Stainless steel is used for many household items because it resists stains, though stainless steel does have a tendency to become dull with use and it can stain when it is in prolonged contact with heat. But those dull or stained objects around the house can look shiny and new again if they are properly maintained with polishing.
The good news is, it doesn't take too long to polish stainless steel; it's a much faster job than many other household chores. The tips below are good for anything from cleaning stainless steel sinks to polishing stainless steel flatware.
- Home remedies: There are several things that you probably already have at home that will restore stainless steel to its original luster, and these items are safe to use for flatware and other items that come in contact with food. White or cider vinegar will polish stainless steel as well as removing any heat stains. Take a soft cloth, pour on enough vinegar to moisten it, and gently wipe the stainless items. The same thing can also be done with club soda and olive oil. Baking soda can be mixed with water for an effective cleaner that will not leave an odor behind. After making a thin paste, use a towel to rub the mixture over the item, then rinse with clear water and dry with a polishing cloth.
- Water: If the stains or dulling is not too severe, or if water spots are the main problem, warm water will often accomplish the same thing as the above items. Simply wipe the item with a cloth soaked in warm water and dry with a dry cloth to avoid leaving any water spots.
- Glass cleaner: Using a glass cleaner, such as Windex, is often very effective both for water spots and for dull stainless steel. A window cleaner with ammonia does the best job at brightening stainless steel. After cleaning with a window cleaner, rinse the item with warm water and towel dry to avoid any spots or streaks.
- Specialized cleaners: When stainless steel items have scratches or heavy staining, a specialized stainless steel cleaner or polish may work the best to restore the item. Most of these cleaners are applied with a towel, but some are available in sprays. Spray polishes may linger briefly in the air, so it is best to use them in a well-ventilated area. There are also disposable stainless steel polishing wipes or polishing pads that come with the cleaner already on them. If the item to be polished is something that will come in contact with food, be sure to buy a cleaner that is safe to use with these items. These will be marked on the label as being "food safe." If you are using a stainless steel cleaner for the first time, it is a good idea to test a small spot on the steel item to gauge its effect rather than using it on the entire item. If the cleaner causes no discoloration, go ahead and use it on the entire item.
Make sure that when you polish your stainless steel items, you are not causing more harm to them. When polishing stainless steel, always use a very soft cloth, and never an abrasive pad or brush which can scratch the surface. Never use abrasive cleaners for the same reason. A stainless steel cleaner should not contain chlorine, which will damage the steel. Look for cleaners that contain ammonia instead.