How To Keep Stainless Steel Appliances Gleaming

Shiny stainless steel appliances look lovely in the kitchen and even after several years of use they can still look brand spankin’ new…but there is a downside: the ever-present fingerprints, water stains and smudges (especially around the water dispenser, refrigerator and oven door handles).

This has been a cause of grief for homemakers everywhere!

There’s no getting around the extra effort it takes to keep these kitchen appliances gleaming, but here’s how you can get rid of those pesky marks…

Cleaning Instructions

  • First wet a cloth in soapy water (using a gentle liquid dish detergent), squeeze out excess liquid so cloth will be damp/wet but not leaving behind any drips.
  • Focusing on the hot spots like doors and handles, do a quick wipe in a circular motion all over the appliance (once) then go back and wipe one direction with the grain.
  • Next take a dry, clean, soft rag and go over the entire surface, making sure to work with the grain (again in one direction).

Once this is done you’ll likely see some discolorations still lurking about.

You can buff away each with a lint-free towel and some pressure, but try one of the solutions below to help quickly remove those marks…

Spot Removers/Buffers

  • Olive Oil (just a dab will do)
  • Mineral Oil (Baby Oil)–Just a dab will do
  • Club Soda (especially good for removing streaks and heat stains)
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Barkeepers Friend
  • Mix a paste of liquid dish soap and baking soda, apply it to the troublesome area and let it sit for a few minutes. Carefully rub it off then dry with a towel.
  • WD40 first applied to a lint-free cloth (just a small amount)
  • Lemon half: Rub the spots with the cut side of a lemon, then rinse with a clean damp rag. Buff with a towel. For extra cleaning power, sprinkle some baking soda on the lemon before applying to surface (rub gently to prevent scratching).
  • Vinegar (great for polishing too). One method that is successful is to scrub down the appliance with a rag first soaked in household vinegar (excess squeezed out) then buff in olive oil.
  • Commercial product I’ve had success with: Weiman Stainless Steel Wipes. These don’t fully remove the discoloration but they do a good job masking them so that they aren’t noticeable until several days later when it’s time to clean again.

Many of these hard-to-remove stains are actually water marks and they can be very tricky to remove…

  • Apply one of the above suggested items directly to a lint-free cloth and wipe down, follow up with a dry towel to bring surface to a mark-free shine (microfiber cloths are nice to use for this but a towel works fine too).

More Tips:

  • Avoid using cleaners, scrubbing pads or tools that are abrasive since they can mar the steel (even some soft-scrubbing creams can cause damage).
  • When washing, wipe down along the grain of the surface for best results.
  • Never scrub down appliances with a wet rag and leave to air dry…always buff well to dry.
  • Don’t use bleach (diluted or otherwise), this can damage the finish.
  • Don’t forget to open the refrigerator or oven door, you’ll likely see a mess of smudges along the edge of the door.

A couple suggestions from the Comments section below (thank you!):

  • Baby wipes
  • Hand sanitizer

Taking just a few minutes each day can keep them looking brand new, and it’s just as easy to keep the inside of your refrigerator sparkling too! Check out this quick tip for 10 Minute Chunks A Day.

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    • Hanneke Nelson

    I swear by baby wipes! Inexpensive and very efficient.

    • alfie

    Thanks, this article really saved my butt.

    My parents went out of town for a few days and left me alone at home. My mom would definitely have decapitated me if she saw the stains on the fridge this morning. But thanks to my new friend, mr. olive oil, she’ll never know.

    • Mary Hampton

    Try hand sanitizer and soft cloth-works like a charm in a pinch!

    • Todd

    Great article, the olive oil worked like a champ!!!

    • Donna

    I had a friend polish my whole fridge with olive oil because she thought this way also but I decided that that was not the answer. S.S. is a pain – how do these Marketing People convince us to buy such a time consuming product and then to “rebuy” again like I just did.

    I do not recommend olive oil and with respect to vinegar – I keep a spray bottle with water, vinegar and lysol by the stove/fridge and for 5 years I’ve been using it, however with the new fridge delivered yesterday the care instructions read do not use vinegar.

    • fran

    vinegar just leaves smudges. The only thing I have ever found that works is a product from bed bath & beyond. Is in a silver spray bottle and takes a special cloth.

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