Clean Stainless Steel (Even Those Dark Water Stains!)

All that silver looks so sleek and professional—except for the water-stains and fingerprints, right? Take care of them with our expert tips for cleaning stainless steel.

Make the stainless steel appliances in your kitchen sparkle with these tips for cleaning and eliminating smudges and fingerprints.

Nothing stands out in a kitchen more than sparkling stainless steel. Keep your appliances looking their best with our proven care tips. We'll help you clean every inch of your stainless steel—even hard-to-remove water spots. 

Before you begin, there's a few things you should know about cleaning stainless steel. Always avoid using abrasive cleaners or sponges, as they can permanently scratch the steel's surface. Skip chlorine-based cleaners, too. Also, some of our methods include using rubbing oil and essential oils. These products are great cleaning agents, but they're also flammable. Don't use them on your oven or other appliances that conduct heat.

Check out our ultimate guide to cleaning kitchen appliances.

Wipe Away Water Spots

Most water spots can simply be wiped away. Start by wetting a microfiber cloth, running it along the appliance, then drying with another microfiber cloth. Use a polishing rag to buff the steel. For tough spots, wet a thick, clean towel with distilled white vinegar that has been brought to a boil. Place the vinegar towel on the spot and let sit for half an hour. Sprinkle with baking soda, then scrub until the spot disappears. Wipe clean with water and dry.

Go with the Grain

Stainless steel has a grain, like wood. Always wipe with it to loosen and remove all the dirt from those little recesses. Going against the grain can result in a less effective cleaning and may even scratch the steel. To find the appliance's grain direction, simply rub both vertically and horizontally with a soft cloth. If you feel a slight resistance, that means you're rubbing against the grain.

Related: Learn how to clean marble.

Dissolve Fingerprints

Fingerprints on stainless steel are almost impossible to avoid—especially if you have little ones who like to touch everything in sight! Luckily, there's an easy solution to rid your stainless-steel appliances of fingerprints. Simply drop a little rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth and rub over the stains. The alcohol will zap the oily residue and grime left by a human hand.

Serious Shine

Make your stainless steel extra shiny with a secret ingredient: lemon oil. Just put a few drops of oil on a clean cloth and rub it into the surface. If you can't find lemon oil, you can use olive oil as a substitute. Aim to give your stainless-steel appliances this oil treatment once a month. 

Make it a Habit

Old stains and spots are harder to tackle. Prevent them with frequent appliance cleaning. We recommend committing to daily wipe downs with a clean, soft cloth and hot water. Also aim for weekly cleanings with an oil-based stainless-steel cleaner and polish. This regular routine will help reduce buildup and keep your stainless-steel appliances easy to clean. 

Bonus: See how to clean a refrigerator.

For Serious Stains

If there's a stain that won't come out no matter how hard you scrub, consider buying a product made specifically for metals. These cleaners are particularly helpful when removing stainless-steel oxidation or rust. For serious blemishes, invest in a stainless-steel scratch-removal kit, which typically combines special polishes and fine-grade sandpaper to remove the problem.


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