The Best Homemade Stainless Steel Cleaner

person wiping a stainless steel dishwasher

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Fed up with all the fingerprints on your stainless steel appliances? Skip the pricey stainless steel cleaners, and grab a bottle of vinegar from your pantry instead. It's all you need to keep your appliances looking shiny and new. Then read on to learn how to create your own stainless steel cleaner for pennies and avoid buying expensive commercial cleaners.

Illustration depicting how to make a stainless steel cleaner
The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

The Process

Fill a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar. Then, spray it on all of your stainless steel surfaces, and wipe them dry with a soft cleaning cloth or paper towel. It's best to wipe with the direction of the grain and to use a gentle touch. The vinegar shouldn't have any trouble cutting through the grease and grime, so save your elbow grease for another job.

person using vinegar spray on stainless steel
The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Once you're satisfied that all of the fingerprints and grime have been removed, go over the surface again with a water-dampened cloth. You can use a second spray bottle filled with water if you prefer. This extra step is to ensure that the acid in the vinegar has been removed, so there's no chance of it interacting with the metal over time. Stainless steel is naturally resistant to corrosion, so this is really just an added precaution.

person wiping down a dishwasher with a damp cloth
The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Vinegar may not smell as nice as some commercial cleaners, but don't worry—that scent won't stay around for long.

How It Works and Benefits

Vinegar contains a mild acid, called acetic acid. It cuts through the oil left behind by fingers, rather than smearing it around like a lot of other cleaners.

Vinegar is inexpensive and contains no harsh chemicals as many commercial cleaners do. Other benefits of using vinegar as a stainless steel cleaner as well as for other cleaning uses include that it's:

  • An effective sanitizer
  • An effective grease cutter
  • Nonabrasive

Additionally, you know what vinegar is, so you can feel good about using it around children, food, and pets

Warnings and Precautions

As nice, effective, and inexpensive vinegar is to use as a stainless steel cleaner, you should still take a few precautions before putting it to use in your kitchen.

  • Don't reuse empty cleaner bottles. Buy a new bottle to use for your vinegar spray. Vinegar is an acid, and you do not want to mix it with unknown chemicals from other products.
  • Label the spray bottle so everyone in your household knows what's inside
  • As with any cleaner, avoid all contact with your eyes and prolonged contact with your skin. While vinegar is used in food, you don't generally bathe in it or want to get it in your eyes.
  • Keep the vinegar out of the reach of children. Don't tempt the little ones to use spray bottles. While vinegar may not cause a hazardous condition, the next spray bottle they play with might contain something nastier.

Additionally, always test cleaners—either homemade or store-bought—on a small, inconspicuous area before using them widely.