Stainless steel can blend in with a modern farmhouse décor or stand out and punctuate a crisp industrial style. When the stainless steel facades of the kitchen appliances get scratched or hazy, it can look dingy as well as unappealing.
Buffing out scratches and wiping away haze on the gleaming surface of stainless steel fridges, dishwashers, microwaves, ovens and countertop machines can return the shine rather quickly.
A gentle cleanser can remove minor scratches while deeper gashes may need wet sanding.
What Not to Do
Steel wool, brushes or other metal or hard nylon scrubbing tools can tear into the stainless steel. These types of cleaning tools can leave behind deep scratches that are difficult to buff out with standard cleaners or techniques.
Bleach may seem like a good idea to disinfect and clean an appliance's stainless steel surface, however, it can stain or discolor the metal. Check the cleaning solution you intend to use. If it has bleach as an ingredient, then it's best to opt to use a different cleaner.
Clean Stainless Steel Appliances
A clean surface can cut down on minor scratches etching into the stainless steel. A quick wipe down daily will remove bits of food, household dust, dirt and other daily debris that can stick to the exterior surfaces of appliances. A soft, damp cloth can be enough to lift dirt from the surface, while a spritz of glass cleaner can remove smudges from greasy fingerprints.
For more thorough cleaning, The Maids recommends using a stainless steel cleaner according to the manufacturer's directions. Always wipe with the grain of the stainless steel to avoid leaving layers of streaks behind. Towel dry to pick up errant drops of water or cleaner and buff out any streaks.
Toothpaste to Remove Minor Scratches
A whitening toothpaste is a gentle, affordable and nonabrasive cleaner that can blend minor scratches into the surface. Place a dab of toothpaste onto a damp, soft toothbrush and gently work it into the shallow scratch. Follow the grain and rub the toothpaste into the scratch for a few minutes. Don't overdo it.
Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel
Frank's Appliance recommends a soft abrasive cleaner, such as Revere Copper and Stainless Steel Cleaner, to gently buff stainless steel clean from minor marks on the surface. Gently scrub the cleaner into the surface of the appliance. Make sure to go with the grain. Rinse the appliance with plain, warm water and buff dry.
Removing Deep Scratches
A wet fine-grit sandpaper can take down deep scratches on stainless steel. However, never try to sand simulated stainless steel or smudge-resistant clear coat stainless steel facades. These will be further damaged by the wet fine-grit sandpaper.
To begin sanding, determine the direction of the grain. Wet the fine-grit sandpaper thoroughly and work from the middle of the scratch outward to blend it into the surrounding stainless steel. Always move with the direction of the grain. Follow up with a finer grit wet piece of sandpaper and finish with a rubbing compound.
Polish Stainless Steel
Stainless steel polish will offer a layer of protection over the surface of stainless steel appliances. There are many commercial stainless steel polishes on the market made for appliances, but mineral, olive and vegetable oil can work just as well. Use a microfiber cloth to work the polish into the clean surface, following the grain as you go.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.