FREE Shipping All Orders Over $49!

How to Clean Stainless Steel - The Ultimate Guide – Therapy Clean

How to Clean Stainless Steel Kitchen Appliances

Caring for stainless steel appliances is frustrating, especially when tackling streaks, smudges, and stains. Fortunately, with a bit of effort and the proper cleaning supplies, you can keep stainless surfaces sparkling all year long. This article will provide ways to keep appliances looking new, including refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, and microwaves. Following these tips, you'll learn ways to clean this finicky surface in just a few steps.

The Basics of Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances

Stainless steel is a "specialty" surface, requiring more care and maintenance than regular surfaces in your home. The trap many consumers fall into is simply grabbing a bottle of their favorite "all-purpose cleaner" and expecting it to work. While these multi-purpose cleaners do remove dirt and grime - they are likely to make the surface look worse than before. Why? Because these products use a heavy amount of soaps or "surfactants," which dry on the surface and leave a white film. 

We recommend looking for products explicitly formulated for maintaining stainless steel, such as Therapy Clean. These products are optimized to gently "clean" and "polish" and are the preferred cleaning method used by professionals. You see, maintaining stainless steel is a 2-step process. The first is removing fingerprints and grease - and the second is applying a protective coating. The process itself is relatively simple - spray, wipe, buff. Sounds easy. It is, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Always use a clean microfiber cloth when wiping the surface.
  2. Wipe in direction of the grain - one section at a time. Circular motions are OK, but avoid using too much elbow grease.
  3. Skip products with heavy solvents or petroleum distillates. Many times these will say "DANGER" on the packaging because of severe health risks.
  4. Avoid aerosol-based cleaners - especially if you are prone to asthma or sensitive to toxic chemicals.
  5. If you're working on a smaller surface area, spray directly onto the cloth. This helps prevent overspray and a potential mess to clean up later.

How To Remove Tough Stains From Stainless Steel

You'll need to opt for a more robust cleaning solution to remove tough stains from stainless steel. Here are a few options to try:

  1. Use a diluted solution (50/50) of dish soap with warm water. Apply to the surface and let sit for a few minutes. Then wipe with a soft cloth.
  2. Create a baking soda paste, warm water, and a few drops of dish soap. Again, apply to the surface and let dwell for several minutes before wiping clean. Always test this solution on a small inconspicuous area first to ensure it will not leave permanent marks on the surface.

If the methods above fail, you may be dealing with discoloration, which cannot be fixed with a cleaning solution. In this case, you'll need to contact the appliance manufacturer or a local professional to help resolve the issue.

How To Clean Stainless Pans and Cookware

To effectively clean your stainless steel pans and cookware, start with a soft cloth or sponge to eliminate any excess food particles. Then fill the pan with hot water mixed with dish soap and let it sit for at least an hour. Afterward, reach for a scrubber or sponge and scour away the remaining debris, including those stubborn spots of food residue. Rinse the pan or cookware thoroughly with warm water, and dry it with a clean towel before storing it. To remove stuck-on food or stains, you can also try mixing baking soda and water to create a paste, spreading the paste over the affected area, and letting it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. 

How to Clean Stainless Steel Sinks

The first step is to remove all food debris and contaminants from the sink. You'll next want to completely dry the sink before applying a stainless cleaner—most stainless cleaners on the market blend oils that will bond to the surface. As you may remember in chemistry class - oil and water don't mix. That's why it's so important to dry your sink first before cleaning and polishing.

Frequently Asked Questions About Stainless Steel

How do you clean stainless without damaging it?

When cleaning stainless steel kitchen appliances, it's important to avoid using abrasive scouring pads, steel wool, bleach, powder, or ammonia. These products can easily damage the surface and leave permanent marks or streaks on your appliance. It's also important to note that you should always use a clean microfiber cloth when wiping. When zoomed in, microfibers have tiny "hooks and scoops" that safely work on the surface without leaving scratches. Old dish towels can be overly aggressive, and you will see scratch marks over time. 

Does vinegar harm stainless steel?

Vinegar is highly acidic and should (almost) never be used on stainless steel because it can begin to eat through the protective coating over time. While it may not be evident at first, you will gradually start to dull the surface as the acid eats its way through the exterior coating and will make an uneven finish. However, one exception to this rule is hard water spots on the surface. For example, the exterior of a dishwasher is exposed to hard water stains. When this happens, you may notice it is impossible to keep clean. We suggest using a white vinegar solution on the surface for these exceptions. You'll want to follow up with a polish immediately. Why vinegar? Because of its acidic nature, it's better suited to clean away mineral deposits than conventional products.

Does dish soap ruin stainless steel?

Dish soap is perfectly safe for stainless steel and an excellent tool for heavily soiled surfaces. However - it will leave a considerable amount of streaks because the soap (surfactants) will dry out on the surface. Thankfully these streaks are not permanent and can be easily removed with a traditional stainless steel product. The best way to use dish soap is to dilute a small amount with water and apply it directly to the surface. Wipe dry with a soft cloth and be sure to use a protective coating on top.

Does alcohol ruin stainless steel?

Isopropyl alcohol is a quick hack to clean stainless appliances in a hurry. While it is prone to leave streaks, it is perfectly safe to use in a pinch. As a bonus it will disinfect along with cleaning. Unfortunately, though, alcohol isn't an excellent solution for leaving a shine on the surface and can be frustrating to work with because of how quickly it dries.

Can I use olive oil to polish stainless steel?

Another quick trick is to use olive oil if you're out of cleaning products. Simply dab a small amount of olive oil to a cloth and gently buff into the surface. This is a great way to put some sparkle back on the surface and is one of the ways to polish stainless steel surfaces using everyday items in your kitchen. The downside here is that olive oil leaves a greasy residue that attracts fingerprints more quickly than a conventional product.


In this article we provided ways to clean stainless steel kitchen items and appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, pans, and cookware. As noted, using a clean cloth and a gentle, stainless steel cleaner is essential to avoid scratching the surface. To remove tough stains, try using a diluted solution of dish soap and warm water or a mixture of baking soda, warm water, and dish soap. It is important to avoid using abrasive scouring pads, bleach, ammonia, or vinegar, as these can damage the surface and leave permanent marks or streaks. To give your stainless steel an extra shine and protect it from fingerprints and dirt, consider using a polish or protectant. Following these guidelines, you can easily maintain a clean and polished look for your stainless steel kitchen items.

Previous post Next post