The process of maintaining and cleaning stainless steel appliances can be truly frustrating. Whatever simplehuman used for the slim canisters we have is amazing, and only requires soap and water, or any spray cleaner to make the finish look like great. Unfortunately, the same is not so easy for our refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher. I’ve quite possibly tried every scenario and product known. I’m not sure what all the positive reviews are about when just using mineral oil, or a spraying on one of the many cleaners. I didn’t have the same results. Maybe it’s all the windows and light in our home that clearly showcase the stainless steel finishes. Maybe it’s my high expectations and pickiness. Either way, I wasn’t satisfied, so I soldiered on for better results, but in the end I had to accept defeat when wanting a 100% perfect finish.
The following details my journey, and what ultimately works best in my situation.
Phase 1: Stainless Cleaners and Polishes
There wasn’t one product that truly stood out. I was really hoping for a: simple to apply…nice even…streak free finish product. That wasn’t the case at all. I tested each product multiple times on large appliance surfaces (refrigerators, oven, dishwasher), and small appliances (toasters, juicers, etc.). Trying to get consistency over several uses and applications was a lost cause. I used basic terry cloth rags, cheap microfiber cloths, and expensive microfiber cloths. None seemed to eliminate the overall streaking issue on a regular basis. A few products applied more evenly than others during some uses, but then the next time, the streaking came back. Go figure!
The waxy film created by oil based polishes does add a slight sheen, and some fingerprint reduction, but also creates issues for spot cleaning. None of the products did a great job of blending in with the surrounding surface without creating gradient color and streaking.
Overall…the inconsistency, chemical concerns in a kitchen environment, and overspray issues, created more frustration than help.
Note: Several of the polishes list mineral oil as an ingredient.
Alternative polishes: 100% mineral oil and baby oil.
Phase 2: Cleaning stainless steel appliances
Per many manufacturers recommendations, and our most successful, is a simple solution of common dish soap and water. Plus you don’t add harmful chemicals to a kitchen environment. I prefer Dawn, but any brand should work. Note: I’m not fully on-board with Windex or any other window cleaner for cleaning stainless steel. The same goes for vinegar solutions. These products have always led to streaking.
- Use dedicated clean rags: one for washing, and another for drying. Terry cloth works fine, unlike polishes that recommend microfiber.
- I use very hot water to help speed the drying process, break down grease and oil, and also helps reduce and eliminate any streaking. The use of gloves may be needed to protect hands.
- For spot cleaning, a spray bottle with a soap and water mixture may work okay, but can be inconsistent in results. Hot water seems key.
Phase 3: Minimizing the imperfections
I finally grew tired of trying spray cleaners and polishes that increased the contrast in surface gradients, so I deferred to what I know about detailing and maintaining my car’s exterior finish. Out came the Porter Cable 7424 random orbit polisher and Wolfgang scratch and swirl remover. (see more here)
With a light cutting pad: I was able to minimize light scratches, remove spots, and even out the gradients I was seeing prior. The end result was a much nicer finish, but from certain angles, and for deep scratches that you can feel when dragging your fingernails across, I had to accept this was as good as it gets. I spent way too much time, resources, and energy already. Note: A lot of oxidation was created from the stainless. This was easily removed with another round of the dish soap and water mixture, mentioned above.
I don’t think any surface can be perfect. There will always be some angle of view where you will see hints of streaking, and the stainless material itself doesn’t have consistent coloring. Stainless steel can also be etched, leaving flaws that stand out. Results will vary, since manufacturers may use different grades of material, and newer appliances may incorporate easier to maintain stainless steel surfaces.
CAUTION: (i) DON’T USE ABRASIVES – Even the finest stainless steel wool (0000), will scratch stainless steel surfaces. (ii) Always clean with the grain, to avoid scratching.
This youtube video from Proline Range Hoods has some very useful information about stainless in general, along with refinishing tips that they use. (i) I’m not sure how well the refinishing would work on appliances that have edge / panel trim and don’t allow you to go off the edge of the stainless when using the 3M scouring pads – 7447 and 7448. (ii) As you can see, there are still signs of scratches and flaws.