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Let’s be honest, as much as you love your stainless steel appliances and cookware, it’s easy to neglect them.

Stainless steel is supposed to be stainless, right? Well, sort of. The “stainless” part just refers to the fact that it won’t rust or discolor like regular steel or iron. The truth is a few stray fingerprints and some lingering water spots can quickly dull the sleek and shine that attracted you to stainless steel in the first place.

When you’re cleaning stainless steel, the best place to start is with some warm water and a microfiber cloth. And when you need something with more oomph, a little vinegar, and maybe even some olive oil or baking soda, will make all the difference.

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How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

These steps should work for your stainless steel refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, toaster, microwave, or any other stainless steel appliance.

You’ll need:
Microfiber cloths
Mineral or olive oil
Spray bottle

Step 1: Find the direction of the grain

You probably haven’t stared at your toaster lately, but if you look closely at a stainless steel appliance, you can usually see little lines running vertically or horizontally. These lines are the “grain” of the steel.

When you clean stainless steel appliances, always wipe or rub with the grain. This ensures that you’re cleaning the microscopic grooves where dirt, grime, and other debris can get trapped.

Pro tip: With some appliances, the grain can be difficult to determine. If you can’t see the grain visually, grab a soft cloth and rub horizontally and vertically. If you feel a little resistance in one direction, you know you’re going against the grain.

Step 2: Spray and wipe

Grab a spray bottle, fill it with vinegar, and spray the appliance. Then, use a microfiber cloth to wipe the vinegar off in the direction of the grain. If you see any lingering water spots, grab a second microfiber cloth (it needs to by dry) and wipe the spots away.

Pro tip: If you find yourself in a never-ending battle with fingerprints, the best solution is actually glass cleaner. Spray the appliance with a little glass cleaner, and use a microfiber cloth to wipe in a circular motion.

Step 3: Polish with oil

Dab a microfiber cloth in a small bowl of olive or mineral oil and wipe the appliance in the direction of the grain. Polish the appliance until any smudges or marks disappear and all you see is shine.

Pro tip: Start with small amounts of oil. A little bit of oil goes a long way. You can always come back for more if needed.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans

You’ll need:
Non-abrasive sponge
Baking soda

You might also need:
Bar Keepers Friend
Rubber gloves

A little scrubbing and a run through the dishwasher is usually enough for most stainless steel pots and pans. But there are times when your cookware needs a little extra love. Here are some of the most common issues:

Burnt pans

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of scrubbing a burnt stainless steel pan, you know it can be a serious chore to get it clean. Instead of scrubbing, try this: Bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vinegar to a boil in the pan. Remove it from the heat and add 2 tbsp of baking powder. Once the fizz settles down, dump the water out and use a sponge to remove the burnt-on gunk.


If you overheat your stainless steel pots and pans, you might see some slight discoloration or even a rainbow-like appearance. Don’t panic. Clean the pan with some vinegar and a soft sponge.

White spots

Calcium buildup in the water can cause white, chalky spots to appear on your stainless steel cookware. To get rid of these spots, bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vinegar to a boil. Let the water and vinegar mixture cool, then clean the pan like normal.

Baked-on food or grease

Start with warm water and a microfiber cloth or soft sponge. If that doesn’t work, mix some baking soda with water until you have a thick paste. Apply the paste to the food or grease, let it rest for ten minutes, then come back and scrub with a cloth or sponge. Give it a final rinse and dry and you should be good to go.

Pro tip: Bar Keepers Friend is basically the Magic Eraser of the stainless steel world. It’s considered a “mild abrasive,” and has some oxalic acid, which can irritate the skin. But if you have a good pair of rubber gloves and you’re not afraid to apply a little elbow grease, Bar Keepers Friend will rid your stainless steel cookware of whatever ails it.

A Few Things To Avoid

Regardless of whether you’re cleaning stainless steel appliances or cookware, here are a couple things you’ll want to avoid:

Cleaners with chlorine bleach, which can stain or lead to corrosion. If you’ve ever worn a stainless steel ring in the swimming pool, you may have already learned this lesson the hard way. Before you apply a cleaning product, check the label and make sure there’s no bleach.

Abrasive cleaners or scouring pads, which can permanently scratch or damage the finish. Non-abrasive cleaners, sponges, and microfiber cloths are the way to go. Never use steel wool or steel brushes. These products might scrape off that burnt food, but they’ll also cause damage and make your stainless steel more susceptible to rusting or staining.

In Sum

Step 1: Always start with some warm water and a microfiber cloth.
Step 2: Look closely at your appliance and find the horizontal or vertical grain.
Step 3: Spray the appliance with vinegar and wipe with the grain.
Step 4: Dab a microfiber cloth in olive or mineral oil and wipe with the grain.