Stainless Steel

A general understanding of it and how it may affect the cleaning of it. 

Many stainless steel appliances are not actually made from ‘Stainless Steel’ but are made from what is called ‘catering stainless steel’ which starts from stainless steel and then is coated to have a polished finish to look like stainless steel. A tip that has been used to determine if it is indeed true stainless steel is to put a magnet to the surface, if it sticks it is ‘catering stainless’.

From what I have read ‘true stainless steel’ is a non-ferrous metal which magnets don’t stick to. However, with that said, I have also read that some manufacturers will place a carbon steel backing plate behind the stainless so that you can use magnets which would wipe out the magnet tip suggested above.

It is my understanding from the research I have done that in order for a manufacturer to claim that the appliance ‘is’ stainless steel there must be a minimum amount of chromium content. In some countries that minimum is very stringent such as in the USA, it is said to be 14% where on average they range from 11.50 – 18%. The requirements around this material affect such things as; durability, corrosion resistance and heat resistance etc… which may conclude that you will have to be careful on which product you use to clean the appliance.

Cleaning Solutions

Vinegar or Lemon Juice

Vinegar and or lemon juice are an eco friendly option that will surely cut grease and grime and is a very cost effective option to say the least. Not to mention that both are a natural disinfectant. 

Directions: spray surface with a blend of vinegar and water to the surface of your appliance and wipe clean with a clean soft cloth. Ensure to completely dry the surface with a dry soft cloth until you see it shine.

Depending on the degree of dirt, you may only need to maintain the area by dampening a soft cloth with vinegar and wipe your appliances with the grain. The same method would apply to the use of Lemon Juice. 

Concentration – 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar or lemon juice 

Note: Vinegar is made up of Acetic Acid which is corrosive and so it is possible that prolonged use of this on the surface of your appliance may cause damage to the surface. Perhaps consider this solution be used for heavy duty greasy messes and then maintain with either plain water or any other non acidic solution.  

I did read an article where the feedback was that; the individual uses vinegar on a regular basis on their stainless steel appliances and has done so for 15 years and has never noticed any damage to her appliance.

Mild Dish soap

Using a mild dish soap is an affordable way to keep your appliances clean and is great for removing grease and grime. There are some dish soaps that are made from more natural ingredients and are considered less harsh and less harmful to the environment. 

Directions: Wet a soft cloth, apply a mild dish soap and agitate the cloth to create a lather and wipe entire surface of appliance. Next, rinse your cloth well with cold water (cold water eliminates the soap faster than hot water does) to remove any leftover soap from the cloth, then proceed to wipe away the soap from the appliance working with the grain (you may have to rinse the cloth several times and go over the appliance several times before all of the soap is removed from the surface).  Work with the grain and in long even strokes.

Dry with a clean microfibre cloth. If you have streaking, you have not completely wiped away the soap. This works especially well when you have sticky or greasy surfaces.

Concentration: wet your cloth using hot/warm water well, squeeze excess water enough so that it is not leaking down your arm or dripping on the floor but the cloth should be wet. Apply a quarter size amount of mild dish soap to the cloth (or more if needed, some dish soap lather better than others).

Oil and Vinegar

This is a two step process, using the vinegar first to clean the surface and then using the oil second to add a shiny finish. Both affordable and eco friendly. 

Directions: Clean your appliance by spraying it with vinegar as described above (under vinegar heading) and once you have cleaned the appliance and are happy with the results, polish the surface with oil. You can use mineral oil (some have argued that this is not a good option to use on stainless) or you can even use your handy dandy olive oil! Polish to a shiny finish, but be sure that the surface is dry and not sticky to the touch. Be sure to apply with the grain in long even strokes. 

Concentration: vinegar solution: 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar, oil – apply a small amount to a clean soft cloth as needed. I would recommend using a small amount and then adding a small amount to the cloth as you go. 

Note: Be careful not to use too much oil or it will attract dust and dirt like a magnet which defeats the purpose. You can wipe off any oily residue with a clean soft cloth to really buff the area. Keep in mind that oil based solutions do leave residue and if not used properly can actually make matters worse.

Glass Cleaners or Ammonia

Both of these products will work to remove fingerprints on the surface of your appliance.

Directions: you can spray the product right onto a soft cloth and gently wipe the area and then rinse with water and dry to a polish finish with a new clean soft cloth.

Concentration: Always be careful to read the label and follow the instructions.

Stainless Steel cleaners

These products work well to remove stubborn built on grime. They are specially formulated to clean and polish your appliances, however, I have found in my own personal experience, that once you begin using these products, you are committed.I’m not a 100% sure as to why (perhaps they leave a build up or film on the appliance) but, if you then try another product like vinegar to clean, you will see a change in colour or finish on the appliance.

Also, if you decide to maintain the appliance afterwards with a product like soap and water for example, it may leave patchy areas on the finish. This can be resolved with some patience and time if you decide to go with the more eco friendly solution like vinegar, buy continuing to clean with the vinegar on a regular and ongoing basis to remove any possible build up that may have been caused from the store bought stainless cleaner.

Most Stainless Steel chemicals are oil based and therefore may not clean the surface quite as effectively. In my personal experience using a store bought stainless cleaner, it doesn’t take off nasty grime like soap and water does. I have to clean the surface first before applying the store bought product. That said, I don’t use store bought stainless cleaners. 

Directions: Always follow the directions on the label and it is always recommended to test it in a non conspicuous area first.

Coconut Oil

I read somewhere that clear coconut oil works on your stainless steel as well. I would be interested to see this result! I don’t see why a cream coconut oil wouldn’t work to remove fingerprints as there is no grit in the oil and basically turns to a liquid with heat. So I say, try it! It is a natural safe product that may surprise you!

Note: it is an oil, so again the same method would apply to removing any excess oily residue as it may attract dust and dirt and defeat the hard work you put into your beautiful finish.

Directions: Use a clean soft cloth and apply a small amount to the cloth and rub with the grain in long even strokes. Buff dry with a new, clean soft cloth.


I also read that WD40 worked great on appliances. The comment was that it removed shiny spots, water marks and streaks. Perhaps not so eco friendly, but if you have stubborn streaks or water marks, and this works, it might be a viable option to get rid of the marks and continue with your more eco friendly options for regular maintenance. 

Directions:  use it very sparingly (one or two quick sprays) on a clean cloth wiping with the grain in long even strokes and dried with a clean soft cloth. 

Concentration: Always follow the directions on the label and it is always recommended to test it in a non conspicuous area first.


I feel that if you are careful to use any solution in calculated doses, always dry the area well with a soft cloth and and you monitor it over an extended period of time, you should find that you can easily determine what solution is best suited for your appliance and day to day routines.

Dependant on the quality of the steel used on the appliance, it will create a very different result for each individual user. I say to try different methods in an inconspicuous area to see how your appliance reacts to your cleaning method.

Experiment with the options above to see how your appliance reacts to the cleaning procedure and be sure to let me know what worked best for you!

Remember, that all stainless steel appliances have a quality factor to them. Some stainless steel has a more open grain, while others have a tighter or closer grain. With this in mind, the steel will receive better results dependant on the quality or texture of the steel vs. the cleaning solution you choose to use.


This article is intended to provide information only and is not in any way to be considered fact. Please do your research and or call the manufacturer of any or all products that you are considering using on your stainless steel appliance to ensure safety of use. 

I hope that this article provided you with valuable information that you can use in your day to day routine.

As always, helping you in caring for your Total Home…

Cindy Lutes – Professional Property Stylist – Transforming Interiors to a space you will be proud of!         

APSD – Association of Property Scene Designers; Certified Staging Professional  –    Graduate – The Interior Design Institute

Owner, Total Home – – 613-286-7165 or