Stainless steel cleaning advice and tips

Stainless steel cleaning tips and advice

Knowing how to clean stainless steel appliances is necessary to ensure the best cleaning results without damaging the device. Today, this material is utilized extensively in the construction of virtually any household appliance. Stainless steel is non-corrosive and rust proof, which makes it the perfect low-maintenance construction material for a large number of products. Added to this is the fact that this is a material of great strength. As a result, you see stainless steel commonly used in the making of hardware, cookware, cutlery, and practically every type of home appliance.



By definition, Stainless steel is a steel alloy that must contain at least 10.5-11% (by mass) of chromium. This quantity of chromium causes a reaction with atmospheric oxygen to produce a non-reactive film of chromium oxide around the steel. This film protects the steel from any further corrosion and can prevent the formation of rust on the surface. This alloy is characterized by its lustrous appearance and its low reactivity with water that prevents staining. However, it is not completely stain proof and in conditions of high salinity, reduced oxygen, or poor circulation, the possibility of staining is possible.  Another important fact about stainless steel is that the non-porous, smooth nature of its external surface is not conducive to bacterial build ups or infestations.

how do you clean stainless steel appliances?

For the most part cleaning stainless steel appliances can be a reasonably simple process. Being non-corrosive it is able to withstand stains that usually affect most other surfaces. However, stainless steel is not completely stain-free, although it can be effectively cleaned and its trademark sheen can be restored. There are many simple methods available that can help you with stainless steel appliances cleaning

If a stainless steel appliance has developed a stain that is the result of an adhesive residue, it may be eliminated with the use of acetone, water, or any alcoholic solvent. These types of solutions are generally safe to use with a stainless steel surface as they are not noted for causing any type of negative reaction with this alloy.

 Usually, cleaning with a sponge or soft cloth that has been soaked with a mixture of water and soap should be adequate to restore a stainless steel surface and get rid of simple stains such as fingerprints. Alternatively, such surfaces may also be cleaned with a damp cloth (preferably microfibre). In the case of a stainless steel appliance that has an extremely high gloss, you might also consider the use of a commercial glass cleaner. These are seen to produce excellent results with steel surfaces. Stay away from abrasive cleaning products as they can cause scratches to these surfaces. (if you are cleaning a polished surface, always make sure you follow the grain and are not wiping against the grain.)

If you are dealing with more stubborn deposits such as grease residues or tea stain, you might consider the use of a regular cream cleanser. If you are dependent on a hard water supply for your home, it is recommended that stainless steel surfaces be kept dry, and to avoid leaving wet sponges or cloth for extended periods on these surfaces. This could result in the formation of limescale or water marks.

 If you are unable to get rid off limescale deposits with a cream cleanser, you might consider the use of white vinegar. Mix 1 part of vinegar with 4 parts of water, and apply the solution to the stainless steel surface. Allow this mixture to rest, so that it may adequately dissolve any deposits. You may then rinse and dry out the surface. An alternative to vinegar is citric acid, which has an added advantage of being completely odorless.

 Shop oils have a tendency to cause surface soiling to any stainless steel machinery they make contact with. This is unavoidable as they are generally laden with metal chips, grit and grease that are a common by product of most mechanical processes. Grease is also a by product in most households and kitchens and may stain utensils as well as food preparation surfaces that utilize stainless steel. If these stains are allowed to remain they have a tendency to cause build ups of rust. In addition, they cut off the oxygen supply to stainless steel that negates the innate passivity of this alloy. Therefore it is necessary to remove these stains on a regular basis.

If you are unable to remove these stains using the basic method of soap and water, you may try combining diluted detergent with a solvent to enhance the cleaning process. In the case of a machine part that has been saturated with grease, it is common practice to immerse the part in a chemical solvent. This method is particularly effective in dissolving any accumulated grease or oils. Typically, trichloroethylene or any other solution of a similar chemical structure is used for such cleaning operations. The use of a non-halgenated dissolving agent such as turpentine (white spirit), mineral spirits, ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, benzene, methyl ethyl ketone, or toulene may be considered appropriate in dealing with these stains. Usually, these solvents may be used singularly; however, there are various solvents available that utilize a combination of these ingredients.

Cleaning stainless steel kitchen utensils

If you are dealing with charred bits of food that are stuck to the stainless steel surface of cooking pans or pots, the cleaning process may be significantly enhanced by soaking these deposits in water. Add a drop of dish washing liquid to hot water and allow it to rest within the pan for at least 15 minutes. Any stuck food deposits are greatly loosened and may be scrubbed away with a nylon scouring pad or sponge.

Charred food residue may also be extracted with the use of bicarbonate of soda. Add hot water to the affected pan before mixing in a couple of teaspoons of baking soda. Leave the solution for a few hours, which should be enough for the deposits to be loosened. Baking soda can also prove to be effective in dissolving tannin stains caused by tea. Apply a solution of baking soda and hot water to the tea kettle with a sponge or soft cloth. After letting it sit, rinse the kettle with water and dry. A similar method can also be used to get rid off oily coffee stains. Fill the coffee urn with a solution of baking soda and boiling water. Let it rest for 15 minutes before washing away with clean water.

Using Commercial Cleaners for stainless steel appliances cleaning

If your stainless steel appliances or cookware have developed deep set stains or scratches, it might be advisable to use a good quality commercial stainless steel cleaner. Sometimes, an out of the box solution might be better than wondering how do you clean stainless steel appliances. Apart from their ability to minimize scratches and stains they can also restore the luster of any steel finish. Before use, it is always a good idea to test these products by applying to a non-visible section of the steel appliance. Always follow the instructions that accompany these products to ensure you get the best results. If recommended, do not forget to wash off the cleaner completely before drying off the steel with a clean dry cloth.

Certain types of commercial cleaners are formulated through the use of phosphates, alkaline solutions, or synthetic detergents, and are appropriate for use where heavy soiling or staining of a stainless steel surface has occurred. As long as you follow the prescribed method of cleaning, these methods can prove to be extremely effective.

Among the range of specialized cleaning and maintenance products available for stainless steel, you are likely to find certain types of protective sprays and cleaning pastes. Typically, the primary ingredient of importance in these sprays is silicon oil. This type of product is generally optimized for use with stainless steel and can vastly enhance the efficiency of the cleaning process. In most cases, the cleaning effect delivered by this type of spray can last for a few days or even a few weeks. However, it should be pointed out that they are primarily used for stain removal and cannot prevent the occurrence of new stains. A good feature of silicon oil is that it can removed easily by wiping the stainless steel surface with a mild diluted detergent solution.

Commercial pastes are primarily used to polish stainless steel surfaces and to restore their natural glossy finish. They are usually effective with their ability to coat stainless steel surfaces with an extremely thin layer of wax that is particularly resistant against the formation of any new stains. This waxy coating can remain intact for a few months as they cannot be dispersed with ordinary detergents. Alcohol is the only solution that can dissolve and disperse this wax. 

The use of these types of products is highly recommended with decorative surfaces, but should not be used to treat surfaces that come into direct contact with food items.

Cleaning Methods that can damage Stainless Steel surfaces

While regular cleaning and maintenance of stainless steel surfaces is necessary and recommended to ensure their longevity and integrity, it is important to note that you should avoid the use of any cleaning tools or products that may cause irreparable damage.

Avoid the use of any disinfectant with bleach that has a high concentration of sodium hypochlorite. This can result in the heavy corrosion of stainless steel surfaces. While it may be necessary to use diluted forms of these products in certain situations, you must ensure that the period of exposure remains limited. Always make sure that any traces of these products have been thoroughly washed away after use. If the use of such a product has been explicitly advised, it is necessary to follow all instructions correctly. 

Do not use salt or any commercial/home cleaner that uses any form of a chloride compound. Chlorides are known to cause damage to most metals and metal based alloys including stainless steel.

Any type of abrasive cleaning/scouring agent should be avoided. These products have a tendency to leave ugly scratch marks on a stainless steel surface. Avoidable products include popular steel wool pads (as opposed to stainless steel wool pads that are considered safe for use). They can leave behind distinct scratch marks as well as trace amounts of iron that can inhibit the passivity of stainless steel and can lead to the development of rust. Only use special stainless steel wool or nylon scouring pads if you are dealing with extremely stubborn stains that are difficult to remove. (But even these cleaners are not recommended for use on any decorative steel surface such as a refrigerator door.)

The use of silver dip cleaning fluids is also not usually advisable. These products will frequently include high concentrations of acids and chlorides that are detrimental to stainless steel surfaces.

Cleaning stainless steel surfaces with alternative cleaners

Olive Oil is a common household product that may be used to clean stainless steel surfaces such as a sink. This is particularly useful in getting rid of any streaks that may have formed in the sink.

Vinegar is a great natural cleanser with mildly acidic properties that can be used to polish or clean a stainless steel surface safely. Using a cloth dipped in cider vinegar or pure distilled white vinegar is a great way to wipe down stainless steel surfaces and restore them to their optimal condition. Vinegar is also a safe way to get rid off any scorch marks present on steel utensils.

Rubbing a stainless steel surface with club soda is a quick effective method to eliminate streaks as well as scorch marks.

Charred bits of food and grease that may be stuck to a stainless steel cooking utensil may also be removed with a mildly abrasive cleaner. You might also choose to make a paste with bicarbonate of soda and water. An alternative remedy in this case would be to combine ammonia and pumice to make a cleaning paste.

Other cleaning options include Mineral Oil (Baby Oil) as well as Rubbing Alcohol. They may be directly applied to a stainless steel surface with a lint free cloth. You can follow this application by wiping down the surface with a clean dry cloth. The use of a microfiber cloth is recommended but even a clean towel is sufficient.

If you are dealing with troublesome dried blood stains, burnt food residues, or grease stains that are difficult to reach by hand you will need to use an organic solvent. In these situations it may prove useful to prepare a hot solution that contains tri-sodium polyphosphate (4 to 6 percent) or a 5-15 percent solution of caustic soda. This may be used safely on any type of stainless steel finish.

Cream of Tartar can also prove to be a handy solution in eliminating any rust build ups that may appear on a stainless steel surface. Combine 1/4 cup Cream of Tartar with 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. Apply the paste directly to the steel surface. Scrub gently with a non abrasive brush to loosen and eliminate any rust.

Cornstarch can add new life to a stainless steel surface by dissolving stains and restoring its natural luster. Apply a paste consisting of cornstarch and water to the surface that needs to be cleaned. Let the mix rest until it has completely dried. It may then be removed with a dry cloth.   

Disclaimer: The information provided has been prepared as a guide only and the steps taken are likely to vary for different appliance models. We strongly recommend using a qualified engineer to undertake major repairs and fault finding.


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