How to Clean Stainless Steel

By Laura Parker
April 23, 2021

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Having a reliable stainless steel cleaner that actually works is key if you want to keep your household appliances looking nice. Many cleaning products available in stores can leave streaks and fail to really clean stainless steel.


We’re here to tell you that the best way to clean stainless steel may be with products you can find in your own home. Creating a homemade stainless steel cleaner may be your best bet in keeping all those stainless steel appliances looking spick and span.

Do’s and Don’ts When Cleaning Stainless Steel

When cleaning stainless steel, you should always:

  • Use a gentle cleaner
  • Rub in the direction of the grain

There are also a few things you should avoid at all costs. Definitely do not: 

  • Use steel wool or abrasive sponges or products that contain chloride
  • Use oven cleaner or other harsh cleaning products

In addition, be aware that if you have particularly hard tap water it can leave mineral deposits behind. You can avoid this by either using filtered water or a water softener.

Step by Step Process to Clean Stainless Steel

Cleaning stainless steel is actually a fairly simple process; choosing the right cleaning product is probably the most complex part. However, regardless of what cleaner you choose, make sure to follow these simple steps. 

Wipe the Surface

Dip a soft cloth in warm water mixed with mild dish detergent and wipe down your surface in even lines. Rinse the cloth and wipe again, drying with a towel to prevent water spots.

Spray with Glass Cleaner (or Product of Your Choice)

You might still see fingerprints on the surface. If that’s the case, spritz glass cleaner onto a soft cloth and wipe the surface again. This will also help prevent streaks from forming.

Rub or Buff the Surface

This final step will help tackle baked-on stains from food and grease. Make a paste with baking soda and warm water and gently rub it into the surface with a soft cloth. Wipe clean with a wet cloth and dry with a towel. 

The 5 Best Stainless Steel Cleaners You Can Find at Home

Choosing the right cleaning agent is key when polishing your stainless steel. You’ll need a spray bottle and a clean cloth for most of these solutions, and don’t forget to rub in the direction of the grain! 

Here are our picks for the best stainless steel cleaning products:

Olive Oil and White Vinegar

Fill your spray bottle with white vinegar and spray your stainless steel appliance liberally. Use a clean cloth or towel to wipe the appliance down. Then, add a small amount of olive oil to your cloth and rub in the direction of the grain. Smudges and streaks should disappear as you add a smooth shine to your appliance!

Club Soda

It may seem odd but club soda does wonders in wiping off fingerprint stains and other smudges. Simply put some club soda in a spray bottle and spray your stainless steel appliance. Use a clean cloth to rub in the direction of the grain and you’ll get an inexpensive polish to your appliance.

Baby Oil and Dish Soap 

Pour a small amount of dish soap on a clean cloth and make it just a bit damp with water. Wipe down your appliance in the direction of the grain to clean excess oil and smudges. Next, polish with a small amount of baby oil on a new cloth. By the end it should look shiny and good as new!


Using WD-40 could be the simplest homemade stainless steel cleaner. Just spray a bit of the liquid straight onto the appliance and wipe it off with a clean towel. Your stainless steel surface should look new and shiny instantly.

Warm Water 

If you’re really worried about damaging your stainless steel, it’s okay to use warm water and a cloth. Wipe down your appliance and then dry it off immediately with a new, clean towel. If you wipe in the direction of the grain, you should have succeeded in wiping off all the smudges.

Cleaning Stainless Steel FAQs

Does vinegar damage stainless steel? 

Not really! If you leave a stainless steel pan to soak in vinegar it can eventually cause damage to your pan over a long period. But for regular cleaning purposes, vinegar is totally safe to use.

How do you remove tarnish from stainless steel? 

Vinegar, cider, lemon juice, olive oil and soda, combined with the use of a non-abrasive cloth, will all work wonders on tarnished stainless steel. Don’t be afraid to soak your steel in diluted solutions of these products if your stains are stubborn. 

How do you rejuvenate stainless steel? 

For tough stains or dull-looking stainless steel, you can sprinkle baking soda on a non-abrasive cloth and gently rub the problem areas. If that doesn’t work, you can use a synthetic scrub pad with the baking soda to gently scrub the steel. Follow with a vinegar-water mixture or glass cleaner spray and wipe again.

How do you remove black stains from stainless steel? 

For tough dark spots, wet a thick towel with distilled white vinegar that has been brought to a boil. Place the damp towel on the spot and let it sit for half an hour. Then, sprinkle with baking soda and scrub gently, wiping the area clean with water and drying it with a soft cloth.

Does toothpaste remove scratches from stainless steel? 

Yes! Toothpaste is mildly abrasive, and can reduce the appearance of scratches on stainless steel surfaces. Apply a thin layer along the grain. Once it’s dry, rinse with soapy water and dry with a soft cloth.

Can you use magic erasers on stainless steel? 

No! Stainless steel is tough, but a Magic Eraser will likely create small scratches on the surface, putting an end to that super shiny finish you want. 

Final Thoughts


Armed with these ideas, cleaning your stainless steel appliances should be easy as pie. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what works best for you and leaves your surfaces looking just the way you want. Happy cleaning!

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