Jeff Flowers on February 20, 2015 47 Comments Stainless steel is perhaps best known for its capacity to resist rust and corrosion, making it a popular choice in bathrooms and kitchens. However, if you own stainless steel appliances, then you probably know that they are hardly ever stainless. This is especially true if you have little ones running around the house. Fingerprints and water stains tend to decorate the surfaces of dishwashers, refrigerators and ovens. Dust, dirt and grime may put stainless steel appliances at risk for rusting. Harsh chemical cleaning products, often with hefty price tags, promise to return them to their original showroom beauty, but often fail to live up to their promise. The truth is, keeping your stainless steel appliances clean is easy to do, and you don’t need any of those expensive products. In general, start with the basics and work your way up from there as needed. Here are ten ways to clean your stainless steel appliance for a flawless finish. 1. Dish Soap & Baby or Mineral Oil First, you need to understand the direction of the grain. Just like wood and some fabrics, steel has a grain. These are the faint striations that you can see on the surfaces of your appliances. In fact, an entire sheet of steel will have the same directional grain. Appliances usually have other steel pieces attached, such as knobs and handles. Keep in mind that these other pieces may have a different direction grain. Your will not ruin your appliance if you do not clean with the grain. In fact, nothing dramatic will happen. However, if you wipe vertical to the grain, more cleaning residue may get deeper into the tiny crevices of the grain. For optimum shine, it is best to clean with the grain. Next, gather your supplies. Use two non-abrasive cleaning rags, preferably those that are 100 percent cotton because they leave almost no residual lint. You can use paper towels, but there will be some lint left behind. Also, pick up some plain dish soap and baby or mineral oil. Get ready to clean your appliances. Dish soap is amazing in cleaning grime from stainless steel. It cleans off excess oils and simplifies the polishing process. Put just a little bit on your rag and moisten with a modest amount of water (just enough to dampen your cloth). Wipe along the grain of your appliance. For extra stubborn fingerprints, you might have to go over the area a few times. When you finish cleaning an area, dry any water streaks with a clean towel. Finally, it is time to polish! Dab a small amount of mineral or baby oil onto your second rag. A couple of tiny drops will suffice. Comparable to the cleaning process, follow the grain of your steel, moving in either direction. Polishing the steel this way will produce optimal results. Toss your rags in the washer and save for next time. 2. White Vinegar & Olive Oil Apply white vinegar directly to a microfiber cloth, or spray directly onto your surface. Let sit for just a moment, and then wipe clean in the direction of the grain. Apply the vinegar as many times as necessary to remove any grime. Then dab a clean towel into some olive oil and polish the freshly-cleaned surface in the direction of the grain. If any extra olive oil residue remains, wipe away with a clean cloth. This method works well because the vinegar gets rid of all the grime, while the olive oil gives it a fresh, shiny polish. 3. Club Soda Spray club soda directly onto appliances and then wipe in the direction of the grain. Not only will this help clean the surface of fingerprints and food residue, it will also give it a nice shine. Wipe clean with a soft, microfiber cloth. 4. WD-40 The oddest way to clean your stainless steel appliance is by using WD-40. Go look in the garage or wherever you store your tools, and you will likely have a bottle laying around. Simply spray some WD-40 directly onto your appliance, or into a rag, and then wipe away. Instantly, the surface of your appliance will be clean and shiny. And as a bonus, WD-40 also provides a layer of protection to help prevent pesky fingerprints from appearing later on. Note about WD-40: While this will indeed help you clean your stainless steel appliance, it’s a petroleum-based product and should be used with care on or around any surface where you will be handling food. 5. Lemon Oil Furniture Polish Simply apply a bit of it to a clean towel and rub on your appliance. Once you have evenly applied, wipe clean with a different microcloth towel. It’s not recommended that you apply the furniture polish directly to the stainless steel surface, as it may not be applied evenly leaving you with more work trying to clean off the excess. 6. Glass Cleaner for Fingerprints Fingerprints are the chief complaint about stainless steel. This is especially true for all the parents out there. However, they can be easily removed with any common glass cleaner, such as Windex. Spray the cleaner on a microfiber cloth and apply evenly in a circular motion to remove the fingerprints. Repeat as needed. be sure to rinse thoroughly and towel dry. It’s not recommended that you spray directly to your appliance, as you may end up with more drip marks and splatter residue, leaving you with more work than you initially anticipated. 7. Bon Ami, Flour Sack & Wax Paper Dampen a small section of a soft flour sack and sprinkle the moistened area with Bon Ami. Rub it onto your stainless steel in circular strokes, covering the entire surface. Then dampen another small section of your flour sack and wipe the stainless steel surface clean, rubbing in the direction of the grain. Take a clean part of the flour sack and dry the surface. Finally, take a piece of wax paper and rub the waxy side over the whole surface of your appliance. This method works great when you work quickly, handling small sections at a time. Remember to clean the inside of the doors because they also get covered with grime and fingerprint oils. The wax paper prevents smudges and fingerprints for a little while and helps remove deep-set stains without leaving streaks behind. 8. Flour In the previous step, you used the soft sack that your flour comes in, but in this step, you can use the flour itself. Obviously, to prevent creating a larger mess, you may want to reserve this cleaning tip for the sink, or perhaps your pots and pans. The first thing you do is clean the sink thoroughly to remove any dirt, grease or grime that may be caked on. Once it has dried, cover it in flour. Feel free to use as much flour as you’d like. Next, take a soft cloth and, in a circular motion, buff the sink starts to shine like new. It’s that simple. 9. Commercial Stainless Steel Cleaners If your appliance has staining, scratching or needs a thorough polishing, a commercial cleaner designed for stainless steel is another option available to you, but also likely the most expensive. However, despite the higher price tag, many of these cleaners and polishers can minimize scratching and often will remove stains. They can also polish surfaces to a beautiful, long-lasting shine. Make sure to read the directions on the cleaner and test in an inconspicuous spot before covering the entire surface of your appliance with it. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and towel dry. 10. Water and a Cloth You’d be surprised how much routine cleaning you can accomplish with just warm water and a lint-free cloth. This is the least risky option for cleaning stainless steel. Plain water works to clean the majority of situations. Dry with a towel or cloth to prevent water spots. This is critical because minerals in water can leave deposits on stainless steel. By following the direction of the polish lines, you can attain impressive results. Microfiber cleaning cloths are an excellent choice to use when polishing stainless steel because they do an exceptional job of absorbing all of the water without scratching the surface. You can buy special polishing cloths which are finer than normal microfiber to give your appliances a final polish. The majority of the smudges will likely vanish without the need for special supplies or chemicals. The Best Way to Clean Stainless Steel Stainless steel appliances are durable and easy to maintain, but they do require regular cleaning. The key to keeping stainless steel “stainless” include proper maintenance and care. The guaranteed method would be to use a specially designed cleaning product. Unfortunately, this is often the most expensive. Nearly everyone has plenty of stainless steel to care for in their kitchen, from appliances both large and small, to cookware and sinks. With just a little bit of elbow grease and one of the techniques listed above, your stainless steel appliances will stay looking marvelous for a long time.