5 Things to Know About Cleaning Stainless Steel

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga)

If you have an abundance of stainless steel appliances in your home, you know that it can get streaky, cloudy, and fingerprint-y very easily. While stainless is less prone to corrosion than other materials (and super trendy), it does take a bit of effort to keep it looking handsome.

Here’s what you need to know about cleaning and maintaining your beloved stainless steel surfaces.

1. Always wipe in the direction of the grain.

Stainless steel has a wood-like grain to it. Look closely at your appliance or countertop and you’ll see some faint lines running along the finish. See them? That’s the direction you’ll want to follow. If you don’t, it’ll be a lot easier for dirt and cleaning chemicals to build up within the tiny cracks of the grain over time, decreasing the shine and overall beauty of the material. And you don’t want that!

2. You can avoid scratches by using a microfiber cloth.

Stainless surfaces can become scratched and then they’re less pretty. Wipe them down with microfiber cloths, which have short, fine fibers and won’t mess up the finish. You may be tempted to use a paper towel. Don’t! A microfiber cloth is softer and always the way to go here.

3. Cleaning stainless steel is really a two-step process.

We hate telling you that you have to clean anything twice, but you really do have to wipe down your stainless steel two times in a row if you’re doing a deep clean — once with vinegar to remove dirt, and then with mineral or olive oil to add shine. First, spray vinegar directly onto the appliance, then wipe it off using a microfiber cloth in the direction of the grain. Next, polish the surface with a few drops of oil on a second cloth, again in the direction of the grain.

Do this once a week or whenever you start to notice a lot of water marks, streaks, fingerprints, or general flatness in the finish.

4. Daily maintenance is a lot easier.

For regular, daily cleaning, simply use water and soap (or dish detergent) along with a microfiber cloth. Be sure to dry the area — with a second cloth — after wiping to avoid water spots and the minor corrosive effects of the minerals in the water.

5. You don’t really need to buy a special cleaner.

Between the soap-and-water combo and the vinegar-and-oil wipes, you don’t really need much more than that. The only reason you might want to consider getting a special stainless steel cleaner or polish? If you start to notice any small scratches.