Stainless steel has a special coating on it that protects it from rust, scratches and stains. If this coating wears away, the plain steel layer beneath is exposed to damage. This article explains to remove stains without damaging the protective veneer.

The Knowhow

Follow the steps below to get started:

Sanitise the appliance
Buff stains away
Protect the steel

Sanitise the appliance

Any appliance which comes into contact with sticky fingers or food (i.e. an oven hob or a kitchen sink), needs to be sanitized:

  • You'll need:
    • A bowl of clean water
    • A clean, damp dishcloth
    • White vinegar
    • A gentle anti-bacterial spray or mild detergent. Try to avoid harsh chemicals and bleaching agents - these will eat away at the coating
  • Squirt some anti-bacterial spray onto a clean dishcloth and wipe the stainless steel surface
  • Remove stubborn residues by dabbing them with a little white vinegar. If food or greasy deposits are tricky to shift, leave the vinegar for a few minutes
  • Once the deposits have broken down, re-apply the anti-bacterial spray
  • Wipe the area dry, wiping in the direction of the steel finish

NB: Avoid wiping in circular motions. This will scrub away the protective film and spread stain residues across the stainless steel surface.

Buff stains away

Baking soda is good for removing stains, particularly for stubborn residues

  • Mix a solution of baking powder and water (100ml), and dab this onto stained patches
  • Leave the mixture to soak for 30 minutes
  • Clean it away with a clean, damp cloth and dry thoroughly

Olive oil is a good gentle cleanser - it removes surface stains by diluting them, and doesn't break down the protective coating on stainless steel appliances. You can also use baby oil.

Stainless steel cleaner is the best thing for generating a bit of sparkle - you can buy this from your local supermarket. Use a gentle microfiber dusting cloth, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for guidance.

Please note: do not use abrasive cloths such as wire wool or scouring pads. These will scrape away the steel coating, leaving the metal underneath exposed.

The British Stainless Steel Association has a comprehensive list on its website of what methods to use to clean different stains on stainless steel surfaces.

Protect the stainless barrier

  • Use a stainless steel protectant - this works like Scotchguard for steel. You don't need to re-apply protectant after every use - just when the steel starts to lose its lustre.
  • Don't leave fingerprint marks, water, milk, specks of food, or bleach on stainless steel surfaces. These can leave permanent stains if left unattended. When you see one, try to wipe it away with an oily cloth as soon as possible
  • Don't let liquid soap dry onto the stainless steel
  • Avoid setting hot pans directly onto stainless steel, and try to avoid letting cooking foods bubble over onto a steel hob
  • Don't cut directly on a stainless steel surface (i.e. a steel draining board)
  • Remove wet dishcloths or sponges - do not leave these to dry on stainless steel

Updated On:

Feb 01, 2012

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