Spring Cleaning Volume 1: How to clean stainless steel

I’m doing a little series on the blog this week, on tips and tricks I’ve used to clean household items.

Today’s tip is how to clean stainless steel.

When we first bought Heardmont, our dated kitchen came complete with lovely old white appliances.

After work one day, not six months after we closed on the house, I noticed our refrigerator seemed to be running unusually long and making a lot of noise.  I walked into the kitchen and saw a puddle of water on the floor, opened the fridge, and realized it was blowing hot air into both the fridge and freezer sections!

We weren’t smart about calling repairmen back then, so we came to the conclusion that it needed to be replaced.  On trip to Lowe’s that weekend, we scored a beautiful stainless fridge and a stainless dishwasher to match (cause who can resist a sale?).

Who would have known they would be such a pain to keep clean?!  Here’s what our fridge looked like this weekend.  The sad part was this was AFTER I’d cleaned it only a couple of days before!

Smudgy, smudgy.

Now, it’s important to note that our fridge and dishwasher are both real stainless steel on the front, not “stainless look.”  I’m not sure how my cleaning methods would work on “stainless look” appliances, so beware.

Not sure if yours are real stainless?  Here’s the quick way to tell.  If a magnet sticks to the front of it, it’s not real stainless.  You can’t see it in this photo, but all our Christmas cards, save-the-dates, and reminders are magnet-ed to the side of the fridge since they wouldn’t stick to the front!

Here’s our dishwasher, pre-cleaning.

Truth be told, I’ve never had a good way to clean these.  I’m a fan of using common household products instead of ones especially made for different surfaces, and all of my ordinary cleaners were falling short.

I’d tried:

  • Olive oil (Heard on HGTV that this was a great way to keep that stainless gleaming)
  • 409/ Other glass cleaner (Googled it and found rave reviews)
  • Soap and water

I knew to avoid:

  • Abrasive cleaners (steel wool, wire brushes, etc)
  • Anything with chlorine or bleach in it (too harsh!)

On a trip to Lowe’s this weekend, we had just about decided it was time to give in and buy some of those Stainless Steel Wipes, when a fellow customer overheard us discussing this steel cleaner vs that steel cleaner.  Turns out she worked for a company that made stainless steel drums, so she knew all the tricks.  The best cleaning trick of all??


We thanked her and ran home to try it out.  Sure enough, when we looked at the back of our can, we saw a whole slew of uses for this stuff, including “Cleans most surfaces of grease, grime, tar, adhesives, gum, tape, crayon, scuff marks, and water deposits.”  Who knew?

The process was simple. Here’s how we did it:

1. Working in sections, I sprayed the WD-40 directly on the front of the appliance.
2. Using a paper towel, I wiped and buffed the spray off until all we were left with was a beautiful shine.

Ready to see the results?  Here they are!

It might be hard to tell just how clean they got from those photos, so here are a few closeups.

Not bad for a free solution to our smudgy stainless, huh?  I know the true test will be seeing how long the shine lasts, but so far so good!

Have any of you ever tried to clean with WD-40?  Any other tricks to keep your stainless sparkling?

OR were you smart when you bought your appliances and opted for the easier to keep clean stainless-look, white, or black?  I’d love to hear all about ’em!

Linking to: Fair Weather Forum at Centsational Girl

The DIY Show Off

This entry was posted in Before and After, kitchen, tutorial and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.