While stainless steel has long been the standard in commercial kitchens, it's now popular in home kitchens as well thanks to its durability, resistance to bacteria, and sleek style. As consumers learned how to keep the surfaces of stainless steel appliances free of smudges and streaks by using the right cleaners and techniques, they discovered that stainless steel surfaces do get scratches over time from other metals hitting the surface, minerals in hard water, or over-abrasive cleaning.
With a bit of patience and a few supplies, many of the scratches can be gently buffed away to bring the surface of stainless steel back to its shine.
How Often to Remove Scratches From Stainless Steel
Scratches on stainless steel should be treated as soon as they are discovered to prevent them from becoming more unsightly. While stainless steel doesn't rust easily, it can discolor if grime or bacteria become trapped in the scratches. During your daily or weekly cleaning routine, do a quick check of appliance surfaces for areas that need attention.
Before You Begin
Stainless steel appliances are offered in traditional shiny finishes, brushed, matte, or black-painted finishes. Consult the user's manual provided by the manufacturer to understand your finish before attempting to remove scratches to prevent additional damage. These tips should only be used on stainless steel that does not have a protective clear coat or synthetic surface application.
If you have an appliance with a protective or synthetic finish, there are commercial stainless steel polishes that will help hide scratches. The polishes provide temporary coverage that can be reapplied each time after you clean.
Equipment / Tools
- 2 to 3 microfiber cloths
- 1 spray bottle
- 1 sanding block
- 1 box baking soda
- 1 container Bar Keepers Friend or Bon Ami
- 1 tube non-gel toothpaste
- 1 fine grit sandpaper (400)
- 1 bottle olive oil, mineral oil, or vegetable oil
- 1 bottle distilled white vinegar
- 1 bottle dishwashing liquid
How to Remove Fine Scratches From Stainless Steel Appliances
Clean the Surface
Thoroughly clean the surface of the stainless steel appliance using a commercial cleaner or a solution of warm, soapy water to remove any grease or grime. A clean surface will make the scratches that need attention more visible.
Identify the Grain
All stainless steel finishes have a grain that either runs up and down or side to side on the appliance. It is crucial to find that grain and follow it as you buff out the scratches. Working against the grain will cause damage that is nearly impossible to reverse.
Choose a Buffing Compound
There are numerous commercial stainless steel scratch removers on the market. Or, you can make a gentle abrasive paste with a few drops of water and a powder like baking soda, Bar Keepers Friend, Bon Ami, or non-gel toothpaste.
Apply the Paste
Dip a water-dampened lint-free microfiber cloth into the paste. Following the grain of the stainless steel, apply the paste to the scratch using gentle pressure. Do not rub in a circle - use straight strokes along the grain of the stainless steel.
If using a commercial compound, follow the label directions.
Clean Away the Paste
Use a dampened microfiber cloth to wipe away the paste. Spritz the surface with distilled white vinegar and wipe again with a clean lint-free microfiber cloth to remove any traces of the paste.
Polish the Stainless Steel
To bring back the shine, use a few drops of olive, vegetable, or mineral oil on a microfiber cloth to polish the stainless steel. Follow the grain and buff the surface well.
How to Remove Deep Scratches From Stainless Steel Appliances
Always try the tips for removing light scratches before you move on to stronger cleaning methods. A commercial compound or homemade pastes may be all you need.
Clean the Surface
Be sure the surface of the stainless steel is free of grease and grime before you begin working on deep scratches.
Use Fine-Grit Sandpaper
Use only fine-grit sandpaper (400) that has been soaked in water for several minutes. Wrap the sandpaper around a sanding block so there is equal pressure on the surface of the metal. Use a light touch and follow the grain of the stainless steel. NEVER rub in a circle or against the grain.
Clean and Polish the Surface
Once the scratch has been treated, clean the surface with vinegar and a damp microfiber cloth to remove all of the grit. Polish the surface with oil to bring back the shine.
Tips to Prevent Scratches on Stainless Steel Appliances
- Use a cutting board when cutting vegetables on stovetops or stainless steel counters.
- Never use harsh cleaners - ammonia, chlorine bleach, scouring powders - or scrubbing pads like steel wool to clean stainless steel.
- If you live in a hard water area, add a water-softening system to your plumbing.
- Always clean in the direction of the grain of the appliance.