How to Get Scratches Out of Stainless Steel Appliances

Removing scratches on a stainless steel refrigerator

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

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.


The same techniques used to remove scratches from stainless steel appliances can be used to bring your stainless steel sink back to a shine.

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.

What You'll Need

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
  • water
  • 1 bottle dishwashing liquid


Materials for cleaning stainless steel surfaces

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Remove Fine Scratches From Stainless Steel Appliances

  1. 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.

    Cleaning the surface with warm soapy water

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. 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.

    Identifying the grain on the stainless steel surface

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. 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.

    buffing compounds to use on stainless steel

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  4. 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.

    Applying cleaning paste with a microfiber cloth

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  5. 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.

    Cleaning a stainless steel surface with vinegar spray

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  6. 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.

    Polishing the stainless steel with oil

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

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.

  1. Clean the Surface

    Be sure the surface of the stainless steel is free of grease and grime before you begin working on deep scratches.

    Cleaning the surface with soapy water

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. 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.

    Using fine grit sandpaper on the stainless steel surface

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. 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.

    Preparing to polish the surface with oil

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

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.