How to Clean Stainless Steel

The popularity of stainless steel in our kitchens has taken a strong foothold among many households in Palo Alto and other cities in the Silicon Valley. Homeowners love the crisp, commercial look of stainless appliances, countertops, sinks and backsplash surfaces. In fact, house hunters are willing to pay extra for stainless appliances. Stainless steel offers a lot of pros but keeping it clean and fingerprint-free takes a bit of know-how. So let’s talk about how to clean stainless steel.

The Pros of Stainless

Stainless steel is used in commercial kitchens because of its hardworking durability. The smooth, non-porous surface inhibits bacteria and it doesn’t stain or rust easily. All of these attributes as well as its modern, industrial appearance have boosted its popularity in the residential kitchen space.

The single stainless flaw is its ability to highlight every fingerprint. If you’re a crime scene investigator, that’s fantastic, but it’s a bit of a nuisance for the average homeowner who wants their stainless to shine.

Here are a few tricks on how to best clean and care for stainless steel.

Proper Cleaning Tools

Use a soft sponge, microfiber cloths or plastic scrubbing pads for tough debris. Steer clear of steel scouring pads as these can damage the protective layer.

Cleaning Products

Many cleaning products can interact with one another, resulting in your stainless actually looking more streaked than when you started. So, it’s recommended that you choose one cleaner and stick with it for the majority of general cleaning.

Some great options include CLR Stainless Cleaner (great for removing hard water). For stainless steel sinks, pour club soda onto an absorbent cloth and wipe dry.

Since products that include chloride can harm the protective finish on stainless steel, the European Stainless Steel Development Association (ESDA) recommends using the following products:

  • Diluted vinegar (for cleaning limescale)
  • Baking soda (to remove coffee deposits)
  • Alcoholic solvents, such as acetone (for removing adhesives)
  • Chloride-free glass sprays (great for polished, mirror-like surfaces)
  • Commercially manufactured pastes and sprays specifically for use on stainless steel

Do not use cleaning products meant for appliances and backsplashes on pots, pans or food prep surfaces (i.e. stainless counters) or vice versa.

Vinegar and Oil

One of the best cleaning options is the ‘vinegar and oil’ combination. Using paper towels or a clean sponge, spray on the vinegar to clean, then apply olive or other oil to a microfiber cloth to boost the shine. This works great on all stainless surfaces, won’t harm the protective layer, is free of harsh chemicals and is relatively inexpensive.

With the Grain

One of the most important tricks to cleaning your stainless is to go with the grain. Polished or brushed finishes have a distinct grain and when you clean or polish, use this as your guide.

Getting Your Shine On

There are a number of stainless steel products that will get your appliances gleaming. They will not, however, prevent fingerprints. Whether you choose an already prepared product or want to go au natural (i.e. olive oil), remember to rub in the direction of the grain.

With Age Brings Beauty

With proper care, stainless tends to age well and over time, you’ll notice fewer fingerprints. So hang in there…