How to clean stainless steel without damaging it

Lady cleaning stainless steel fridge
Lady cleaning stainless steel fridge (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you have favorite pots and pans or stainless steel appliances, you’ll need to know how to clean stainless steel to keep its shine. We all love that new gleam of stainless steel that seems to make our kitchen sparkle. But, over time, it can start to look grubby, with spills, smudges and unsightly fingerprints. So, you need to know how to clean stainless steel quickly to keep it mark-free and restore its shine.

Plus, you need to know how to clean stainless steel carefully to avoid damaging or scratching the surface. A general rule of thumb is to avoid harsh cleaners, especially ones with chloride and other chemicals. Also, never use steel wool or abrasive sponges as these might scratch. 

The good news is, cleaning stainless steel is not as hard as it sounds. In fact, this can easily be done using mild, household cleaners that you’d usually find in your kitchen cupboards. 

So if you want your stainless-steel to shine, follow these easy steps to get your appliances looking brand new again. 

You might want to follow these tips on how to clean a burnt pot to get it sparkling. Check out how to clean jewelry if you want to bring the sparkle back, alongside how to clean a diamond ring without taking it to a professional.

How to clean stainless steel with dish soap and water

Cleaning pot with soapy water

Cleaning pot with soapy water (Image credit: Shutterstock)
What you need

Microfiber cloth

Dish soap

Distilled white vinegar 

Baking soda 

Olive oil

— First, mix 1 teaspoon of dish soap to 1 quart of warm water. 

— Next, dip a microfiber cloth or sponge in the soapy solution before wiping the stainless steel surface. Remember to wipe along the grain of the metal (one directional), as this will reduce water spots.

— Finally, rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly with a separate microfiber cloth or paper towel.  We can recommend these Microfiber Cleaning Cloths ($9, Amazon) which are lint-free. 

2. How to clean stainless steel with baking soda 

Baking soda and water in glass

Baking soda and water in glass (Image credit: Shutterstock)

— Start by mixing baking soda and warm water together to form a paste. This is particularly effective for stubborn marks or greasy smudges.

— Next, dip a corner of a microfiber cloth into the paste before gently rubbing onto the surface, and along the stainless steel grain.

— Wipe away the baking soda residue with a damp microfiber cloth before drying completely with a paper towel. We recommend Arm & Hammer Baking Soda-4LB ($12, Amazon) to help tackle your cleaning tasks.

3. How to clean stainless steel with white vinegar and olive oil

Wiping stainless steel appliance with cloth

Wiping stainless steel appliance with cloth (Image credit: Shutterstock)

—  Add distilled white vinegar to an empty spray bottle and apply directly onto your stainless steel surface. We recommend Lucy's Family Owned - Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 1 Gallon ($15, Amazon) for your cleaning tasks.

—  Gently rub the surface with a microfiber cloth to clean any marks or stains, before rinsing and wiping away the vinegar with a clean cloth.

— Then, rub a small amount of olive oil into the area, working into the metal grain to avoid streaks. This will help to restore a shiny finish. If you don’t have olive oil though, baby oil is another good alternative.  

How to clean stainless steel cutlery

Washing cutlery in soapy water

Cleaning cutlery (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Over time, our stainless steel cutlery can look tarnished. The best way to clean stainless steel cutlery is to mix about eight parts of hot water to one part white vinegar in a washing bowl. Soak your cutlery in the bowl for 5-10 minutes to allow the solution to get to work at removing marks. Then rinse cutlery thoroughly before drying with a clean microfiber cloth.

If all else fails you can buy a dedicated cleaner, such as Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner Kit ($16, Amazon) which removes grease, residue and watermarks.

For more top tips on making things shine again, you may also want to read how to clean jewelry and how to clean silver. You can also read about how to clean a stainless steel pan specifically and make it gleam and how to clean a refrigerator and banish odors

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!