How to clean stainless steel

Wednesday July 21 2021

Many of the ingredients for cleaning stainless steel are in your kitchen cabinet. PHOTOs/Rachel Mabala

By Joan Salmon

One of the things that lends elegance to any kitchen as well as sophistication is stainless steel; from stainless steel sinks to appliances, their touch is undeniable. However, if they are not regularly or properly cleaned, they will gather grime and dirt which will make the kitchen look dull while the surfaces will also get damaged with time. Here are some ways to keep those surfaces shining and in good shape.

Water and cloth

A routine clean up with plain water and a pure cotton cloth will leave your stainless steel looking amazing. Erina Ngozi, a housewife says it is important to clean with a dry cloth thereafter to avoid water spots which create stains. “With basic cleaning items, you will have sparkling stainless steel and additionally, following the stainless steel grains will help you have a flawless outcome. The type of cloth used is very important as some leave lint, while others could scratch the surface. Therefore, a microfiber cloth is your best option,” she advises.

Dishwashing soap and baby oil

When cleaning your stainless steel items, you need to understand the direction of the grain (the subtle stirations on the surface). That way, Ngozi says you will have a clean outcome when you are done with cleaning inasmuch as nothing catastrophic will happen if you do not follow the grain.

“Utensil washing soap is great to get rid of grime such as oil spills, and that makes polishing easier. A little on a somewhat damp cleaning cloth will do the job, even to remove fingerprints. However, for stubborn stains, you will have to rub the surface more than once. Thereafter, use another cloth to dry off any water streaks,” says Ngozi.


She adds that using the second cleaning cloth (it must also be pure cotton to avoid lint on the surfaces), put a few drops of baby oil to polish the clean surface. “With this, your items, more so appliances will be clean and shiny and the polishing helps to keep corrosion and rust damage at bay. Then wash the clothes for future use,”  she says.

White distilled vinegar and olive oil

When using vinegar, Rose Wangwe, a homeowner, says one can either spray it on the surface or wipe the surface using a microfiber cloth that has some vinegar. “Unlike water which is wiped off to get rid of streaks, vinegar must sit on the surface to help rid them of any dirt and grime. In case of stubborn stains, apply the vinegar severally to get rid of them. With dirt gone, put a few drops of olive oil on another microfiber cloth to polish the surfaces of your appliances, ” she advises, adding that it is important to watch out for any oil residues and wipe them off so that they do not roll, spoiling the meticulous work.

WD-40 spray

Apart from removing rust from metals, Martin Kalumba, an appliance repair-man, says this spray is an amazing although odd way to keep your stainless steel clean. “Spray some of it onto your cleaning cloth and wipe the surfaces. Within no time, the surface will be clean and shiny yet also have a layer of protection from fingerprints.”

However, owing to being a petroleum based product, Kalumba says it should be used with care, more so around surfaces where food preparation is done.

Club soda

This carbonated water is not only a better alternative to soda but also a great way to clean your stainless steel. Ngozi says put a small dash of it on a cleaning cloth and wipe in the grain direction to help you get rid of food and soup splashes as well as fingerprints. “It will also afford your stainless steel a good shine; just ensure you wipe it with a dry and soft cloth.”


Flour is not only great for making a face scrub but also cleaning your stainless steel. However, Isma Egesa, a home owner says it will be runny thus a big mess when used on say your microwave or refrigerator. “Therefore, you can save this cleaning tip for your sink, pans and pots. The first thing is to clean the sink, pans or pots of all the dirt, grim and grease. Then get as much flour as is reasonably possible and with a soft cloth, in circular movements, polish the stainless steel until it shines as good as new.”


On many occasion we will have spills on the cooker and quick removal could mean cleaning it off when it is still hot or scrapping of the mess after it has cooled. Wangwe says both methods are not good and the best way is soaking the surface with water mixed with detergent and baking soda. “After a minute or two, clean with a cloth and water.”

Things to avoid

However, there are certain practices that should not be done when cleaning stainless steel. Otherwise, they will get spoilt. Kalumba shares some of these:

Steel-wool – While using it has proved to be effective with other metal types, in regards to stainless steel, steel-wool will make them susceptible to rust and stains.

Bleach – The cleaning agent may be great at removing stains but when used on stainless steel, it damages it seeing that it has corrosive capabilities.

Chlorine water and cleaners with chlorine – Our tap water is treated with chlorine and therefore, more so after a water scarcity, it is not advisable to use that water to clean your stainless steel. Allow the water to sit before using it to reduce the amount of chlorine therein. In line with that, cleaners with chlorine will leave these appliances and equipments with stains from chlorine, besides the damage.

Postponed cleaning – After a long day, one may be tempted to leave dirty water or cleaning solution residues to pick up later. However, this is not good as they dry on the stainless steel creating a dull look and sometimes permanent stains.

Glass cleaner

Fingerprints are the main problem for people with stainless steel as they leave marks that ruin the pristine look. Wangwe says that is true for every home with children. “However, one of the easy ways to clean these surfaces of the prints is by the help of glass cleaners. Spray some into a microfiber cloth and even apply on the surface in circular movements. Spraying the cleaner is not advisable because that will leave you with drip marks thus more work than anticipated.”