Beautiful, durable stainless steel appliances are valuable additions to any home, but, as you might have noticed, they do require a bit of work to keep them looking their best.
Still, with the right techniques, polishing can easily be done in no time. And it can even be fun! This blog post will show you how to polish stainless steel in several ways and make the surface look shiny and as good as new.
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
How to Recognize Stainless Steel?
To clean a metal surface right, you first need to determine whether it’s made of stainless steel or some other metal.
What Is Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is an alloy of iron, chromium, and other metals (typically nickel). It’s characterized by a chromium oxide coating that makes it durable, rust-, and wear-resistant.
Despite its durability, stainless still isn’t entirely “unbreakable.” Certain chemicals (e.g., sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, etc.) can strip the protective coating of your appliances, leaving them vulnerable to corrosion.
This is why it’s important to know how to polish stainless steel and which products to use.
Where Can You Find Stainless Steel in Your Home?
Durability and corrosion resistance make stainless steel a popular choice for kitchen appliances. You can find it anywhere in your kitchen, from toasters and cookware to high-quality knife sets.
How to Tell If Something is Made of Stainless Steel
- Look for the “stainless steel” marking on the front or back of the item. However, not all appliances made of stainless steel will have this label.
- Check if it’s magnetic. If your appliance attracts magnets, it’s likely made of stainless steel. But keep in mind there’s also nonmagnetic stainless steel.
- Look at scratches. Compare the color of the scratch to the rest of the surface. If they match and no flakes come out of the surface, you’re probably dealing with stainless steel.
- Pay attention to the finish. Unlike other coated metals, stainless steel usually has a characteristic dull finish.
- Absence of rust. If your metal appliance doesn’t rust or change color when exposed to humidity over time, it’s most probably made of stainless steel.
How Often Should You Polish Stainless Steel Appliances?
The frequency of polishing generally depends on the frequency of use.
People generally polish their stainless steel items every couple of months (one to four times a year), but if you’re a heavy-duty user or have kids or pets that frequently stain your appliances, you might have to do so more often.
In essence, you should polish stainless steel as soon as it starts looking duller than usual.
How to Polish Stainless Steel to a Mirror Finish
Polishing stainless steel is typically a quick and inexpensive process that can be performed using various products you already have at home. Still, the amount of money (and time) you’ll spend cleaning will depend on the size of the stainless steel surface and staining severity.
Before you start polishing your appliances, sinks, cutlery, etc., the first step is to clean them! That’s why all polishing methods discussed here use a combination of tools and materials for both polishing and cleaning stainless steel appliances.
Method 1: Club Soda
Club soda is great for cleaning fingerprints and food residue from stainless steel surfaces. It requires no rinsing and leaves a nice shine behind.
All you need to do is spray some club soda onto the stainless steel and start wiping. Go in the direction of the grain, and your stainless steel appliance will look as good as new!
Method 2: Vinegar and Olive Oil
This all-purpose natural cleaning agent is an excellent choice for stainless steel appliances. You can also use it to polish your stainless steel silverware.
It’s non-toxic and slightly abrasive, so it’ll help you remove any dirt or grime on your stainless steel surfaces.
Use diluted vinegar (one part vinegar with eight parts hot water), as concentrated vinegar can damage the stainless steel finish. Pour the solution into a container and soak your silverware for 5−10 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly, and wipe it dry with a soft cloth.
Alternatively, cleaning a stainless steel surface can be performed by spraying the vinegar and water solution onto it. You should let it sit for about five minutes before rinsing it with cool water and drying it off with a soft cloth.
Once you’re done cleaning, pour olive oil on a microfiber cloth and rub it into the whole area. Don’t use a lot — a few drops will be enough for polishing. Then, buff the surface by moderately pressing on the surface with the cloth. Finally, wipe away excess oil with a clean, lint-free cloth.
Method 3: Dish Soap and Baby Oil
Add a squirt of dishwashing soap to a cup of warm water, then dampen a microfiber cloth in it. Start wiping the surface clean. Rinse thoroughly, and you’re done! This is the easiest answer to how to clean stainless steel when dealing with light stain marks.
To polish the surface, add a couple of drops of baby oil onto a rag or a soft microfiber cloth. Rub in the direction of the grain and wipe the excess with a dry cloth.
Method 4: Lemon Oil
Lemon oil cleans, disinfects, and gives your stainless steel its shine back. Plus, no rinsing is necessary! Perfect if you want to polish your stainless steel knife, for example. Just add some to a clean cloth, rub it into the surface, and then wipe the excess with dry paper or cloth.
Method 5: Baking Soda
Baking soda is one of the most versatile and effective household cleaners. It can be used for virtually everything — from cleaning your induction cooktop to getting rid of bad smells from your clothes.
Baking soda is also excellent if you want to deep clean and polish stainless steel pans, pots, sinks, and countertops.
- Make a paste. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a little water, just enough to form a paste.
- Cover the whole surface with the paste (use a soft bristle brush or a cloth).
- Let it sit for 15–20 minutes to work on the spots and stains.
- Rinse it off with a cloth dampened in cool water.
- Buff the surface with a soft (microfiber) cloth.
Method 6: Ammonia-Containing Cleaners
Ammonia removes tough dirt and grease from various surfaces, including stainless steel. So, you can easily polish your stainless steel sink with ammonia-containing glass cleaners like Windex.
- Put your protective gloves on and spray some Windex on a sponge or a clean cloth.
- Apply it onto the surface with a circular motion (don’t spray ammonia on the stainless steel directly to avoid drip marks, stains, and residue).
- Rinse well with cold water, dry with a dry towel, and you’re done!
However effective, keep in mind that ammonia is toxic, so try not to inhale it and wear protective gear while cleaning.
To polish stainless steel with household ammonia, you should:
- Start by mixing seven cups of water with one cup of ammonia.
- Dip a cloth in the solution and start applying it to the surface.
- Leave the mixture on for about five minutes.
- Rinse it off with cool water.
- Buff the stainless steel surface with a dry cloth until shiny.
Method 7: A Commercial Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polisher
If homemade cleaners aren’t your forte, you can buy a commercial stainless steel polisher and cleaner. This is an excellent option for deep cleaning tarnished stainless steel. Make sure to read the label and follow the directions carefully.
Remember that opting for retail polishing products will cost you extra money.
How to Polish Scratches Out of Stainless Steel
Are you tired of seeing the scratches on your stainless steel appliance? We’re happy to tell you there’s a way to remove them.
Toothpaste is an excellent stainless steel polisher. All you need to do is put a small amount of toothpaste on a damp cloth (or a soft-bristle brush) and scrub the stainless steel until clean. Don’t forget to rinse it well.
If the scratch is gone, add some olive oil or stainless steel polisher on top, and you’re done.
Sand With Fine Sandpaper
Usually, it’s best to leave this practice to professionals. However, if you know how to use wet sandpaper, it might be worth a try.
Here are a few tips for success:
- Keep both the scratched surface and your sandpaper wet at all times during the process.
- Use a sanding block to keep the pressure even.
- Start with light pressure and move in the direction of the grain until you’re able to see your reflection on the surface.
- Finish by polishing with stainless steel polish or olive oil.
What Should You Not Use on Stainless Steel?
Several things can affect the chromium oxide coating on stainless steel surfaces, causing stains, corrosion, and scratching.
Here’s what you need to avoid to prevent this:
1. Harsh Abrasives
Though stainless steel is quite durable and relatively resistant to scratching, steel wool and scouring pads can scratch and damage it. So, we don’t recommend using them.
2. Bleach and Chlorine-Based Products
Bleach and chlorine-based products don’t make for a good stainless steel cleaner.
Bleach is a powerful oxidizing agent that can discolor stainless steel and cause rust or pit marks. Other chlorine-based products can cause corrosion of the stainless steel over time. So read the labels of cleaners before using them on stainless steel.
3. Oven Cleaners
Oven cleaners can strip the thin stainless steel coating. They can also cause the stainless steel surface to become dull and etched.
How to Keep Stainless Steel Shiny and Prevent Scratches
If you don’t properly care for stainless steel, it can become dull and scratched.
Here are five tips to prevent this from happening:
- Wipe down the stainless steel surface with a damp cloth after each use.
- Avoid using harsh tools or chemicals when you polish stainless steel by hand.
- Apply commercial polish once a week.
- Place coasters or placemats under dishes and glasses to prevent spill stains and scratches.
So, there you have it! Our top tips for polishing stainless steel. Whether your kitchen is full of stainless steel appliances or you just want to spruce up some old hardware, these tips will help you achieve brilliant results.
If you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to get in touch — we love hearing from our readers.
How do you get stainless steel back to shine?
You can use plenty of homemade cleaning solutions to polish stainless steel and make it look shiny and new.
Here are some of the most effective polishing methods:
- Spray club soda onto it.
- Use vinegar and olive oil.
- Rub lemon oil into it.
- Use flour to grind stainless steel to a brilliant shine.
- Brush with baking soda paste.
- Use water and Elbow Grease.
- Spray Windex or ammonia.
- Use a commercial stainless steel polisher.
Does vinegar damage stainless steel?
Only if you let stainless steel items soak in vinegar for hours. Otherwise, vinegar won’t damage stainless steel. In fact, vinegar is a great natural cleaner for stainless steel that removes streaks and fingerprints. It’s also a good, inexpensive disinfectant.
Does baking soda clean stainless steel?
Yes, baking soda effectively eliminates stainless steel’s hard stains, dirt, and grime.
All you need to do is:
- Mix the baking soda with some water to make a paste.
- Gently rub it onto the stainless steel surface and let it sit for 15−20 minutes.
- Rinse the paste off and dry the surface with a microfiber cloth.
Can you use lemon oil on stainless steel?
Lemon oil is a popular choice for polishing stainless steel. It’s a gentle, non-abrasive cleaner that won’t damage the surface of the metal. Plus, it smells good!
Before polishing the surface, clean the oily smudges with mild detergent and water. Dry it with a clean cloth. Then you can proceed with polishing.
Here’s how to polish stainless steel with lemon oil:
- Pour a small amount of lemon oil onto a soft cloth.
- Gently rub the fabric over the surface of the stainless steel.
- Wipe it with a clean, dry cloth to remove excess oil.