How to Clean Stainless Steel

Stainless steel isn’t nearly as hard to clean as I thought it was. It turns out the BEST way to clean it is by using no cleaners at all.  Just grab yourself a microfibre cloth or two and get rubbing.


Skip right to the tutorial.

The looney bin, in fact, has a whole ward devoted to those who have tried to clean stainless steel with the wrong product.  It’s right next the the ward filled with women who tried to convince their husbands The Golden Girls was a great show.  Good intentions all around, but the end result is the same.  Looney bin.

For years I struggled with keeping my stainless steel appliances clean and in fact ruined both of them in my attempts.  I used abrasives and sponges and things that could clean the bottom of an elephant’s foot, but maybe weren’t the best things for stainless steel.

But I was desperate.  There HAD to be something strong enough to cut through the dreaded fingerprints. Do not do what I did.  Do not use dish soap, steel wool or glass cleaner on your stainless steel appliances.  It’s a very, very bad idea.

When I got my new Blue Star range and glass front refrigerator I was determined to learn how to clean them properly.

When my stove arrived I actually emailed the Blue Star representative in my area to ask him HOW to clean it so I’d end up as the owner of a sparkling appliance and not the resident of an institution.  Was there a secret spray I didn’t know about?  The latest and greatest killer chemical that would make you grow a second chin but ALSO obliterate the smudges on my stove? Because I was O.K. with that.

The answer he gave me was embarrassingly simple and I wish I knew about it 15 years ago.


How To Clean Stainless Steel 6

That’s it.  2 microfiber cloths if you want to do an especially impressive job.

Since originally writing this post I’ve switched to The Ultimate Cloth which is even BETTER than microfibre.  It’s Mirafibre.  You can literally clean your windows with nothing but water with it.

Observe the prints below.

How To Clean Stainless Steel

I made those prints special for you. Please don’t enter them into any database.

How To Clean Stainless Steel 2

That little squiggly mark to the bottom right is a scratch, not a print. No idea how it got there.

How To Clean Stainless 2

To clean the prints from your stainless steel, dampen a microfiber cloth with warm water and rub with the grain of the steel.

How To Clean Stainless Steel 3


Once you’ve gone over it with a the warm damp cloth, dry it with another microfiber cloth.


How To Clean Stainless Steel 4


The prints are gone, it was easy, there were no chemicals and no special supplies other than the microfibre cloths which you can grab just about anywhere. I’m not sure if you can get The Ultimate Cloths anywhere, or only on Amazon which is where I got mine. I imagine some local speciality stores might have them.

How To Clean Stainless Steel 5

If this WASN’T enough oven cleaning for you I have a bigger challenge for you, with even bigger reward.  You can learn how to remove your oven door and clean between the glass in window in this post.

So there you have it. Smudge free appliances in no time at all, leaving lots of time for other things like dancing, watching television, dirtying up the appliances again and of course … visiting people in the looney bin.

How to Clean Stainless Steel


  1. Feral Turtle says:

    Those cloths are great. I bought one last year at Home Sense and it really works well. An excellent post Karen….Poor Betty, bless her! But I am in love with your replacement, so just keep her!

  2. Jeanne B says:

    How can it be that easy! I have tried a lot of different things and the only thing that has worked so far is Barkeepers Friend. My biggest struggle has been with the front of the dishwasher, it’s truly amazing how disgusting it gets. I will definitely be trying this tonight, microfiber cloths are the greatest.

  3. Lynn says:

    Hey Karen,
    I discovered these cloths a few years back & they are nothing short of amazing!!! Not only do they work on stainless but just about any other surface. I have not used glass cleaner or pledge in forever. Bathroom mirrors, stainless, windows, pretty much any surface!!! AMAZING!!!

  4. Theresa says:

    For that cooked on mess in the bottom of a pot, pan, or baking dish……..add enough water to fully cover the gunk and add a dryer sheet and let sit over night. The gunk will wipe off with a paper towel. Sounds strange but it works like a charm.

  5. Ev Wilcox says:

    We got microfiber cloths when both of our very young granddaughters had to wear glasses. I have used them sparingly for other things, too. But I have washed them with other laundry several times. Is that a no-no? Yikes!
    Need some information here!

  6. cbblue says:

    I’m with Debbie W. I get the heebie jeebies with an ugly face even thinking about microfiber. I’ve tried different brands and it’s always the same. Icky. It’s like it touches back.

  7. Carol says:

    Any suggestions on how to get a water spot out of the front of the fridge door? My kids let it drip from the top all the way to the bottom, I have tryed everything even the warm water microfiber, but the ugly run is still there.

    • Linda Fraser says:

      Kinda late now but just in case anyone else cares… there’s a fabulous (new?) Windex product I use on stainless steel called “multi surface”. It’s green not blue in colour…

  8. Debbie W. says:

    Is it just me, but I need to wear gloves while using the microfibre cloths! They give me that “nails on chalkboard” feeling…heebie jeebies. But thanks for the tip – I won’t be buying the spray from the store anymore!

    • kari says:

      It’s not just you. They are a weird texture to me too. I still use them, but quickly. :-)

    • Debbie says:

      Wow, I was just going to write about that. I can’t use microfiber cloths with bare hands. It is as if I have thousands of tiny prickles on my hands and the cloth gets caught on them. It is an awful feeling. I don’t use them. I suppose I could wear latex gloves to handle the microfiber, but that would not be nice for the environment. I bought a huge package of inexpensive terry cloths from Costco (billed as shop cloths) and I use them for everything and then wash and reuse. I don’t care if they are stained. They work and don’t bother my hands. I’ll have to see if they work on the stainless.

      Oh, I’ve seen baby oil used on stainless with amazing results, though I’m sure it leaves a film behind.

    • Christina says:

      Ah! I thought I was crazy! The microfiber cloths don’t do that to me, but those old nasty heated blankets everyone used to use do…even as a small child they did.

    • Suzanne LH says:

      Ahk. Me too! I found some that are a bit more expensive, but have a tighter weave, and don’t have the feeling of fiberglass. They aren’t “hairy”. The blue one of Karen’s looks like mine. I gave all the hairy ones to my husband.
      Years ago, bought white ones online, on recommendation from my daughter’s motherinlaw , they are very thin, but superb. They get stained and look awful, but work wonders. Need to get some more. Made the mistake of cutting them up in smaller pieces, bigger is better in this case.

  9. Cathy says:

    First off, switch to cherry jello and slip Xanax in it.

  10. Mary Kay says:

    Going home and trying this tonight – I got smudges to beat the band. Now if I could find a way to clean the top of my gas stove I’d be a much happier woman!

    • julie says:

      I hear you Mary Kay! We moved from a home with a perfectly clean smooth top to a home with a gas stove with a perpetually dirty top! The convenience of cooking on it definitely does not outweigh the misery of trying to keep it clean.

      • Debbie says:

        There is a product called Whip-It. It is a “green” cleaner and has variable ratings. The guy at Bed, Bath and Beyond convinced me to buy it. It didn’t work for what I wanted, but I knew it was supposed to be a grease cutter, so I tried it on the stainless steel gas stove top my husband wanted and I didn’t. It takes a little finesse, but I can get a shiny clean stainless steel stove top with Whip-It. It is more difficult to get cooked on grease off of the stainless rings. I soak them in vinegar and then use a Magic Eraser, praying each time the ME won’t scratch the rings.

  11. Debbie Neal says:

    In a pinch you can aslo use Pledge for an amazing shine, but it will leave a film. The cloths are better for you.
    As ar as the burned stuf in that pot goes, I would take the dishwasher powder(Cascade) and put it in the pot with very hot water and leave it overnight. That usually works on anything.

    • Lynne says:

      That’s my go to trick for anything particularly well bonded with cooking dishes. Nothing like letting something do the work for you while you sleep.

    • Becca says:

      I clean homes for a living. I use Endust and micro fiber cloth. Smells so much better than stainless steel cleaner and works just as well.

  12. Terry says:

    Great tip Karen,
    I will have to tell my wife.
    In the meantime what should I do with all this Windex??

    • Karol says:

      Have you not seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding? :)

    • Debbie says:

      Sell or give it away. I stopped using Windex long ago and use vinegar. (Some folks dilute it, I don’t.) I add a few drops of a citrus essential oil and of tea tree oil. This enhances the cleaning power and masks a bit of the vinegar odor for those who don’t like it. I like it. Costco has the large size inexpensive vinegar.

  13. Su says:

    I don’t have stainless steel…. I am old fashioned and kinda like the white stuff for appliances… but then I’m in a database so it’s probably just as well….. I LOVE microfiber cloths…..

  14. Tigersmom says:

    I. Love. Betty.

    There. I said it.

  15. Linda J Howes says:

    Too bad about the scratch.

  16. Jcrn says:

    Off topic but here’s a vintage book, out of print but easily found on Ebay, called I Married adventure. The Zevra Print cloth exterior looks as timeless now as it did then. And the memoir of a husband and wife’s adventure in Africa and elsewhere long before that marvelous wildlife was in danger, is an incredible glimpse at a vanishing world : <a href="; I didn’t hone in on a particular auction, just samples . Hope the link works. If not just search for it on Ebay. It’s a classic.

    • Tammy says:

      I use micorfiber cloths for almost all my cleaning.
      I have some for outside windows, some for the car, some for the bathroom and some for general-cleaning.
      Water and a well-wrung out, clean microfiber cloth (sometimes called ‘magic cloth’).
      That’s it.
      For other projects, vinegar and baking soda, and for the floor, a steam cleaning mop (just uses water) and THAT’s it.

      I got rid of all the Comet, Windex, Pine-Sol, Vim…liquid cleaners, powdered cleaners, cream cleaners…you name it: they’re gone!
      The house looks just as clean as before and smells just as fresh – but I don’t have to buy $100 in chemicals to keep under the sink taking up space, and worrying about how the residue might be affecting our health or our pets.

  17. CJ says:

    Did you miss the comments in your cleaning tip challenge about how great microfiber cloths are? Or did you just not believe us?

    They are also particularly awesome for bathroom mirrors and any glass surface. Everybody should keep one handy in their glovebox for when the inside of their windscreen gets cloudy. Especially my family member who keeps tissues in the door compartment for said purpose but then mixes them up with used tissues and ends up with an even grimier windscreen…

  18. Jcrn says:

    I love microfiber cloths and they also work to keep our black quartz countertop smudge free. However, I’ve found that laundering them properly maintains their effectiveness I don’t use strong detergents (in fact detergents are kind of discouraged so I’ve wondered about vinegar).

    I washed my first set of microfiber cloths with the rest of my laundry, not having the wisdom to read the laundering instructions. Big oops! They remain effective if washed on the gentlest cycle possible or even vy hand if you can spare the time (I usually can’t) . But I do air dry mine and I keep a ton of microfiber cloths around. They add sparkle and gleam to many surfaces that lack that final touch.

    Quick, easy, and perfect solution for stainless.

    • Pam'a says:

      My husband uses microfiber cloths for various woodworking tasks and told me NOT to use fabric softener when laundering them. Oops…

  19. Sherry says:

    Years ago when I worked in a diner we used a simple dish towel and carbonated water. Worked great. Of course we had it for the soda drinks but I’ve bought the cheap store brands and they work fine. Makes a good glass cleaner too if you polish with old newspapers when you’ve washed the glass.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Oh. I was hoping you were going to talk about pots, because I have a pot project right now. I took a pot of chickpeas and tomato and onion and kale- which is one of my staples, to a potluck. Someone put it on the sovereign, turned on the element, and went away. The chickpea stuff burned on to the bottom of the pot, creating an indestructible substance. My usual method is to scrape out the contents, down to the burned layer, add about 1/4 cup of baking soda, water to cover, and then boil it. Usually the burned layer releases. I have done this four times, and the bottom of the pot is still mostly black.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elizabeth – If it were me, I’d just use an SOS pad. They’ve never failed me yet for this sort of thing. ~ karen!

    • Beckie says:

      Barkeeper’s Friend will take that out

      put a bit of water in the pot and sprinkle in Barkeeper’s Friend so that it makes a paste…let it stand for a few minutes (or longer, if the burned in gunk is really bad) and then use a nylon scrub pad to clean

      repeat as needed until the pot comes clean

      Barkeeper’s Friend will also remove rust stains around drain rings

      • Lisa says:

        I second Barkeepers Friend. It’s great on stainless steel. Doesn’t scratch at all and makes it look like new. Vinegar and water also works for getting burned stuff out of pans.

    • Traci says:

      sprinkle the baking soda on and use a wet cloth/sponge so that the baking soda becomes a paste. Then it can do its work scrubbing the gunk off with its tiny crystals. If that doesn’t work repeat with salt instead (bigger, coarser crystals). If the baking soda doesn’t work, the salt always does, just make sure you don’t add too much water. It needs to be a paste.

    • Libby says:

      If scrubbing doesn’t work, my final go-to solution is to use spray-on oven cleaner, and then leave it outside all night. In the morning, you will be able to wipe it off. I only do this for pans that are so ruined, I’m about to throw them into the trash.

    • Amber says:

      When I burn a pot I use cheap white vinegar and baking soda. You know that volcano reaction you made in science class as a 10 year old? It’s a wonderful way to chemically dissolve the hardest baked on crust of old food, while leaving metal alone. Lots of powder, a bit of water to make a paste, then pour in the vinegar and watch it foam. Lovely trick (with a bit of scrubbing) for us kitchen-neanderthals. Not like the kitchen-goddess. Nope. Not at all similar. Nope.

  21. Jennifer says:

    After I clean my stainless steel fridge with a microfiber cloth, I spray a bit of WD40 on another cloth and give it a good shine. It smells for a bit, but I swear it prevents new fingerprints for a while.

  22. Marian L says:

    Olive oil! Seriously. A tip from Better Homes and Garden’s website. I put some on a cotton dish cloth and buff. smudges disappear and it keeps new ones from showing. I haven’t any microfiber clothes but will now have to get some to give this new way a try. Adore your new kitchen, I will have to share pictures of my now 3 yr old Martha Stewart ox hill cupboards in picket fence white and some personal tips on dealing with the pure style finish.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marian! I’d love to see the pictures! Be careful with the olive oil though. It’s a tip a lot of people use, but it isn’t really cleaning the stainless so much giving you another film on it. Try the microfiber. I think you’ll be a convert! ~ karen

  23. Lisa Schmid says:

    If you have older stainless steel appliance/sink and don’t want to buy a new one just because you have some slight rust stains or even MAJOR rust stains, this is the golden trick that will rejuvenate it completely. Are you ready? GO-JO: The amazing, non-toxic, citrus based, mechanics hand cleaner in the orange bottle. Use one hand to put it on a clean cloth and rub it on the stainless steel and use your other hand to hold your jaw from dropping while you watch the rust stains disappear. Have rusted chrome? Use it there too! Oh, and lime stains in a shower? Gets rid of that too! It pretty much is the best thing since Botox, but at $5 a bottle, your new best friend for life! And then later you can use your dandy microfiber cloths to clean your “new-looking” stainless steel!

  24. SusanKate says:

    Not much will get me cleaning after 11 pm, but this was just too tempting to pass up. Got my husband to come in and check it out and he finished up the job of cleaning the fridge. Win Win all the way around. Love this tip!

  25. Ella says:

    Awesome!! I will stop buying the stainless steel cleaner now! What a waste!!

    • Karen says:

      Yes, stay away from the stainless cleaner. It’s just giving the illusion of cleaning and leaves a film on the stainless. ~ karen!

    • Josée P. says:

      So happy, that I just tried this out!Beautiful results!My stainless steel cleaner,has been laid to rest in my
      garbage can.

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