let it sit for 20 minutes. Do not rinse after. Instead, use a paper towel or your fingertips to rub the paste into the stains.
Let it sit for another 30 minutes to an hour, then rinse away with hot water. If your rust stains are stubborn, you may need to repeat the process several times. Always let the paste sit on the stain for a while before rubbing it in. This will loosen the rust and make it easier for the baking soda to penetrate.
If you have more severe rust marks, try scrubbing lighter fluid into them. This is not the best idea, as lighter fluid is very flammable and not safe around food preparation, but as a last resort it may save your stainless steel.
The beauty and timelessness of stainless steel appliances and surfaces are matched only by their vulnerability to smudges and fingerprints. However, now you know just how easy and eco-friendly it is to keep them clean.
There’s no need for investing in costly cleaning products, just remember to have some soft cloths and sponges on hand, as well as white vinegar, baking soda, a little cooking oil and some elbow grease.
You’ll be enjoying your stainless steel for years to come, and keeping it looking shiny and new!