Why Does Stainless Steel Get Cloudy?

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story. Learn more about our affiliate and product review process here.
Stainless steel needs care to keep looking good.
Image Credit: alabn/iStock/GettyImages

Is your kitchen looking dirty due to cloudy stainless steel? With proper care, stainless steel looks sleek, modern and clean. But everyday use can leave your favorite appliances and kitchen tools looking dull, cloudy or spotty. From black residue on a stainless steel sink to marks on your refrigerator, figuring out the cause can help you correct the situation so you once again enjoy your pretty kitchen.


Hard Water Problems

When water flows over limestone regions, it absorbs calcium carbonate and metal ions such as magnesium. You know it as hard water. If you have hard water in your area, you've probably dealt with the cleaning difficulties it causes.

Video of the Day

It leaves thin deposits of calcium carbonate on stainless steel surfaces that prove difficult to remove if not tackled quickly. You might notice white spots on a stainless steel dishwasher or on your refrigerator from the water dispenser. A mild solution of vinegar or lemon juice with water applied with a soft cloth to the steel surface returns its shine.


A water softener can hep reduce the minerals in your water by replacing the calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. This reduces the hard water stains you see on your stainless steel appliances to prevent a cloudy appearance.

Cloudy Stainless Steel Soaking Issues

The alloys used in stainless steel cooking utensils have better corrosion resistance than the steel used for stainless steel sinks. Particles of the sink surface may loosen and attach themselves to the surface of the utensil when it's soaking in water in the sink. These embedded particles disintegrate and give a cloudy or rusty appearance to the surface of the utensil. The best solution is to avoid prolonged soaking of steel utensils.


Abrasives Cause Scratches

When your stainless steel appliances have stains or spots on them, it's natural to reach for something to scrub the spot. But harsh, abrasive products can cause more damage than good.

The polished finish of stainless steel kitchen appliances, surfaces and counters has a directional grain. The purpose is to hide minor scratching and to keep the surfaces and appliance looking new.


Steel wire or abrasive cleaning utensils will scratch the surface, especially if you clean across the grain. Even mildly abrasive cleaning cloths could damage the steel. The damage can cause cloudy stainless steel surfaces.

Starchy Food Residue

Is your stainless steel cookware looking cloudy? It could be related to your menu. Potatoes, pasta and rice leave a starchy residue on the sides of a stainless steel pan during cooking.



The same issue can happen with your stainless steel iron. Starchy residue from fabrics builds up on the bottom of an iron, and the residues form a cloudy layer. A mild solution of vinegar in water applied with a soft cloth can help remove the starchy residue.

Cleaning Agent Concerns

The best cleaner for stainless steel is soap and water. It removes grime and food remnants without causing damage to the stainless steel. Stainless steel utensils are safe in a dishwasher and don't need prewashing most of the time.


Acids and bleaches in strong domestic cleaners will react chemically with the steel surface and leave a dull and cloudy finish. Mild solutions of vinegar and lemon juice work on the steel surface. For stronger stains, the only safe, strong detergent is a solution of 10 percent nitric acid and 90 percent water.



Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...