DIY Stainless Steel Cleaner(s)

by Ivory Soap


Commercial stainless steel cleaners can be some of the fumiest, most flammable products in your home.   This is because the vast majority of them contain a waterless solvent (read: petrochemical).  This gives you a spray-on, wipe off experience requiring no elbow grease.  Another magical property of the commercial brands is corn starch, long known to window cleaners as the best way to make a clean window sparkle.  Next, many contain quartz or other abrasives to remove scratches.  Lastly, they often contain a bit of soap.

Daily Cleaning

Most stainless steel surfaces can be easily cleaned with warm water and a cloth and shines with a bit of olive oil.  This gets daily dirt…if you don’t have kids.  For millions of tiny, greasy fingerprints, you need a bit of grease cutting.  For that I recommend the following recipe.  It beautifully cleans windows, granite, and stainless steel.:

All-Purpose Cleaner for the Granite/Marble/Tile Dominated House

2 cups water
1/2 cup 70% alcohol
5 drops of Dawn (or some soap shavings if you’re crazy like me)
(optional) a few drops of essential oil if you hate the alcohol smell

  • Put it in a spray bottle and use it on almost everything:  counters, floors, appliances.
Glass and Stainless Shine (and oddly, spray starch for ironing)
1 cup of water
1 TBSP of cornstarch
Mix, spray on, wipe off (or iron in, as it were.)
*If you don’t use this pretty quickly, it will sour.  So just mix up enough for a week, and keep it in the fridge, or just mix it when you need it.

When you need to get out the big guns…

Sometimes, you need to really work over a stainless surface.

  • Your first defense is baking soda.  Make a paste, spread it on, let it sit least ten minutes to overnight, scrub in according to the grain of the surface, wipe off.  This gives a light scouring and helps remove stains and hard water spots.
  • For hard water spots and some stains, you could also do a vinegar soak.  Use soaked paper towels for awkwardly shaped surfaces. May need to let it sit overnight.
  • For deeper stains and fine scratches, your next line of defense is buffing it out, WITH THE GRAIN, in the following order:  1)a magic eraser, 2) then Bon Ami or other “scratchless” calcite/feldspar based powders (*anyone know if you can use garden lime as a DIY Bon Ami?), 3)then tougher silicone/quartz based powders,  4)then fine grade steel wool or wet, fine grade sand paper (see your manufacturer for what specific grade to use.)
  • Finally, get out the petrochemicals.  Remember how Grandma cleaned things with kerosene?  That’s the kicker in commercial stainless cleaner.  You can BUY a product like Goo Gone or Stainless Cleaner, or you can just go to the hardware section and get some mineral spirits or lighter fluid.  Dampen a rag and wipe it down.  This should eat up any remaining goo.  You can also do this with any of the souring methods above, but we assume most of our readers want to avoid the fumes as long as possible.

So there you go!

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

gmorgan August 20, 2012 at 5:56 am

At last, news I can use! Thank you.

Sarah @ Nature's Nurture August 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Your all-purpose cleaner is very similar to mine, except I also add some vinegar in the mix. It actually started out as a laminate floor cleaner, but then I got spray-happy and started testing it out on everything, only to find out that it works. on. everything.! 🙂 It’s still my most popular post til today.

Amazing what a couple of simple ingredients can do, eh? Thanks for the extra tips for bringing out the big guns 🙂

LiberalPrepper August 21, 2012 at 8:24 am

Barkeeper’s Friend is not very toxic and works well on porcelain sinks, too; takes out the stains. It has oxalic acid in it and a mild abrasive; you don’t need ‘petrochemicals’. I’ve used BF on a stainless sink and it looked brand new; it’s great on getting stainless pans slick and shiny after having grease cooked on them.

Brad Dawkins August 25, 2012 at 5:29 am

We have stainless steel with a “mirror finsh” and use Bar Keeper’s friend.! And it’s cheap! Comes in a canister like scouring powders. It gets rid of goo, eliminates the “blue” that heat can cause in stainless, and does not scratch the mirror finish. As LiberalPrepper noted, it contains oxalic acid (in spinach, rhubarb, etc.), so should not be used on aluminum. Works great on glass, porcelain sinks, ceramic stove tops. Did I mention that it’s cheap? It’ll dry your hands, so gloves are a good idea. If you are going to use I for any extended period, gloves are a must. (It contains oxalic ACID, so no prolonged exposure to bare skin!) I consider this product one of those rare finds, although I has been around a hundred years.

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