How To Clean Stainless Steel: DIY Tips & Cost Of Materials

Find out how to clean stainless steel efficiently and what materials to use in the process. We also included a cost guide.

Stainless steel appliances are popular for their sleek look, and are often a big part of modern kitchens. But it is their resistance to corrosion and staining that really makes it beneficial. This shows when you install stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, the one place where bacteria and stains have the highest chance of appearing. Appliances aren’t the only benefactors of stainless steel, and are joined by construction materials, cutlery, hospital equipment and even cookware. All of its great pros won’t give you the full value of the material if you don’t sterilize it properly. Cleaning stainless steel appliances is quick and easy, falling right in line with users that like low maintenance.

The Pros And Cons Of Stainless Steel

Old and new homes are have stainless steel installed in them. With long stay hotels, you’ll even see the appliances there making use of the material. The same cleaning techniques that maids use at the hotels can be applied to your home appliances. But what makes stainless steel so great? Even with its popularity, there are many people that prefer black stainless steel or black slate. There are a variety of alternatives to go through when choosing an appliance, so it’s a good idea to know the strength and weakness of stainless steel. Always double check the features and ask questions before making a purchase.


  • Great looking finish that is considered the standard for the modern kitchen look. Consumers associate the stainless steel look with high end purchases.
  • Stainless steel has been the standard for over a decade, so you’re more likely to find appliances that support it. That means certain appliance models will only be available in stainless steel.
  • Some stainless steel appliances are fingerprint resistant, which is one of the biggest gripes about the material. This prevents smudges and associated blemishes from showing up on your products.
  • You can purchase different stainless steel appliances and the brands will still blend together. That is a big deal if you’re a fan of multiple features from different companies.
  • Stainless steel is synonymous with durability, even when it was first introduced to the industry. They retain an almost-new look with proper maintenance and care.


  • Not all stainless steel appliances are fingerprint resistant. Consumers have to check the feature list and make sure that their specific appliance protects against this problem.
  • Some stainless steel products are hit and miss with magnets. This is particularly frustrating since it isn’t something that would be listed on the features. You either know it before you buy by trying out magnets or by inquiring about magnetic ability.
  • Dents are a possibility when moving, cleaning or otherwise handling stainless steel appliances. Although it’s quite hard to dent stainless steel, once that happens it is a noticeable blemish.
  • There is a price disparity between regular stainless steel and stainless steel with upgraded features. If you want fingerprint resistant material, then most likely the price will be higher.
  • Depending on the appliance, cleaning may be harder than normal. This is an issue you’ll face with some refrigerators with multiple opening doors and crevices.

Materials Needed

There are multiple ways to clean stainless steel that doesn’t involve fifty steps. And since there are different types of stainless steel, a few cleaning methods will be optional. There is nothing confusing about the process, as it all comes down to whether you want to maintain the material or make it sparkle like it’s brand new.

Microfiber ClothThis normally wouldn’t be at the top of people’s list for cleaning stainless steel, but it works great by not leaving any streaks. That is a big issue you’ll have when using a towel, regular cloth or even a paper towel. Microfiber just works, without all of the headaches that force you to reclean an area.

Water BottleJust like you pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, misting a dirty area will give you a head start before applying the heavy stuff.

Dish SoapNothing strong, fragranced or expensive. You want a mild dish soap like Palmolive to get the job done. That is the most recognizable cheap brand, with Ajax following closely behind. But remember, none of the fancy types in their lineup!

Glass Cleaner (Optional)For blemishes like fingerprints, glass cleaner will do the trick and save you time from doing a full wipe down. This only applies to stainless steel that lacks fingerprint resistance.

Stainless Steel CleanerThe bread and butter of the materials is this cleaner. It knocks out all blemishes while giving your appliance a nice shine that lasts for days. Every kitchen should have a can of stainless steel cleaner to complete the medium and hard jobs of appliance maintenance.

The Job

Stainless steel is painless to clean when you have the correct materials. There are three stages to cleaning, and all will be covered below. You don’t always have to jump to the strongest (stainless steel cleaner) to get the best results. Using that to get rid of fingerprints is overkill, and ultimately a waste of your time. Daily care will keep your stainless steel appliances in the best shape possible, and it only takes a couple of minutes per day. Appliances that have hard to reach crevices and doors should be handled carefully so that you don’t damage them.

Fingerprints and smudges should be handled with glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Always spray the cloth instead of the appliance to keep from wasting liquids. When you spray the appliance there is a good chance it will be more than you actually need. Use circular motions after spraying the cloth, wipe in a circular motion. Due to the strength of the cleaner a quick wipe should do the trick and remove it all.

Use warm water in a spray bottle mixed with dish soap for light and medium dirt. It’s also useful for getting leftover food stains off of stainless steel. This is your go to cleaner for about 90% of stainless steel blemishes and dirt. Just like with glass cleaner, spray the mixture on the microfiber cloth instead of the actual appliance.

The last option gets rid of everything, but should only be applied when the first two fail. Stainless steel cleaner consists of specially made chemicals that clean the appliance when everything else fails. It is safe to use, but it is recommended that users follow the directions for application since each brand is different. One company will tell you to spray the appliance while another will prefer the cloth get sprayed. You’ll also have to check how often stainless steel cleaner can be applied safely without damaging the finish.

Essential Tips For Cleaning Stainless Steel

Your first instinct when you see dirt is to attack it with the strongest cleaner possible. There is no need for the strongest option with stainless steel. The material is built to handle all kinds of dirt, you just need to keep it clean at set intervals. The less dirt you have on an appliance then the lower chance there is of bacteria reproducing.

  • Stainless steel cleaner should only be used for medium to heavy cleaning tasks. Using it to clean fingerprints is not necessary.
  • In homes with kids, upgrading to fingerprint resistant stainless steel appliances is a smarter option. Using regular stainless steel will force you to clean it several times a day, wasting valuable time.
  • Stainless steel cleaner can be purchased in packs of two. Think about all the other places in your home with stainless steel appliances (BBQ grill etc.) where having a second cleaner on hand would be helpful.
  • Your tap water may have extra minerals in it that leaves water spots on your appliances and dishes. When this happens, a few extra wipes gets it clean and gets rid of those pesky spots. You’ll notice this the most when cleaning stainless steel pots and pans.
  • Stay away from ‘scrubbing’ your stainless steel with a brush or anything with bristles. This will leave unsightly scratches that are sometimes deep and will never come out.
  • Scented glass cleaner should be avoided when using it to get rid of fingerprints. The smell is pleasant, but there may be extra chemicals included that reduce its effectiveness on stainless steel.
  • Keep your microfiber cloth clean or you will spread germs with each wipe. It’s easy to forget to clean the product that does most of the cleaning, but a simple handwashing will do the trick.

Cost To Clean Stainless Steel

The only material you really need to spring for is the stainless steel cleaner. Everything else can be purchased as a generic item, getting the lowest cost possible. You won’t spend more than $30 total, even if you get all of the materials.

Microfiber cloths can be found anywhere, with prices changing based on which pack you get. The good news is that a single cloth will do just fine, so getting a pack really isn’t necessary. $1-$9

Any sized water bottle will do, and there is a good chance you already have one around the house. Since you’ll never use the contents of the entire bottle to clean, it is perfectly appropriate to get the smallest size possible. $1-$3

When it comes to dish soap, choose unscented regular. Try going for the smaller travel bottle rather than a larger one if possible. All of the ones you want will be a dollar or less, so this one is a no brainer as the cheapest material on the list. $.70-$15

Unscented glass cleaner will handle fingerprints, with bonus points given if you use natural glass cleaners. They tend to work better than regular glass cleaners on stainless steel products. $1-$11

Stainless steel cleaner is surprisingly low priced for what you get, and can be purchased as a single can, dual, or large can. There are plenty of great brands to choose from that will do the job just fine. $6-$20

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What’s So Great About Stainless Steel?

Comprised of up to 10.5% chromium, stainless steel is built to prevent rusting. It is the ultimate tool in corrosion resistance while also giving appliances a modern look. With a lot of major brand names building their flagship products from the material, it’s easy to mix and match while still keeping a uniform appearance. That doesn’t mean it is completely immune to blemishes and effects, so you want a high quality of stainless steel when buying an appliance. This is separate from choosing stainless steel that has fingerprint resistance.

Is All Stainless Steel Magnetic?

No, and most brands don’t appropriately address this issue. There are many different types and grades of stainless steel. Buying the most expensive appliance available does not guarantee it is magnetic, as this isn’t a feature that is talked about enough. You should contact the company or check on your own to find out whether the material is magnetic. Unfortunately it is rare that you’ll find out by looking at available features.

How Recyclable Is Stainless Steel?

100%. It can be melted down and reused multiple times. Aged stainless steel can even be used to make other materials since it contains nickel, chromium and molybdenum. All of these are valuable materials that are used every day. Stainless steel is great for the environment and always welcome in green households.

Black Stainless Steel vs. Stainless Steel

Black stainless steel is a popular variant with appliances that offers all the strengths of stainless steel but with a sleeker look. Beyond the good looks is also a superior way of handling cleaning; it doesn’t get smudges or fingerprints. For a lot of homes, that would be the winning combination. But stainless steel has had a hold on the industry for years, with plenty of appliances adopting a stronger build that resists fingerprints and smudging. So it really does come down to looks when deciding between these two since the prices are so similar. Samsung and LG has the current best looking version of black stainless steel. Consumers will have to figure out which type of stainless steel looks better in their home while providing a long lasting value.


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