How to clean stainless steel: bring shine back to your fridge, sink, hob and more

Clean stainless steel appliances and more using vinegar, baking soda, and other natural cleaning agents to restore shine, sanitize and protect everything from your fridge to the kitchen sink.

A kitchen with blue floor tiles and stainless steel cooking and cleaning appliances including oven and dishwasher
(Image credit: Getty Images (1098390206) / John Keeble)

When you know how to clean stainless steel appliances, pans, cutlery, and more, it'll make all the difference. After all, no one likes the look of dull and dirty... anything (especially if you're trying to impress guests). So if your fridge door, chef knives or kitchen sink has dirty fingerprints and cooking splashes all over them – it's time to get clued up.  

The best part of cleaning a kitchen is that restoring shine is easily done naturally and affordably with vinegar, and baking soda – plus, the right non-abrasive tools. So if you want squeaky clean kitchen surfaces, appliances, and utensils, get to grips with cleaning stainless steel properly to make your cooking space a spotless, shiny, and welcoming space that you want to prepare food and entertain in. Because you know what they say: the kitchen is the new living room.

And don't forget appliances that store and cook food too. Although the best refrigerators now have antibacterial coatings on the inside of the refrigerator, you can up the hygiene factor of handles, fascias, and door panels. The same goes for the best ovens. While many pyrolytic products speed up the internal cleaning process, control panels are a cozy spot for nasty germs and viruses to harbor.

When you've done the job of polishing your stainless steel surfaces, you should be able to see your reflection on them. Even better for showing off that smug smile once you've done a sparkling job on them all. You see knowing how to clean a kitchen isn't as hard as it seems if you have a few spare minutes and keep on top of it.

Grey handleless wall units with a foxed mirror splashback

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

How to clean a stainless steel hob

Whether you work with an electric or gas hob (the best hob will differ for everyone), you'll want to know how to clean stove tops as they can get grubby pretty quickly. From stir-fries to sauces, scrambled egg and spaghetti, we show you the best way to surface these sticky bits and bobs off your stove.

You will need:

  • Access to hot water and a sink
  • Washing up liquid (grab some liquid dish soap on Amazon, or shop our edit)
  • A kitchen cleaner
  • A non-abrasive cleaning cloth (these microfiber cloths from Amazon (opens in new tab) will do the job)
  • A manual toothbrush (an old one will do)
  • A polishing cloth
  • A scourer
  • Coconut or baby oil (optional)

1. Remove and rinse all items on the hob

To begin cleaning a stainless steel hob, remove the pan support grates, burners and rings and leave them to soak in the kitchen sink full of hot, soapy water.

2. Spray the hob with detergent

Use one of the best kitchen cleaners or wipe a cream cleaner on with a clean cloth. Leave for at least two minutes to loosen any burnt food or other grime.

3. Remove the detergent

Remove the cleaning solution using a microfiber or other non-abrasive cloth. It doesn’t have to be microfiber, but should definitely be soft – nothing that will scratch the hob.

4. Spot clean nooks, crannies and corners

Use a toothbrush to clean any hard-to-reach places your cloth can’t reach and to remove any stubborn food debris.

5. Dry the hob area

Buff dry with a clean polishing cloth.

6. Spot clean the hob accessories

Clean any remaining dirt from the burners, rings and grate which are soaking in the sink using a scourer. Dry thoroughly before replacing them.

7. Add extra shine with oil

For an added high shine you can wipe a very small amount of baby or coconut oil over the top of your hob with a kitchen paper towel. This final step will make it sparkle.

A shot of the kitchen sink, fitted in a marble-effect worktop over deep blue kitchen units

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

How to clean stainless steel appliances and more with baking soda

Baking or bicarbonate of soda is a great stainless steel cleaner as it’s abrasive enough to scrub away stuck-on grease, food, and limescale, but not so abrasive it will scratch the shiny steel. Baking soda cleaning couldn't be easier.

You can use it on kitchen appliances big and small, such as the best stovetop kettles. Or, learn how to clean a stainless steel sink using baking soda, vinegar, club soda and more from our content director, Laura Crombie.

You will need:

  • Access to warm water
  • Baking soda
  • A soft cleaning cloth 
  • An old toothbrush
  • White vinegar 
  • An empty spray bottle (these amber glass spray bottles from Amazon (opens in new tab) are super chic)
  • A soft, clean rag
  • Coconut or baby oil

1. Rinse affected area

First rinse or wipe down the area with clean, warm water. You'll want to do this to get rid of any obvious dirt or debris that you can see.

2. Sprinkle baking soda over the entire area

If doing the sink, this includes the faucets as well as the main basin area.

3. Allow the solution to sit for a few minutes

After a while when it's done its work, use a damp, soft cloth to wipe it down. 

4. Wipe the cloth around the area

At this point, inspect your sink closely and get into any corners using an old toothbrush if necessary.

5. Spray white vinegar over any stubborn residue

The vinegar and soda will fizz when they come into contact with each other. Vinegar is a good disinfectant and great for removing water spots.

6. Wipe and buff dry

Wipe down using warm water and buff dry with a soft, clean rag. You can polish further by buffing oil into the area using a dry cloth.

Top tip for sinks: If you want to know how to clean a stainless steel sink or how to clean a fridge door, take note that sparkling water can be used to renew the shine. Simply pour sparkling water into the basin and rub around with a clean cloth.

How to clean stainless steel pans

Investing in the best saucepan set is one way to feel like a MasterChef in the kitchen. But even the most confident of cooks can catch food on the bottom of the base. Don't cry over spilled (or burnt-on) milk, as we've got the know-how on what to do if you're frantically trying to figure out how to clean a burnt pan.

You will need:

  • Access to warm water
  • White vinegar
  • A stove top
  • A tablespoon
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • A sponge scourer

1. Create a warm diluted vinegar solution

To properly clean stainless steel pans, fill the bottom of the dirty pan with a layer of warm water and add 200ml of vinegar.

2. Heat the solution

Bring the pan of water to the boil. You may notice it already getting cleaner by the second.

3. Remove the pan from the hob and add the bicarb

Remove the pan from the heat and add two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda. It will start to fizz as the solution tackles the burnt-on food. You can pour out most of the vinegar first if you don’t want too much fizzing. Leave the mixture to work its magic for two minutes.

4. Empty the pan and scrub clean dirt and debris

Empty the pan and gently scrub with a sponge scourer as normal – do not use steel wool pads or copper-based scrubbers as they will scratch your pan. 

If there are any super stubborn marks that don't come off with the scourer add an extra bit of bicarbonate of soda and leave for 10 minutes before scrubbing again.

Top tip: To clean burn marks from your pans when they’ve been left on the stove for too long, use a mildly-abrasive cleaner, such as Bar Keeper's Friend, available from Walmart (opens in new tab). Sprinkle onto the bottom of your pan, add a little water to form a paste and scrub with a wet sponge. Rinse thoroughly.

A man cooking steak and a cream sauce with stainless steel frying pan and saucepan

(Image credit: KitchenAid)

How to season stainless steel pans

Before you've even begun to cook with your stainless steel pans, you can reduce the risk of scratching your pans, trying to scrub away burnt-on food. One way to do this is to season your pan. This involves coating the surface of your pots and pans with a layer of fat or oil which then creates a protective barrier.

'Seasoning your pans can be a convenient solution to stop food from sticking to your cookware,' says Amber Dunford, style director, Overstock (opens in new tab).

'Most foods, when cooked properly, typically don't stick to stainless steel pans, but eggs and egg dishes tend to stick more easily. A seasoned pan will help prevent sticking.'

'The best way to avoid sticking when cooking with stainless steel is to thoroughly preheat the pan before adding any ingredients. Preheating will help prevent hot or cold spots on the pan and will allow food to cook more evenly.'

You will need: 

  • Access to warm water
  • Mild dish soap detergent
  • A non-abrasive dishwashing sponge
  • Cooking oil with a high smoke point (Dunford recommends peanut oil)
  • An oven
  • Paper towel
  • Table salt

How to:

1. Wash the pan

Start by giving your pan a thorough washing, especially if you’re using your stainless steel pan for the very first time. Use a washing-up liquid and warm water to gently scrub the inside and outside of the pan. Rinse and dry it thoroughly.

2. Coat your stainless steel pan with oil

Coat the inside of your stainless steel pan with a layer of cooking oil. Use your fingers to coat the entire interior of the pan, including the inner rim too.

3. Heat the oiled pan

The pan can either be seasoned on your hob or in the oven. If using the stove, place the pan over medium heat. Let it sit until the oil begins to smoke then remove it from the heat. If using an oven, place the oiled pan in a 350F/180C oven for an hour.

4. Cool the pan

Once the pan has been removed from the heat, let it cool until it can be handled. Using a paper towel, wipe all the excess oil. Before storing the pan in your cupboard, place a layer of paper towel between each stacked pan to avoid scratching.

5. Cleaning a seasoned pan

To maintain the seasoning on your pan, avoid washing it with soap. Instead, wipe the pan clean with kitchen towel after each use. If you find that food is still sticking, scrub the pan with oil and salt then wipe clean with paper towel. If you have to wash the pan with soap, use the steps above to re-season it before you use the pan again.

A wooden cutlery drawer arrangement with stainless steel knives, forks and spoons

(Image credit: Getty Images / Kinga Krzeminska (1316632257))

How to clean stainless steel cutlery

We spoke to Viners (opens in new tab) about the best way to clean and care for stainless steel cutlery. Their product experts said:

'A stainless steel blade can be washed with hot water and a mild soap. We don’t recommend putting any stainless steel knives in a dishwasher, as this can damage the coating and affect the overall look of the knife.

'Be sure to place the blade on the side of the sink facing away from you when washing your knives to avoid any injuries or accidents.'

If you do corrode the coating, this will expose your knives and forks to air meaning they can rust. Rather than binning your eating instruments, learn how to remove rust from metal.

You will need:

  • Access to warm water
  • Washing-up liquid
  • A soft sponge
  • 2 x clean, non-abrasive cloths
  • A cotton tea towel
  • One of the following: vinegar / cider / lemon juice / olive oil / soda water 

How to:

1. Clean your cutlery in warm, soapy water

Your usual washing up liquid is perfect for the job in hand. Viners recommends to 'Use a brush with an elevated handle, or soft sponge to wash your knives. If you are using a brush make sure it has soft bristles to avoid damaging the coating on the knives.'

2. Hand-dry your cutlery

Hand-dry with a clean non-abrasive cloth to remove any water spots. The quicker you dry it the better it will look. 'After rinsing your knife with water, dry the blade back and forth with a cotton tea towel. Ensure all your knives are completely dry before storing to avoid any rusting,' suggested Viners.

3. Remove stains and polish your cutlery

To remove stains and polish you can use any of the following natural cleaning solutions – vinegar, cider, lemon juice, olive oil and soda water.

  • To polish with vinegar or cider: buff your cutlery in a circular motion with a soft damp cloth lightly dampened with cider or undiluted white vinegar.
  • To polish with soda water: rinse the cutlery in the liquid and dry immediately with a dry non-abrasive cloth.
  • To polish with lemon juice or olive oil: apply directly with a soft dry cloth, gently rubbing away at the stain. Then buff dry with a different cloth.

A stainless steel cooking range set into an alcove with brickwork surround, with white herringbone wall tiles

(Image credit: Future)

Top tips to care for stainless steel

  • Use the right tools: Make sure you don’t scratch the stainless steel sink by using a scourer. The best cloths to use on stainless steel are microfiber because these super-soft, non-abrasive cloths give you a great streak-free shine, remove gunk really effectively and last ages. Plus they can be cleaned in your washing machine no problem. 
  • Dry by hand: Even using the best dishwasher on a gentle setting for stainless steel cutlery could damage the coating.
  • The right storage: Keep knives stowed away and hang pans in warm dry areas that don't get direct sunlight.

How do you make stainless steel shiny?

Cleaning with shaving foam might seem like an odd idea, but this hair removal product can bring dull stainless steel items back to life.

'Shaving foam is an incredibly popular cleaning hack,' says TikToker, Laura Williams, aka @cleaning_at83 (opens in new tab) demonstrating how to clean stainless steel radiators.

'The mix of acid, emulsifier and surfactant seems to work well on metal and glass. While it’s no problem to use it on stainless steel, it may cause long-term issues on metal coatings or plating such as chrome.'

@cleaning_at83 (opens in new tab)

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