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Your Complete Guide to Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances

clean stainless steel appliances

Naked Kitchens

While your kitchen is made up of various materials, one material that stands out among the others is stainless steel: Found on ovens, microwaves, refrigerators, sinks, and more, this modern metal can upgrade any space. But as sleek and shiny as it is, stainless steel can get smudged or dirty more often than you'd like.

Thankfully, keeping your appliances clear of grease and grime isn't as difficult as you might think. We asked cleaning experts Angela Bell, Abe Navas, and Ariel Rothbard to share their best tips on cleaning stainless steel appliances at home. With the right tools and supplies, you can scrub and shine your steel for a perfectly glossy finish.

Meet the Expert

  • Angela Bell is the head guide at Grove Collaborative, a cleaning supply shop that provides environmentally-friendly home essentials.
  • Abe Navas is the general manager of Emily's Maids, a house cleaning service in Dallas, Texas.
  • Ariel Rothbard is the cleaning and organization expert at TaskRabbit, a same-day service platform that matches skilled local Taskers with cleaning, moving, delivery, and handyman projects.

Below, read on to discover step-by-step tips in the experts' guide for cleaning stainless steel appliances.

How Often Should You Clean Stainless Steel Appliances?

clean stainless steel stove

Naked Kitchens

Stainless steel appliances should be deep cleaned inside at least once per month, and their exterior surfaces should be cleaned weekly to keep the steel in its best shape. "I always like to clean my stainless appliances as the last step when deep cleaning my kitchen," says Bell, the head guide at Grove Collaborative. "It just feels like the finishing touch to make them shine."

Whether you're on a spring cleaning kick or you simply can't remember the last time your microwave got a good scrubbing, all it takes is a few simple steps to give your appliances that sleek, clean look.

Things You'll Need

  • Multipurpose cleaner
  • Degreaser (optional)
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Sponge
  • Steamer
  • White vinegar
  • Olive oil

How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances With Multipurpose Cleaner

White and stainless steel appliances
Reena Sotropa

Navas, the general manager of Emily's Maids, explains that multipurpose cleaners are great for most surfaces (including stainless steel) to tackle dirt and grime. If your appliance has caked-on spots that need extra attention, use a degreaser to remove them before applying the multipurpose cleaner of your choice.

Step 1: Start With Degreaser (Optional)

First, tackle any stubborn spots before using your multipurpose cleaner. "If your kitchen prominently features stainless steel, then you should invest in a good degreaser," Navas says. "Use it with a metal sponge or regular sponge, apply it to the dirty surface, add a little bit of water, and wait for five minutes." After letting the degreaser set in, wipe down the surface with a damp cloth or paper towel to remove excess grime.

The metal sponge you may need to use with a degreaser, according to Navas, is also ideal for deep cleans. It removes stuck-on gunk that won't come off with a regular sponge; just be sure to use it only for spot treatments to prevent scratches on stainless steel.

Step 2: Use a Multipurpose Cleaner

Once any residue is removed, spray your multipurpose cleaner onto a clean microfiber cloth. Wipe down the appliance evenly, in the direction of your steel's grain, until the entire surface is sleek and ready for polish.

Step 3: Buff and Polish

Using a commercial stainless steel polish or olive oil, apply your polish of choice to a clean microfiber cloth. Wipe the surface in a circular motion to restore the steel's glossy finish.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances With Steam

clean stainless steel appliances

Naked Kitchens

Another method for cleaning stainless steel is using a steam cleaner. "Steam is the MVP for cleaning stainless steel—the problem is, you have to get a steamer," Navas notes. "If you have one, you should use it, and if you have a lot of stainless steel, then you should invest in one. This method does work best combined with other materials, like soap or degreasers, but it will leave your surfaces sterile."

Step 1: Remove Stubborn Grease (Optional)

Using a degreaser of your choice, remove any stubborn spots. Apply the degreaser to a standard or metal sponge with a bit of water, then scrub until clean. Wipe away excess residue with a damp paper towel or washcloth.

Step 2: Steam the Surface

Using the soft handle attachment on your steam cleaner, begin steaming your stainless steel appliance in the direction of the grain. Steam in sections small enough that allow you to wipe down steam, polishing with a microfiber cloth as you go, to make the surface shine.

DIY Stainless Steel Cleaning Solutions

Green, white, and silver kitchen
Sarah Fultz Interiors

Rothbard, the cleaning expert at TaskRabbit, adds that if you don't have specialized cleaners on hand, you can easily create a DIY stainless steel cleaner with ingredients from your pantry. "My go-to is a combination of white vinegar and olive oil," Rothbard says. This natural cleaning method is a great alternative to using commercial cleaners.

If you don't have vinegar and olive oil on hand, Rothbard notes that you can substitute vinegar for dish soap (with a bit of water mixed in) and use baby oil in place of olive oil for the same cleaning effect.

Pour the distilled white vinegar into a spray bottle to apply directly. Using a microfiber cloth, wipe down the surface of your stainless steel appliance until grease and grime are removed. After the appliance is clean, you can polish the steel with a few drops of olive oil on a microfiber cloth. This will make the stainless steel shine without getting sticky.

How to Get Rid of Streaks on Stainless Steel Appliances

clean stainless steel refrigerator

Naked Kitchens

If you just need a light cleaning, Navas explains that a microfiber cloth is perfect for wiping away dust and light smudges. Stainless steel wipes are a great option to quickly clean streaks or fingerprints that appear from daily use, while you can also add a dollop of olive oil to your microfiber cloth to restore the steel's shine between deep cleanings.

Tips to Keep Stainless Steel Appliances Clean Longer

In between deep cleanings, Bell offers several tips to keep your stainless steel in tip-top shape. The expert recommends using cleaners sparingly and applying all cleaners to a cloth—not directly onto the appliance. Be cautious of jumping straight into scrubbing with a new formula.

"Test an inconspicuous area first when trying out a new cleaner to ensure it will not leave streaking," Bell says. Clean up any spills ASAP to remove stains and marks.

"Don’t get floor cleaners too close to the bottom of stainless appliances when washing floors," she notes. "Floor cleaner or wax can cause unsightly build-up." Even though you may want to clean every smudge and knick, she suggests doing it sparingly and not with cleaners or abrasive tools, as they can streak or strip the steel's shine.

Navas also provides a tip on one cleaner to never use: baking soda. "Don’t get me wrong, I love baking soda for multiple purposes, but cleaning stainless steel with that will only cause pain," he says. "You are better off with proper products."