Stainless steel is an alloy of iron (90%) and chromium (10%), a little of the chromium combines with oxygen from the atmosphere to form a hard oxide coating on the surface. This process continues in a passive form throughout the steel’s life and is what makes it “stainless;” should the finish be removed through corrosion or wear, the metal will no longer be “stainless.” It will rust just like any other steel. Dirt, or other material, hinders this continual oxidation process and traps corrosive agents, ultimately destroying the metal’s corrosion protection.
Stainless steel actually thrives with frequent cleaning, and, unlike some other materials, it is impossible to “wear out” stainless steel by excessive cleaning. Use mild detergents and warm water to clean even tougher grime. You can also use mild non-scratching abrasive powders such as typical household cleaners. These can be used with warm water, bristle brushes, sponges, or clean cloths.Be sure to rinse well and dry thoroughly to prevent spotting from minerals in the water.
Brighten a steel sink by polishing with a cloth dipped in vinegar or ammonia, or sprinkle a little baking soda on a sponge, rub the sink gently, and rinse.
Fingerprints can be removed with glass cleaner or household ammonia. Some newer types of finishes resist fingerprints.
Cleaners made for stainless steel minimize scratching, remove stains, and polish surfaces.
According to the Stainless Steel Information Center, organic solvents can also be used to remove fresh fingerprints and oils and greases that have not had time to oxidize or decompose, the preferred solvent being one that does not contain chlorine. Acetone, methyl alcohol, and mineral spirits are acceptable.
Here are step-by-step instructions for cleaning a fairly dirty stainless steel appliance:
Step 1 – Begin by rubbing the entire stainless steel appliance with a clean, damp cotton cloth that has been soaked and rung out with warm soapy water.
Step 2 – Use another cotton cloth that has been soaked in vinegar and rung out so it is only damp.
Step 3 – Apply a small dollop of commercial stainless steel cleaner to a cotton cloth and then rub the stainless steel appliance with it going with the lines or ‘grain’ of the steel inlay.
Step 4 – If there are hardened food stains, baked on food or grease, remove these with a nylon scouring pad and a caustic soda (baking soda) solution.
Step 5 – Use another soft cotton cloth dipped in warm, clear water to rinse the solution off the appliance.