How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances
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How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

Sep 13, 2023

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Even stainless steel appliances that are treated to prevent smudges should be cleaned periodically to maintain that buffed, industrial sheen. If you’ve washed stainless steel before (or attempted to), you may have had the annoying experience of the surface looking sloppier than when you started. That's because not all cleaning products perform well on it, whether they streak, emit strong chemical odors—or clean other surfaces perfectly fine but leave stainless steel a mess. We studied manuals and spoke with experts to find the most efficient and effective method for cleaning stainless steel appliances. Here's how to do it.

Depending on the size of the appliance, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

As we recommend for all appliance maintenance, check your model's manual prior to cleaning for any specific instructions. (If you don't have a hard copy on hand, a quick online search for your appliance's make and model can help you locate a PDF version.)

Many articles we came across suggest cleaning stainless steel appliances with vinegar, but our research proved otherwise. According to a representative from The American Cleaning Institute, vinegar's acidity has the potential to corrode stainless steel. Dish soap, on the other hand—or a cleaner designed specifically for stainless steel, like these wipes—doesn't compromise the metal.

If your stainless steel appliance is fingerprint resistant—it's been treated with a special finish that resists smudges—the same techniques outlined below apply. We cleaned regular and fingerprint-resistant stainless steel with this method, and it worked great in both cases.

Depending on the appliance you are cleaning, remove any items that could get in the way (such as magnets or suction-cup hangers). Put on the rubber gloves. Dampen a microfiber cloth in warm water and wipe the stainless steel to wet it. We found that starting with a wet surface made it easiest to work with the dish soap.

Next, dampen a second microfiber cloth and add a drop or two of dish soap (less is more here). Slowly begin to wipe down the appliance. You may need to periodically dampen the cloth and add a bit more soap depending on the surface area of the appliance and how dirty it is.

Most stains will lift easily with the dish soap solution and vigorous rubbing with a cloth. But some stains can be pretty stubborn (particularly in the kitchen); for these, we recommend using a gentle, scrubbing dish sponge with the same combination of dish soap and warm water. For particularly challenging stains, you may need to alternate between scrubbing in a circular motion and rubbing up and down.

It can be tricky—and messy—to fully wipe off soapy residue. Some people avoid this by making a solution of water and dish soap, but that's really not necessary for cleaning stainless steel. We tried a few methods and discovered that a complete rinse comes down to two things: limiting how much dish soap you use and keeping a wet, soap-free cloth on hand throughout the process.

As you wipe off the soapy residue with your wet, soap-free cloth, be sure to occasionally rinse the cloth thoroughly in clear water so you don't continue to redistribute the soap. You will know you are done when you no longer see any suds—just a wet surface.

With the third microfiber cloth, dry the stainless steel. The easiest way to avoid streaks is to manually dry the entire appliance rather than letting it air-dry. But if you don't have time to dry the appliance by hand, you can avoid streaks by taking care to wipe it evenly as you clean it.

This article was edited by Ingrid Skjong, Brittney Ho, and Sofia Sokolove.

Jessica Ek, senior director of communications at The American Cleaning Institute, email interview, December 14, 2022

Andrea Barnes

Andrea Barnes is a staff writer reporting on large cleaning appliances for Wirecutter. She previously worked as a research analyst. A number of avoidable appliance mishaps have led her to a passion for proper appliance care.

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