- Stainless steel home appliances are durable, but the metal finish is susceptible to fingerprints, streaks, and smudges.
- We have the best options for different types of stainless steel cleaners including wipes, aerosols, natural cleaners, and even a homemade solution.
Stainless steel is extremely durable and resistant to water damage and rust. But it can also show every fingerprint, smudge, and water spot that is not properly wiped away. If you use the wrong type of cleaner, there is no way to restore the finish.
Ammonia, chlorine bleach, and oven cleaner are all particularly damaging, as are scouring powders and steel wool. And if you live in an area with extremely hard water, the minerals will leave spots. In other words, despite its hardiness, stainless steel requires a high level of upkeep.
Since equipping my kitchen with stainless steel appliances, I have been testing various cleaning products and techniques. One tip I swear by is wiping down the appliances daily with just a dry microfiber cloth; often, this allows me to skip other cleaning products altogether. Like wood, stainless steel has a grain so always wipe with it, not against it.
But for tougher stains, I need to call in backup. Luckily, I've tested enough stainless steel cleaning products to determine which ones get the job done.
Here are the best stainless steel cleaners:
- Best wipes: Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaning Wipes
- Best aerosol cleaner: CLR Stainless Steel Cleaner
- Best natural cleaner: Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish
- Best homemade solution: Heinz Cleaning Vinegar and Pompeian Pure Olive Oil
Updated 9/1/2020. We updated prices and links and added a selection of relevant buying guides. We also removed our best overall pick, TriNova Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish, due to stocking issues.
The best cleaning wipes
Perfect for tight spaces and quick cleanups, Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaning Wipes quickly make fingerprints vanish.
Any surface is easy to clean if you do it frequently, and this rule applies to stainless steel. In between deep cleaning, Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaning Wipes are perfect for quick, everyday cleanups like cooking splatters and fingerprints on refrigerator doors.
The wipes are offered in a convenient, resealable pop-top canister to keep them from drying out — similar to other household cleaning wipes you may already have. To use, simply wipe in the direction of the metal's grain and then buff with a soft, dry cloth to prevent streaks. Smudges, water spots, and stains will be gone.
I also love to use these wipes to remove greasy smears and splatters on my outdoor grill. And nothing will fit into the tight spot where handles join a stainless-steel panel like Weiman Wipes. When I attempt to clean those spots with some liquid cleaners, the cleaner runs down the panel before I can get my cloth in there to clean.
Pros: Wipes conform to tight spaces, useful for quick clean-ups, disposable, removes fingerprints and smudges
Cons: Darkens some types of metal like aluminum, wipes will dry out quickly if the canister is not properly closed
The best aerosol cleaner
With just one spray, CLR Stainless Steel Cleaner will leave stainless steel clean and streak-free — no buffing needed.
Almost every stainless steel cleaner recommends using the product to clean away smudges and stains and then coming back with a soft, dry cloth to buff away any streaks the cleaner has left behind. With CLR Stainless Steel Cleaner, the second step is eliminated — no buffing is needed.
My microwave is mounted at eye-level which means the top of the appliance is above my head. Cleaning anything above my head is not a favorite chore so I like a one-step process. Just a good shake of the can, a quick spray with the cleaner, and one pass with a microfiber cloth leaves the finish shiny and streak-free.
While the product is scented, it is very light and dissipates quickly. The steel can is also recyclable.
Pros: One-step cleaning, works well to remove smudges
Cons: Petroleum-based product, should never be used near a gas flame or hot appliance
The best natural cleaner
Developed with plant-based ingredients, Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish is safe to use around children and pets.
With a gentle herbal scent and plant-based ingredients, Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish is an excellent choice if someone in your home has chemical sensitivities. The company makes one of the few stainless-steel cleaners that actually list every ingredient on the label: filtered water, coconut oil, sorbitan monooleate (emulsifier), lavender vanilla essential oil blend, acrylates copolymer (emulsifier), and methylisothiazolinone (preservative).
The starter kit includes a 16-ounce spray bottle of the cleaner and a 14-by-14-inch microfiber cloth. Simply spray on the solution and, working with the grain of the metal, wipe away grime and smudges. Finish by buffing with a dry area of the microfiber cloth. After cleaning, a bit of the coconut oil remains on the surface to protect the shine and repel fingerprints.
Therapy is formulated to use on refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, sinks, outdoor grills, and microwaves. It should be noted that Therapy is slightly more expensive than the other cleaners on this list.
Pros: Plant-based formula, safe to use around children and pets, leaves appliances clean and streak-free
Cons: Most expensive stainless steel cleaner per use, not readily available in mass-market stores
The best homemade solution
Using household ingredients like Heinz Cleaning Vinegar and Pompeian Pure Olive Oil can leave stainless steel appliances streak-free.
Is there anything that vinegar can't clean? If you don't mind the scent of vinegar and have a little leftover oil in the kitchen, your stainless-steel appliances will gleam after using this simple mixture.
I'm recommending Heinz Cleaning Vinegar because it is slightly more acidic than regular white distilled vinegar, which makes it more effective in removing grease and food splatters. I keep it in a labeled spray bottle to make cleaning easier. Just spritz the vinegar onto the surface of the stainless steel and wipe the appliance down using a microfiber cloth (following the grain of the metal, of course). You will be amazed at how clean it looks.
Then, to help protect the finish from holding onto every single fingerprint (and nose-print from the dog), use just a teeny bit of Pompeian Pure Olive Oil on a soft cloth for a final coating. You can actually use any type of oil you have on hand; mineral oil, vegetable oil, even WD-40. The key to success is using as little oil as possible (and, again, buffing it in with a microfiber cloth).
Pros: Cleans stainless steel using natural ingredients, inexpensive to use, can be used to clean many other surfaces around the house
Cons: Vinegar aroma
See more great cleaning buying guides
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