How to Clean Stainless Steel to Make It Shine

Keep Appliances, Sinks, and Countertops Looking New

how to clean stainless steel illustration

The Spruce / Nusha Ashjaee

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Stainless steel is known for its ability to resist corrosion and rust, which is why it's a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms. However, dirt, dust, and grime can put stainless steel at risk for stains and discoloration. Luckily, you can clean stainless steel to make it shine again as long as you follow certain rules. Here's what you need to know about stainless steel cleaning using water, dish soap, glass cleaner, and stainless steel cleaner.

What to Consider Before Cleaning Stainless Steel

To properly care for stainless steel, you must first understand how it keeps from rusting, thus garnering the name "stainless." The key ingredient that elevates normal steel to stainless steel is chromium, which reacts with the oxygen in the air to make a layer on the surface of the metal called chromium oxide, which blocks the formation of rust.

Every time you scrub, scratch, or strip stainless steel with scratchy tools or harsh chemicals, it removes the chromium oxide layer. This used to be no big deal, because high-quality stainless steel had lots of chromium in it and could self-heal, forming a new layer of protection in minutes. Nowadays though, as stainless steel has shot up in popularity, so has the cost of chromium, so appliance manufacturers put less and less in to cut costs, resulting in lower and lower grades of stainless steel that can no longer self-heal as easily. It is important to avoid being overly aggressive with scouring your stainless steel and to dry it quickly, as you have no real way of knowing how low a grade of stainless steel your fixture or appliance has been made with until it's too late.

Before You Begin

The key to making your stainless steel look like new is proper care and maintenance. In general, the best way to clean stainless steel is to do regular light cleanings and periodic deeper cleanings.

For basic cleanings, all you'll likely need to use is warm water and possibly some dish soap on a microfiber cloth. Run the cloth over the stainless steel daily to weekly, depending on use. This won't harm the surface, but it will prevent grease and grime from building up and becoming difficult to remove.

To get rid of tougher marks, you can use glass cleaner or stainless steel cleaner as needed. They'll be more effective on fingerprints than just water and dish soap. And they can restore stainless steel's shine.


There are certain cleaning products that you should not use on stainless steel. In general, avoid abrasive materials and harsh chemicals. For example, steel wool and metal-bristle brushes can scratch stainless steel, as can scouring powders. Bleach also can damage the surface. 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Towel


  • Warm water


materials for cleaning stainless steel
The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Clean Stainless Steel With Warm Water

A microfiber cloth moistened with warm water should be sufficient for most routine cleaning to remove grime and fingerprints.

  1. Wipe the Surface With Warm Water

    Simply wipe down the stainless steel surface with a damp microfiber cloth. Always wipe in the direction of the metal grain to help prevent scratches and create a polished finish.

    wiping down stainless steel with a microfiber cloth
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  2. Dry to Prevent Water Spots

    Use a dry cloth or towel to immediately dry the surface, again wiping in the direction of the metal grain. Drying is important because otherwise minerals in water can leave marks on stainless steel.

    using paper towels on stainless steel fixtures
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

How to Clean Stainless Steel With Dish Soap

For cleaning that needs a little more power, a drop of mild dish soap and warm water can do a great job. This combination won't damage your stainless steel.

What You'll Need


  • Dish soap
  • Warm water


  • Microfiber cloth
  • Towel
  1. Add a Few Drops of Dish Soap to a Sink Full of Warm Water

    Another option is to put a small drop of dish soap on a microfiber cloth, then add warm water to the cloth.

    adding dish soap to a microfiber cloth
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  
  2. Wipe Everything Down

    Wipe down the stainless steel with the cloth, rubbing in the same direction as the grain in the metal.

    wiping down fixtures with dish soap solution
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  3. Rinse

    Rinse the surface thoroughly after washing away the dirt. Rinsing will help prevent staining and spotting due to soap residue.

    rinsing stainless fixtures with water
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  4. Towel-Dry

    Towel-dry the metal to prevent water spots.

    wiping fixtures with a dry cloth
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

How to Clean Stainless Steel With Glass Cleaner

Fingerprints are one of the biggest complaints about stainless steel. You can take care of them by using glass cleaner.

What You'll Need


  • Glass cleaner
  • Warm water


  • 2 microfiber cloths
  • Towel
  1. Spray the Cleaner Onto a Microfiber Cloth

    Begin by spraying your cloth with your chosen glass cleaner. Spraying directly on the stainless steel can result in drips and overuse of the cleaner.

    spraying glass cleaner onto a microfiber cloth
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  
  2. Wipe the Area in a Circular Motion

    Wipe the stainless steel using a circular motion to remove fingerprints and stains. Repeat by spraying more cleaner on the cloth as needed.

    wiping fixtures with a cloth
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  
  3. Rinse and Dry the Surface

    Rinse the surface with a microfiber cloth moistened with warm water. Finally, use a dry towel to dry the surface, moving in the direction of the metal grain to prevent any streaks.

    towel drying fixtures
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

How to Use Stainless Steel Cleaner

If you have stains that are difficult to remove or scratches on the surface, a stainless steel cleaner can be a good option. Some of these cleaners remove stains and protect against scratches. They can also be used to polish surfaces.

Read and follow the directions carefully, and be sure to test the cleaner on an inconspicuous spot first. When you're done, rinse the area thoroughly and towel dry.