How to clean stainless steel

Melanie Whitehouse / 30 January 2018

Find out the best ways to clean stainless steel pots, pans, fridges, sinks and other appliances.



Almost all of us have stainless steel appliances in our kitchens, from fridges to hobs, stoves and sinks as well as saucepans and frying pans. We love it because it looks sleek, hygienic and lends an industrial edge – but it marks. Hard water, sticky fingerprints and greasy streaks all mar the shiny surface, and they don't all respond to a quick wipe with a J-cloth.

There are a number of ways to clean stainless steel, all using products that you're likely to have to hand around the home. Before you start, remember that stainless steel – like wood – has a grain to it, so always polish in the direction of that grain to get the best and shiniest finish.

1. WD-40

This is one of the oldest ways to clean your stainless steel appliances and it's effective, even providing a protective layer that keeps finger marks at bay. Just spray it onto the appliance and wipe off with a soft rag. Note that it's a petroleum-based product and if you're using it on an appliance like a hob, oven or fridge – any place where food will be present – it must all be rubbed off first.

Find out about six unusual uses for WD40

2. White vinegar and baby oil

Spray the appliance with white vinegar and wipe off in the direction of the grain to remove the worst of the grime. Then dip a soft cloth in baby oil, or olive oil, and buff to a shine.

3. Soda water

Spray soda water directly onto the appliance and then wipe in the direction of the grain with a soft cloth. Not only will this help clean the surface of fingerprints and food residue, it will also give a good shine.

4. Glass cleaner and furniture polish

Remove fingerprints with any over-the-counter glass cleaner or furniture polish. Just spray the cleaner or polish onto a soft rag or a microfibre cloth and rub over the fingerprints with a circular motion. Wipe with a damp cloth and rub dry with a towel.

5. Flour

Believe it or not, you can use flour! Because this method is messy, it's best for a stainless steel sink or for pots and pans (see below). First, clean the sink to remove the worst of the grease and debris. Then sprinkle the sink with flour and buff off with a soft cloth.

6. Commercial stainless steel cleaners

This method may be the most expensive but many of these cleaners contain polish, too, so as well as removing scratches they can diminish stains from things like tea and coffee and leave behind a shine that lasts. Do read the manufacturer's instructions first, just in case your appliance has a special finish, try it out in an inconspicuous spot first, and rinse clean afterwards.

7. Water

Plain water works! Just make sure you dry it off well to prevent water spots from the minerals contained in tap water. Then polish with a lint-free or microfibre cloth.

How to clean stainless steel pots and pans

Never take wire wool or a scourer to stainless steel or you'll rub off the finish.

Soak the pan in hot water overnight to loosen any burnt-on food and charred bits. If that doesn't work, boil half a dishwasher tablet in water in the dirty pan for half an hour.

Baking soda, or bicarb, made into a thick paste with cold water is another trick – apply to the burnt bits and leave to soak in for a couple of hours before rinsing off. Baking soda can also be used to gently clean up the outside of stained pans using a non-abrasive pad. Alternatively try Bar Keepers Friend, which can be found in hardware stores.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.