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How to clean stainless steel

Make sure your pots, pans and sinks never lose their shine with our easy-to-follow guide on how to clean stainless steel.

Updated

Stainless steel’s practicality and attractive brushed finish makes it perfect for everyday use. However, despite the name, the metal can lose its sheen and become stained and dirty if not cared for properly. We’ve rounded up some of the best tips and tricks on how to clean stainless steel and keep it looking as good as new.

How to clean stainless steel: top tips

Regular care makes cleaning stainless steel appliances and cookware a straightforward task. Try to prevent stains by:

  • Mopping up spillages as soon as they happen to avoid permanent marks.

  • Rinsing with water after applying chemicals.

  • Drying with a towel after cleaning to avoid water marks.

Follow these basic guidelines for how to clean stainless steel to keep your surfaces bright and shiny:

How concerned are you about disinfecting while cleaning?

  • Stay away from harsh chemicals when cleaning stainless steel, especially solutions containing bleach or anything abrasive as it may damage the surface.

  • Avoid cleaning with a steel brush, as it will scratch up the stainless steel.

  • The secret to good cleaning is to always try to wipe or scrub with the grain (just like wood, stainless steel has a grain that goes in a particular direction). Follow the direction, rather than using circular motions and you’ll get the best shine possible.

What you need to clean stainless steel

There are a number of different ways of cleaning brushed stainless steel depending on the task – the best part is that you can use many products commonly found around the home.

Water and washing-up liquid

For light marks and daily maintenance simply use a microfiber cloth and warm water, adding in a little washing-up liquid if you’re working on more difficult stains.

Glass cleaner

An easy solution if you have problems with fingerprints and water spots.

  1. Spray glass cleaner onto the steel surface.

  2. Wipe with a microfibre cloth.

  3. Rinse the steel after you’ve finished

  4. Buff the surface with a dry cloth or towel.

Sparkling water

This works best if you pour some into an empty (and clean) spray bottle, and is great for getting rid of lighter marks.

  1. Pour some sparkling water into a spray bottle.

  2. Spray the sparkling water onto the stainless steel surface.

  3. Wipe with a dry microfibre cloth.

  4. Don’t forget to dry thoroughly to avoid any water spotting.

Baking soda

If you have tougher stains, reach for the baking soda.

  1. Mix a thick paste using a tablespoon of baking soda with a little water.

  2. Coat the problem area with the mixture.

  3. Leave for half an hour.

  4. Rub with a damp cloth, rinse, and dry.

White vinegar or lemon juice

A simple remedy using common household products – white vinegar and lemon juice work in the same way, so choose one or the other.

  1. Apply vinegar or lemon juice directly to your cloth.

  2. Wipe over the surface to remove the dirt.

  3. Repeat if necessary.

  4. Buff the surface with a clean cloth.

Specialist stainless steel cleaner or polish

A range of products specifically designed to clean stainless steel (often in liquid, cream or spray form) can be found online or in supermarkets. There are also stainless steel wipes that can be used on finer scratches. To use, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

How to polish and protect stainless steel

If you notice your stainless steel hardware is getting scratched or dull, polishing it will help to restore its appearance and build up its protective surface.

Baby or olive oil

The method is the same for either one.

  1. Pour a small amount of baby oil or olive oil onto a dry cloth

  2. Rub over the stainless steel surface (remembering to work with the grain).

  3. Leave for a few minutes.

  4. Wipe the oil away with a dry cloth and give a final polish.

Flour

While it may seem a bit odd, regular flour is a great way to put a shine back into your stainless steel.

  1. Make sure your surface is already clean.

  2. Sprinkle flour over it.

  3. Take a dry cloth and rub until it's beautifully buffed.

  4. Add more flour if necessary.

How to clean a stainless steel hob

Spilt sauces or burnt-on food can easily get stuck on to steel hobs. The best solution is to:

  1. Ensure that all components of the oven are switched off before removing the pan stands and soaking in a bowl of hot soapy water.

  2. Apply a cream kitchen cleanser (like Cif) to the stainless steel surface with a sponge and wipe any dirt away, remembering to wear rubber gloves for protection.

  3. Rinse both the pan stands and the hob surface with clean water.

  4. Buff the metal to a shine with a dry clean cloth.

How to clean a stainless steel sink

The white marks on stainless steel sinks, otherwise known as limescale, are calcium deposits left behind by hard water. Here’s how to tackle them:

  1. You can use a dedicated commercial limescale remover and simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

  2. For a natural DIY fix, mix up a solution of white vinegar and water (one part vinegar to five parts water) and apply using a microfibre cloth.

  3. Rinse the area with clean water afterwards to restore the sparkle to your sink.

How to clean a stainless steel splashback

This is another area that attracts a lot of grease and requires regular cleaning.

  1. Make sure the cooker has cooled before you start working on it.

  2. Start by using hot water with a few added drops of washing-up liquid.

  3. Wipe over with a clean cloth (going with the grain).

  4. If that doesn’t shift all the muck you may want to try a commercial cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Your stainless steel cleaning questions answered

Why is it important to clean stainless steel?

Stainless steel is used extensively because of its general resilience against heat and corrosion, along with a good level of stain resistance. The chromium within stainless steel reacts to oxygen in the air, forming a protective film and preventing problems like rust and reducing the risk of permanent marks. However, if the steel surface is coated with grease or dirt this reaction can’t happen and the steel is more vulnerable to corrosion and wear.

What is the best cleaner for stainless steel?

That depends on what you’re dealing with – a few smudges or a build-up of hard-to-shift grime.

Water and washing-up liquid will take care of light marks (just don’t forget to dry thoroughly to avoid water spots), while heavy duty cleaning may require use of a baking soda solution or commercial product (see above for more details).

Does vinegar damage stainless steel?

No. In fact, vinegar can be used to clean stainless steel. Just make sure to use white or distilled vinegar and to follow the directions above.

How do you shine stainless steel?

Using a microfiber cloth will produce a nice buff on your stainless steel, but if you need added sheen, try using baby oil, olive oil or even flour (see above).

How do you get streaks off stainless steel appliances?

Try using a glass cleaner to get rid of unsightly streaks. If that doesn’t work, move onto a more robust cleaner, such as vinegar or baking soda (see directions above).

Want to know how to clean other types of metal? Just follow our easy-to-follow tips here on how to clean metal.

Originally published