Smudgy Stainless
October 20, 2009 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Stainless steel everywhere. What's the best way to clean it to be free of fingerprints and smudges?

We inherited a kitchen that is pretty much wall-to-wall stainless steel (cabinets, countertops, sink, fridge, etc.). The smudges and fingerprints make me crazy. What's the definitive word on cleaning it?
posted by yellowcandy to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
And to clarify, I've seen the earlier AskMe posts and don't want to use caustic oven cleaner where I eat, thanks.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:38 AM on October 20, 2009

We use a spray bottle of vinegar for our stainless steel butcher block. Works fine.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:43 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can use the official "stainless steel cleaner" but I find that stuff to be sort of greasy. I just use a damp cloth and some Fantastic or Formula 409. Damp, not wet.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:44 AM on October 20, 2009

This link suggests soap and water and dry it afterwards.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:49 AM on October 20, 2009

Yeah, most stainless cleaners leave behind an oil film to give the surface a uniform look. But without the oil, it will not look perfectly "new". I hated this when I was a janitor. The museum elevator was stainless, and people would lean hand-first into the wall, leaving big, obvious handprints, which I would then cover with another thin film of "cleaner".
posted by fake at 8:52 AM on October 20, 2009

Baby oil is what my mom, who used to be a house manager/personal assistant for a large household with 2 kitckens, told me to use for getting rid of fingerprints and smudges.
posted by alice ayres at 8:52 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

BTW we use paper towels, but if you wanted to be lint free you'd probably use newspaper, like moms of yore.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2009

If you are in the US, Miele sells stuff called Sidol. Comes in a blue bottle. We use it everywhere in the kitchen even on ceramic.
posted by Zambrano at 9:03 AM on October 20, 2009

In a Professional Kitchen:
Clean with as caustic a cleaner as you are willing to use.
Shine nightly with vinegar or lemon juice and a rag.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:05 AM on October 20, 2009

I've used vinegar, I've used soap & water, I've used those Method-brand stainless steel cleaners -- but these light-blue Rubbermaid "glass and mirror" microfiber cloths are THE BEST. You don't even have to use water for minor polishing -- just use the cloth to rub the mirror/glass/stainless steel surface, and fingerprints are gone. For more stubborn smears/spots, I might use a tiny bit of water to get the cloth damp. I feel a little silly to be so evangelical about these, but they really are awesome. (I found mine in Target, btw.)
posted by mothershock at 9:32 AM on October 20, 2009

This is probably heresy, but for the last five years I've been using Barkeeper's Friend and a wet washrag, scrubbing with the grain only, and it works great. I also use the Barkeeper's Friend on everything else--the glass cooktop, counters, pots and pans, etc.--so I don't have to have two dozen different cleansers under my sink. Works great for everything.
posted by HotToddy at 9:41 AM on October 20, 2009

Any sort of microfiber cloth is excellent for stainless steel.
posted by slateyness at 10:09 AM on October 20, 2009

Windex+Paper towel is what works for us.
posted by davey_darling at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2009

I use mineral spirits to remove the smudges and fingerprints.
posted by peeedro at 10:27 AM on October 20, 2009

Right. I'm assuming that this is actually unfinished stainless, without any kind of lacquer or anything on it. If it's got that, I have no idea.

There are two approaches to cleaning stainless. The first is to treat it like glass and clean it meticulously and accept that fingerprints mean more cleaning. The good news with that is that an errant fingerprint means s squirt of windex and a quick polish off. The bad news is that like glass, it gets visibly dirty quickly.

The other is to leave an oily film that looks nice, but that also hopes to avoid fingerprints by obscuring them, since there's already a film of oil on it and maybe just a smear with a paper towel will redistribute the oil and fix the fingerprint.

I've found that the first way is easier, in the long run. Its cheaper and the oily film stuff tends to attract dirt and dust and ends up looking grimy quickly. And if you choose the wrong product, it can get gummy.

The absolute must with stainless steel is to not disturb the grain of the finish. Never use anything harsher than Bar Keepers Friend (or Comet, if you must), and then only gently and with the grain. If something needs scraping off, scrape it with a plastic knife or something like that. Even through stainless is very hard, the grain on the finish is very delicate and can easily get messed up if you scrub with something abrasive and/or against the grain. If you use something powdery and abrasive, remember that it will take a rinsing or two to get it back to shape, and that you only really need to use it occasionally for a full cleaning. Otherwise, two windexings will clean it right up- the first to clean it, the second to remove streaks.

If you like the look of the oily glazes, I've found that the best is to still get the thing cleaned down to bare metal, liberally soak it with the glaze and let it sit for a while, and then polish it off until it is practically gone. You get the least amount of buildup or dust that way, and spot cleaning is just a matter of a dab of the glaze and another polishing. The downside is that if the stuff gets wet, you probably have to start all over...

(Bar Keepers Friend is great stuff- it seems to "bleach" things whiter, and I haven't found anything it will marr or scratch that's harder than plastic. I use it to keep all my stainless cookware spot-free, and all it takes to get some things off is some wait time and a little scrubbing with a scratch-free scotch brite.)

However, if the grain DOES get messed up, it is fairly easily restored with sandpaper of an appropriate grain, and good technique. Sometimes, an SOS or Scotch Brite pad is all it takes. That's the beauty of stainless- it's durable as heck, and can be "refinished" quite cheaply. Unlike other things which would need painting/sanding/destroying to get looking good again.
posted by gjc at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I use a microfiber cleaning cloth on my fridge and it works perfectly
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:24 PM on October 20, 2009

Try some GoJo type hand cleaner. We use it where I work to clean stainless, what little residue there is seems to evaporate.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:37 PM on October 20, 2009

nthing the microfiber cloth.
posted by fixedgear at 3:24 PM on October 20, 2009

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