How To Clean Stainless Steel
Stainless steel appliances are a double-edged sword. On one hand, stainless steel refrigerators, dishwashers, and ice machines look pretty smart when they’re gleaming fresh out of the box. On the other hand, though, it only takes one pair of dirty hands to take your stainless steel from gleaming to grody in no time flat.
Even though it’s smudge-prone, stainless steel is the best option for durability—especially in restaurant kitchens. You just need to know how to care for it to keep your stainless steel kitchen equipment smear-free.
What Is The Best Way To Clean Stainless Steel?
Nobody wants to see smudged fingerprints or grease smears on stainless steel. But for commercial kitchens, keeping your stainless steel appliances clean isn’t just a matter of aesthetics—it can be part of ensuring compliance with health code regulations. Plus, regular cleaning and maintenance can extend the life of your restaurant appliances.
If you’ve got stainless steel appliances you want clean, we’ve got good news for you: when it comes to keeping stainless steel clean, there’s no shortage of effective options. From DIY chemical-free cleaners you can mix up in bulk or as you need it, to all-purpose restaurant favorites you probably have on hand, here are the best ways to make your stainless steel appliances so shiny they practically sparkle.
Related: 6 Steps for Successful Spring Cleaning: Restaurant Edition
Cleaning Stainless Steel With Chemical-Free Cleaners
Cleaning With Vinegar & Olive Oil
A little vinegar, a little olive oil—you’ve got yourself the base of a tasty salad dressing. Or in this case, you’ve got the basic ingredients for a super easy stainless steel cleaner. Here’s how you do it:
- Pour some white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray down the stainless steel appliance
- Wipe the area with a clean microfiber cloth.
- Finally, dab the same cloth in a bit of olive oil and wipe the surface, going the same direction as the grain of your stainless steel.
"After cleaning with olive oil and vinegar, your appliances have a deep shine free of streaks, marks, fingerprints, or splotches."
If you’d rather save your vinegar and oil for cooking, you can substitute with baby oil and dish soap for similar results.
The Best Stainless Steel Chemical Cleaner
Bar Keepers Friend
In case you needed another good reason to stock up on Bar Keepers Friend, here’s our favorite use for the all-purpose cleaner: it’s the easiest way to keep stainless steel seriously shiny. Here’s how we like to use it:
- We prefer Bar Keepers Friend soft cleanser for bringing the ultimate gleam to stainless steel. Pour the cleaner onto a sponge and scrub the area (going with the grain, of course).
- Rinse out the sponge and wipe down the surface to clean off any residue.
- Go over the cleaned area with a clean microfiber cloth to buff out the shine.
What should you not use on stainless steel?
Stainless steel is pretty tough. After all, it’s got steel right there in the name! But like most things, stainless steel has its own achilles heel—and that’s harsh chemicals. In order to understand what chemicals damage stainless steel, we need a quick science lesson. Don’t worry, this is super quick (and requires absolutely no safety goggles).
Stainless steel is tough like normal steel, but has chromium and nickel mixed in. Now here’s where we get technical: when you mix chromium and steel, you get chromium oxide. And that’s the stainless part of stainless steel—because chromium oxide forms a protective surface that prevents air and moisture from causing rust. It’s what makes stainless steel the perfect corrosion-resistant surface for commercial kitchen appliances.
So if you want to keep the stainless part of your stainless steel, you need to be careful not to use abrasive chemicals that could erode that protective layer.
Can You Ruin Stainless Steel?
Here are some types of cleaners and chemicals to keep away from your stainless steel appliances:
- Scouring powders
- Steel wool
- Bleach (and all chlorine products)
- Glass cleaners that contain ammonia (such as Windex)
- Hard water from the tap (use clean distilled or filtered water if you have to)
- Oven cleaners
All of these chemicals are way too harsh for stainless steel and will compromise the longevity of your appliances.
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