This article was co-authored by James Sears. James Sears leads the customer happiness team at Neatly, a group of cleaning gurus based in Los Angeles and Orange County, California. James is an expert in all things clean and provides transformative experiences by reducing clutter and renewing your home environment. James is a current Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California.
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Stainless steel is prone to tarnishing and water marks, so polish your steel items regularly to restore its shine. You can polish the surface of stainless steel using water, non-toxic cleaners like vinegar or olive oil, or a specialized steel cleaner. Polishing stainless steel the right way will help you thoroughly clean the appliance and avoid scratching it further. Choose which method is best for the object and start polishing your stainless steel item.
Method 1 of 3:Polishing with Vinegar
1Choose a vinegar. Certain vinegars can work better than others. White and cider vinegar works similarly on stainless steel, but cider vinegar leaves a more pleasant smell. X Research source Use what you have on hand. Cleaning vinegar is best for tough stains thanks to its higher acidity. If your appliance is heavily tarnished, purchase cleaning vinegar.
2Check the direction of the grain. Like wood, stainless steel has a grain that will run either vertically or horizontally. Wiping the steel down in the direction of the grain will help you reach the small grooves where dirt or grime can get trapped. X Research sourceAdvertisement
3Spray your steel liberally with vinegar. Pour the vinegar in a spray bottle to lightly coat the stainless steel in vinegar. Then, spray the vinegar over the item until the item is thinly covered in vinegar. If you do not want to use a spray bottle, you can moisten a cloth in vinegar and evenly rub the item.
- For light polishing, dilute the vinegar with water (1/2 cup of vinegar for every quart of warm water). X Research source Polish with undiluted vinegar on items with heavy staining.
4Wipe the steel down with a soft cloth. Using either a soft cloth or paper towel, wipe the vinegar off in the direction of the grain. This will remove debris from the item and restore its shine. Remember to wipe in the direction of the grain. You don't want vinegar to stay caught in the grooves and cause your steel to fade over time.
- Paper towels can leave behind fibers or break off into small pieces. A washcloth will polish the stainless steel best.
Method 2 of 3:Polishing with Olive Oil
1Pour olive oil onto a soft cloth. Pour one or two dime-sized dots onto a soft microfiber washcloth. Remove the top of the olive oil bottle and place the cloth over the top. Then, flip the bottle over and allow the oil to soak into the cloth for one to two seconds.
- If desired, you can substitute olive oil with baby oil or take unscented liquid paraffine, enriched with some dops of clove oil. X Research source
1Coat the stainless steel in olive oil. Before you begin buffing the object, coat the entire surface of the object in olive oil. Continue wiping the object until you can see a light sheen across the surface. If one patch is more heavily coated than another, spread the patch around evenly.
2Apply firm, steady pressure to the surface in circular motions. While you're applying pressure to the object, you will use the same cloth that you applied the olive oil with. Use considerable pressure to work the olive oil into the grooves. Continue working the olive oil in for several minutes until you have moved over the entire object.
- Again, check the direction of the grain before you wipe the oil off. Applying pressure against the grain can dull stainless steel if olive oil remains trapped in the grooves.
3Use a clean cloth or paper towel to remove excess oil. If you allow the oil to sit on the stainless steel, it can dull the metal instead of polish it. Using a clean, soft cloth, wipe the object down until dry.  X Trustworthy Source American Lung Association Nonprofit health organization dedicated to improving lung health through education, advocacy, and research Go to source
EXPERT TIPJames Sears
- After you have finished wiping down the object, lightly touch it. If it still feels oily, continue wiping. Use your cloth to wipe off the fingerprints after you have touched it.
House Cleaning Professional
Try using another natural cleaner like lemon or lemon juice. Lemon juice is acidic and can remove tarnish from stainless steel. Soak the item with water and lemon juice or simply rub the object with the lemon juice and a cloth.
Method 3 of 3:Polishing with Specialized Cleaners
1Choose a non-waxy steel polish. Waxy polishes leave behind a film, which can gradually dull your stainless steel over time. For best results, use a non-waxy polish with an abrasive component. X Research source
- You can get stainless steel polishes at most grocery stores in the cleaning aisle. Ask a store employee if you need help locating them.
2Choose an oil-based cleaner or water-based cleaner. Water-based cleaners will not remove smudges or fingerprints from stainless steel. For the best polish, use an oil-based cleaner. Water-based cleaners, however, are healthier for the environment, usually less flammable, and less toxic. Decide which benefit is more appealing to you. X Research source
3Find a well-ventilated area to polish your item. Some specialized cleaners can emit fumes that are dangerous to inhale in small spaces. Polish your stainless steel near a window or outside to avoid lightheadedness. Open any windows and doors before you begin cleaning, and never use specialized cleaners in enclosed rooms.
- If you feel lightheaded, nauseated, or otherwise ill, leave the room immediately and contact poison control. Keep the product label nearby if possible to give the poison control specialists information. X Trustworthy Source U.S. National Capital Poison Center Independent poison control center providing resources to prevent poisonings and save lives Go to source
4Spray the cleaner over the object until it is coated in the cleaner. Wear rubber gloves while you spray to avoid getting the stainless steel cleaner on your hands. X Research source
- Refer to the cleaner label for specific directions and warnings.
5Wipe the object down in the direction of the grain. Use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe down your appliance. After you have finished wiping down the object, your object is ready to use. Clean your stainless steel as part of your daily cleaning routine (or after use) to avoid grime buildup until you polish again.
QuestionCan linen finish or pearl finish stainless steel be polished?Community AnswerYes, of course. If your stainless steel is good quality, the finish should hold up.
QuestionWhat is the best steel polish and cleaner?Community Answer"Bartenders Friend" in the original powder form is hands down the the best product for polishing heavily tarnished stainless steel. I was amazed by the results and everyone I've recommended the product to agrees. I was able to remove heavy carbon and tarnish from a stainless steel barrel that appeared beyond saving as the result of a fire. Mix warm water and powder to form a paste, apply with a sponge working in the direction of the grain. Polish dry with a non-abrasive cotton terry cloth. Repeat the process until desired finish is achieved.
QuestionHow do I clean rust off stainless steel?Community AnswerSoak in a bucket of white vinegar for 1 - 5 days, depending on amount of rust. Scrub with a metal brush afterward.
Things You’ll Need
- Cleaning, cider, or white vinegar
- Microfiber cloth
- Paper towels (optional)
- Spray bottle
- Olive oil
- Non-waxy cleaner
Don't use excessively hard water on stainless steel, as hard water can leave spots. X Research source
Don't use steel wool when polishing stainless steel. Steel wool can be abrasive to metal and leave scratches. X Research source
Use a microfiber cloth when polishing to avoid leaving streaks on your steel.
- Not all specialized cleaners are safe for kitchen appliances. Look for a "non-toxic" label on the package, and read all warnings on the back.
- Avoid purchasing general metal cleaners that use chlorine or bleach, which can damage stainless steel. X Research source
- Do not mix bleach and vinegar, as the combination can create toxic chlorine gas. X Research source
- ↑ https://www.hunker.com/12533459/how-to-clean-with-apple-cider-vinegar-versus-white-vinegar
- ↑ http://www.thekitchn.com/5-things-to-know-about-cleaning-stainless-steel-242599
- ↑ http://www.toledohousingcourt.org/media/1057/cleaning_on_a_shoestring.pdf
- ↑ http://thethriftycouple.com/2014/07/30/how-to-clean-a-stainless-steel-sink-and-make-it-shine-simple-3-step-solution-with-ingredients-found-around-your-home/
- ↑ http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/indoor/indoor-air-pollutants/cleaning-supplies-household-chem.html
- ↑ http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/dusting-polishing/guide-polishing-10000001129813/page2.html
- ↑ https://www.techspray.com/Content/Images/uploaded/Documents/23_1_Water-based%20Cleaners%20Whitepaper_100710.pdf
- ↑ http://www.poison.org/calling-poison-control
- ↑ https://experthometips.com/2016/09/22/reasons-rubber-gloves-shock-surprise/
About This Article
To polish stainless steel, spray the stainless steel generously with vinegar and wipe it in the direction of the grain with a soft cloth. You can also try pouring a few drops of olive oil onto a cloth and coating the stainless steel with it. Once the item has a light layer of oil on it, wipe it with the same cloth using firm, circular motions for several minutes before cleaning it off with a clean towel. If you want to learn how to use a commercial stainless steel cleaner, keep reading the article!