Project Guide

How to Keep Your Stainless Steel Shiny

Stainless Steel Appliances and Surfaces
Person at a sink adding dish soap to a damp cloth.

Eventually, your appliances are bound to get covered in fingerprints, spills and dust with daily use. For this kind of regular wear and tear, work the following cleanup methods into your routine once or twice a week.

Get Rid of Grease and Grime
Person wiping the front surface of a stainless steel refrigerator.
  • Take a microfiber cloth and wet it with warm water and a drop of dish soap.
  • Then, wring out the cloth as much as possible and wipe down the appliance using an “S” pattern, working your way from the top to the bottom so that you’re not spreading the dirt around.
  • Rinse the cloth well and then wipe the appliance down again with just water, making sure to go with the grain of the stainless steel to avoid streaks.
  • Lastly, take a dry, flat-weave microfiber cloth and wipe it down again, also going with the grain. 
How to Make Stainless Steel Shine
Person adding vinegar to a cloth in front of a stainless steel refrigerator.

To add a nice sheen to the appliance, you can add a splash of vinegar to a clean cloth to polish things up. There are also budget-friendly sprays and wipes you can pick up from The Home Depot that do a great job of de-griming stainless steel.

Here's how to achieve that out-of-the-box shine after cleaning appliances:

  • Put a few drops of olive oil on a paper towel.
  • Wipe with the grain.
  • Then take a dry paper towel and wipe it again to remove any residue. 
How to Keep Stainless Steel Looking Great
A stainless steel pan with stuck-on food.

Stainless steel is pretty tough in general, but there are a few things you should never let touch its surface. 

  • Avoid using anything rough that could scratch the stainless steel surface, like a scouring pad or abrasive sponge.
  • Do not use chlorine bleach. It can corrode and stain the surface. 
  • Avoid cleaning in circles when wiping down your stainless-steel appliances, or against the grain, as this can leave streaks.
Stainless Steel Cookware
A stainless steel pan.

Because of the heat factor, dealing with stainless-steel cookware can get a little bit more complicated. However, whether you’ve just purchased a brand new set of shiny pots and pans or want to take better care of the set you already have, there are a few care tips that can help prevent problems in the first place: 

  • One of the easiest things you can do for your stainless-steel cookware is to dry it completely after washing, as opposed to letting it air dry. This will prevent unsightly water spots from forming on the pan.
  • If a few cloudy spots do show up on your cookware, rub them with a dampened sponge that’s been sprinkled with baking soda, rinse with water and towel dry.
  • Let the cookware completely cool down before hitting the sink.
  • If you’re boiling up a pot of water, make sure to add salt to the water after it's at a rolling boil. If you salt your water before it’s boiling, “pitting erosion” can occur, which leaves tiny but unfixable pockmarks in the bottom of the pot.
  • Before adding oil to a stainless-steel pan, follow these steps: Let the pan heat up, add the oil and let it get hot, then add the food. Adding oil to an already-hot pan causes the steel to become “static” and creates a temporary non-stick surface. 

Still, even if you routinely follow each of these preventative tips, your pots and pans are eventually going to get dirty. Here’s how to tackle each type of problem area. 

Stubborn, Burnt Food
A set of stainless steel pans atop a stove with a stainless steel surface.

If you’re stuck with charred pieces of food clinging to the surface of your cookware (which can happen when you add refrigerator-cold food to a hot pan), there’s a simple solution: 

  • First, give the piece of cookware a good scrub-down with a non-abrasive sponge to remove as many food bits as you can. 
  • Then, fill it up with enough soapy water to cover the food, bring it all to a boil and scrape the food off.
Chalky White Spots or Discoloration
A stainless steel pan with water that is beginning to boil.

Chalky white spots are a common problem when it comes to stainless steel, as it’s often caused by a buildup of the calcium found in tap water. To rid yourselves of these cloudy stains: 

  • Bring a solution of one part vinegar and three parts water to boil in the pan, let it cool and then wash and dry as you normally would.  
  • For discoloration, which usually presents as a rainbow coloring and is the result of overheating: Splash a bit of white vinegar in the pan or pot, clean the area using a non-abrasive sponge and rinse and dry. Another pro tip: Use the affected piece of cookware to prepare a high-acid food, like tomato sauce. 
Super Tough-to-Clean or Burnished Cookware
A person adding vinegar to a stainless steel pan full of water.

If your pots and pans look exceptionally beat-up and stained, it’s time to bring out a heavy-duty cleaning solution. However, if you have a warranty on your pots and pans, be sure to check the fine print—this method could potentially void your warranty. 

  • Fill the bottom of the pan with water, add one cup of vinegar and bring it all to a boil.
  • Remove from the heat, add two tablespoons of baking soda, empty the pan and then scrub. 
  • You can also use a commercial mild abrasive cleaner made for stainless steel. 

Keeping your stainless steel shiny will make your cookware and appliances look great for years to come. Shop The Home Depot for stainless steel appliances, cookware and everything you need to clean it keep clean and smudge-free.