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8 Cleaning Products You Shouldn’t Use on Stainless Steel

We’ve got sinks, stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers. All of these have two things in common: you will find them in the kitchen, and they’re made out of stainless steel. When you think about it, they look quite sharp and modern, especially when they’re squeaky clean.

And they have to be squeaky clean, especially since they show off droplets, dust, and smudges of all sorts much faster than any other surfaces around your home. This is a wonderful reminder to tidy up those high-touch surfaces as often as you can, but it’s still quite a hassle in terms of upkeep.

Luckily, it’s a rapid task to swipe stainless steel and make it shine in seconds, especially if you have the right products on hand. However, you can potentially shine away your steel’s finish if, by any chance, you decide to use the wrong products, so it’s vital to know the difference.

If you want to learn more about what to use with caution on your stainless steel and what you can use to clean instead, such as DIY cleaning solutions that you can make with what you already have on hand, this is the place to learn.

stainless steel
Photo by Joseph Hendrickson from Shutterstock

A list of cleaning products you shouldn’t use on stainless steel

Before you rush to apply anything to your stainless steel appliances, it can prove to be quite helpful to get a refresher on your exact model through the product manual or website. There are high chances for the manufacturer to mention which cleaning products are good but also which ones will damage the finish.

As a general rule, you should try to avoid these tools and cleaners on stainless steel because they may scratch the surface, stain, or even dull the finish.

  • harsh abrasives
  • scouring powders
  • steel wool
  • bleach and other chlorine products
  • glass cleaners that have ammonia, like Windex
  • tap water, especially if you have hard water (you can use clean, distilled, or even filtered water instead).
  • oven cleaners

Alternatives: DIY stainless steel cleaners

Often, a soft cloth (such as Casabella Infuse All-Purpose Microfiber Cloths) is already damp with a bit of warm, clean, filtered water. This might do the trick and wipe off the light grime. Then, towel dry after to avoid spotting and streaks.

For dirtier jobs, you might want to consider one of these homemade cleaning solutions. Before you apply it to your whole appliance, spot-test the cleaner on a small patch that’s as inconspicuous as possible, just to make sure it’s compatible.

White vinegar and olive oil

Take some distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle (like the Grove Reusable Glass Spray Bottle). Then, spray the stainless steel appliance with vinegar, then wipe it away with a soft, clean cloth in the direction of the “grain” in the metal. With a second soft, clean cloth, rub on a light coating of olive oil in the opposite direction.

Club soda

Place some plain club soda in a spray bottle. Then, spray the stainless steel appliance, then wipe it away with a soft, clean cloth in the direction of the grain.

Dish soap and baby oil

In a bucket or large bowl, mix 1 teaspoon mid-liquid dish soap (such as Dawn Free & Clear Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap) with 1 quart of warm water. Dampen a soft, clean cloth with this solution and swipe it in the direction of the stainless steel grain.

With a second soft, clean cloth dampened with clean, warm water, wipe off the residue. After it dries, use a third soft, clean cloth to rub on a light coating of baby oil that goes with the grain.

How to spot and treat grime and buildup

When it comes to stainless steel, not all messes are quite the same. This means that not all cleaning methods will be the same either. Smudges and hard-water stains, for instance, could come off pretty easily with a simple wipe down, whereas caked-on food and other, more intense buildups could require a more serious product.

Also, more elbow grease on your part. So you need to make sure you know what you’re up against before you start getting all those supplies. As tempting as it might sound to reach for steel wool to tackle a super stubborn spot, resist the urge.

While stainless steel could look like it has a natural grain to it, steel wool can also scratch it, leaving behind all sorts of annoying marks, especially if you only start to focus on one spot in a circular motion.

Instead, try to use some warm water and a bar of dish soap, such as Dawn Powerwash spray, and gently wipe away the grime with a paper towel and a microfiber cloth. For a stubborn drip stain such as BBQ sauce, just let the dish soap and water cleaning solution sit for a couple of minutes.

Then, carefully wipe it away. Explore various methods for residue removal. Sprinkle a bit of baking soda on the surface, then apply some white vinegar (it can either be in a spray bottle or a small amount dabbed on a clean kitchen towel).

Gently wipe away the spot with a soft cloth or even a paper towel, and rinse with some warm water. Another effective insider secret for banishing buildup is to use club soda. All you need to do is pour the club soda into a spray bottle, spritz, and then wipe.

stainless steel
Photo by alexandre zveiger from Shutterstock

Find the ideal cleaning solution for stainless steel.

It goes without saying that you might need some cleansing products to clean stainless-steel appliances. But not all cleaners will do the work on this material. As a matter of fact, a regular all-purpose cleaner might actually leave stainless steel quite streaky.

The secret is to look for ingredients with essential oils. It could seem counterintuitive to fight greasy fingerprints with grease. However, oils actually buff away the smudges. You can test Therapy Clean Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish on the fridge, especially if you open it a dozen times a day.

Because with these fridges, chances are the handles don’t look shiny is an understatement. However, the streak-free formula with a coconut oil and lavender essential oil blend wiped all that sticky mess away in less than a minute.

For cleaning a stainless-steel dishwasher, we might want to try Koala Eco Natural Glass Cleaner, especially because it contains peppermint essential oil. The plant-based formula also gets rid of smudges right away. We also love the fact that it’s a natural antiseptic and also deals with any kind of bacteria that might have accumulated on the spots where there were drips from dirty dishes.

Follow the direction of the drain.

When you clean stainless steel, there’s one general rule you need to take into account: Wipe along the direction of the grain. What you want is to spray your cleaning solution onto the surface of the stainless-steel appliance, then carefully wipe the material’s grain.

It’s generally fairly easy to spot the linear direction. However, if your appliance is giving you a hard time, there’s an easy fix to that. Try rubbing the appliance with a clean microfiber cloth both horizontally and vertically. When you do this, you will feel resistance when the cloth runs in the opposite direction and will glide smoothly when placed in the right direction.

If you found this article useful, we also recommend checking out: 6 Kitchen Plants That Add Life and Color to Your Space


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