How To Clean Stainless Steel Countertops

Date: April 25, 2021
Author: Jon Smith
Need A Local Countertop Professional? We have local professionals standing by to service you:
Find A Pro

Stainless Steel countertops are common in commercial kitchens, but they can enhance the look of a home kitchen as well. One of their advantages, besides the ultramodern feel it lends to the kitchen, is how easy it can be to maintain stainless steel countertops.

Make no mistake, though. Stainless steel countertops are easy as long as they are cleaned properly and regularly. We will discuss some of the steps in the next sections.

Does Stainless Steel Stain Easily?

Stainless steel is made principally from iron and chromium, mixed in with nickel and other metals in different formulations. The five general classes of stainless steel contain between 10.5% and 30% chromium. This forms a layer of chromium oxide, which lends itself to the shiny finish.

When chromium contents exceed 12%, the chromium oxide develops a “passivity layer” makes the surface easy to maintain under most conditions.

Stainless steel countertops can withstand high heat. Many types of spills, including food, acids, and other substances can be mopped up without effect – the surfaces are typically stain-resistant. However, they can become dull, get scratched, or develop spots and stains if treated carelessly.

How to Clean Stainless Steel

The good news is that it's relatively easy to maintain stainless steel countertop surfaces with a little care, as long as certain guidelines are followed.

We will be discussing two modes of cleaning:

  • Cleaning regularly, for maintenance and mopping up light spills.
  • Cleaning deeper stains more thoroughly

Types of Cleaners that Can Be Used on Stainless Steel

A combination of the following materials can be used for cleaning stainless steel:

  • Soap (especially baby soap) and water – dishwashing liquid soap in some cases
  • Glass cleaners
  • Vinegar with olive oil
  • Baking Soda
  • Some commonly available glass and commercial cleaners (see below)
  • Mineral oils (may be used for rejuvenation)

Stainless steel does really well with regular upkeep and some TLC.

What Can Harm Stainless Steel Countertops?

Anything that can cause dullness, remove the passivity layer or scratch the surface is a no-no:

  • Heavy scouring brushes or steel wool cleaners can scratch surfaces.
  • Don’t sprinkle and leave aggressive cleaners, such as salt, on the surface – they will tend to seep through the passivity layer and damage the surface.
  • Cleaners with chlorine, such as bleach, will stain and damage the surface.
  • Don’t use regular tap water which can leave stains – use filtered or distilled water.
  • Cleaning solution residues and/or dirty water leftover time will dull the surface and could cause stains.
  • Check for finger smudges, stainless steel is prone to pick them up.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Countertops Regularly

To maintain Stainless Steel surfaces, they should be cleaned and lightly buffed regularly. Otherwise, .

Here are some general, daily cleaning methods that can be followed:

Step 0 – Daily Wipe Off and Cleaning Smudges

Wipe off the countertop daily with a damp towel, regardless of whether you see spots or not.

If there are fingerprint smudges, common glass cleaners like Windex work very well.

Step 1 – Deeper Cleaning

Wash off the counter thoroughly with a damp towel or mop soaked in a soap (possibly baby soap) and warm water solution.

Step 2 – Scrub Mildly with Baking Soda, Vinegar and Olive Oil

Sprinkle baking soda over the whole surface. Put a mixture of vinegar (perhaps mixed in with a few drops of olive oil) on the bristles of a soft brush and wipe the whole surface, taking care to stroke in the direction of the grain. Clean off the surface with a damp washcloth.

Step 3 – Dry Surface Thoroughly

Use a dry towel (microfiber preferred, but paper or cloth will do) to ensure that no spots are left.

Step 4 – Replenish the Surface

Use a paper towel to polish the newly cleaned surface with some mineral or olive oil, again in the direction of the grain. This will preserve the buff. However, take care to wipe off any residual spots with a dry wipe or microfiber towel.

How to Remove Stains from Stainless Steel?

If a surface begins to show a residue build up, or stains, you may need tougher cleaning media.

Step 1a – Choose the Right Cleaning Solution for Tough Stains or Discolorations

Certain commercial cleaners containing alkalis, phosphates, and/or synthetic detergents work well on stainless steel surfaces. Check out the following options:

  • Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser Multipurpose Cleaner and Rust Stain Remover

[amazon box="B07JGZ1XSP" template="horizontal"]

  • Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner Kit

[amazon box="B07JBNJ5JJ" template="horizontal"]

  • CLR Spotless Stainless Steel, Streak-free Aerosol Spray Can

[amazon box="B003QYVMTU" template="horizontal"]

Step 1b – Choose the Right Oil and Grease Cleaner

If the cleaning is to address an oil or grease build-up, you can use alkaline or alkaline chlorinated cleaner will help to cut through the grease and allow it to be wiped off.

Step 2 – Spray or Spread on the Table Surface

Depending on what solution you use, either spread or spray thoroughly over the surface

Step 3 – Wipe Surface, then Clean Off

Use a soft, non-abrasive brush to thoroughly scrub the surface in the directions of the grain. Next, use water to thoroughly clean off the residues and cleaning solutions.

Step 3 – Dry Surface Thoroughly

Use a dry towel to ensure that the surface is thoroughly dried off.

Step 4 – Replenish the Surface

As described before, use mineral oil or olive oil to replenish the surface.

Final Thoughts

Keeping stainless steel countertops clean and gleaming is easy if you have some basic household supplies and stay away from materials that will scratch the surface or remove the passivity layer. Regular cleaning is recommended with an occasional deeper scrub if you feel it's needed.

Ultimately, some timely TLC will go a long way towards cleaning stainless steel countertops.

Stainless Steel Countertops

There’s a reason why most professional kitchens like to use stainless steel countertops—they’re one of the most durable, low-maintenance surfaces! They won’t scorch, rust or stain even when you spill sauce or place burning hot pots. Since they’re non-porous, you never have to worry about mold or bacteria growing on damp spots.

Stainless steel is very easy to clean, but you have to know what tools to use so you don’t destroy its beautiful shiny surface. Follow our ultimate guide to cleaning stainless steel countertops.

Use a microfiber rag

Forget the fancy cleaning products: after you’re done with food prep and cooking, just wipe down your stainless steel counters with warm water and a microfiber towel.

Why microfiber? Stainless steel countertops are prone to water stains, so you need a fabric that will pick up all the moisture. Microfiber does the job really well and is soft enough that you can prevent scratching the surface.

We recommend working with two rags at a time: a slightly damp one, which can help pick up dirt and residue, and a dry one that you will use for a final wipe down.

Wipe with the grain

Stainless steel does have a grain, just like wood. Check closely for the direction, and then wipe parallel to it. Your counters will look a lot shinier with less rubbing!

Choose the right detergent

You don’t have to use detergent each time you wipe your counters, but some people like to do a nightly “soap-down” to get rid of bacteria or just leave the kitchen smelling fresh.

Just avoid the strong detergents—the chemicals may damage the counters, or trace amounts may stick to the counters and contaminate your food. Some people recommend just adding a few drops of dishwashing liquid to warm water, which is enough to break down any oil or sticky food residue.

Here are some of my favorite products to use on stainless steel countertops:

[amazon box="B01BPBHDSO" template="horizontal"]

[amazon box="B07JGZ1XSP" template="horizontal"]

[amazon box="B00J5HJ43I" template="horizontal"]

[amazon box="B07JBNJ5JJ" template="horizontal"]

Always rinse stainless steel well

Dirty water, residue from cleaning products, or mineral deposits in water can actually leave stains or pits and dull the shiny finish. So, always thoroughly rinse off any cleaning solution—even if it’s supposed to be a natural, organic, or very gentle formula.  

That’s why it’s better to dilute any cleaning solution or avoid very thick formulas that will cling to the surface and be even harder to clean. Some homeowners actually prefer just spot-cleaning particularly dirty areas with diluted dishwashing solution in a spray bottle. Then it’s easier to wipe and rinse!

Use vinegar for water stains

If you do everyday cleaning properly, then you’re unlikely to get stains. But you may suddenly see a big stain from a leaking bottle or around splash-prone areas like the sink. To get rid of these, just spray white vinegar on that spot. Leave it for a few minutes and then wipe it off with a microfiber towel.

It’s such a cheap, easy and effective way to clean steel countertop stains!

Use baking soda to restore shine

Do your steel countertops look a little dull? Just mix baking soda into water, pour into a spray bottle, and give a generous spritz all over the affected area. Wipe with your microfiber towel, and voila, they look brand new! Do this once a week to keep it shiny.

Solve stubborn stains and dullness with baking soda paste

If your stainless steel countertops have completely lost their shine, then just mix baking soda with a little bit of water to get a thick paste. Then, apply it all over the counter with a sponge or rag. Leave for a minute or two, and then rinse off.

Get rid of fingerprints with Bar Keepers Friend

[amazon box="B07JGZ1XSP" template="horizontal"]

Sometimes, really clean and shiny stainless steel countertops can cause another problem: fingerprints! Seems like all that sparkle makes fingerprints even more obvious.

That’s normally part of everyday kitchen life, but if you want to impress guests or simply achieve a 100% spotless finish, try using Bar Keepers Friend.  Denatured alcohol may work well also.

Get extra-shiny fixtures with olive oil

If you really want to get total sparkle, then don’t neglect the stainless steel fixtures—like the faucets, or the handles on the cabinets. These tend to get very smudged and dirty because you touch them often.

Just rub olive oil on these areas, and you’ll not only achieve a lot of sparkles but help prevent future smudges. Now everything in your kitchen is shiny—from your stainless steel countertop to all the accents around it.

With these tips (and very affordable cleaning agents) your stainless steel counters will always be sanitary and shiny. As you can see, it doesn't take a lot of work or money, proving that even if stainless steel counters can be more expensive, it's very cost-effective in the long run. 

Need A Countertop Professional? We have professionals standing by to service you: FIND A PRO
Top Pages:
Best Granite SealerBest Kitchen SinksBest Kitchen FaucetsBest Bathroom Faucets
About Jon - Website Owner

Jon Smith

Hi, my name is Jonathan Smith. I have been in the granite business for many years and have worked my way up from an installer helper to an installer and then a countertop business owner. 

I started my countertop company with very little and grew extremely fast because of my knowledge and helpfulness. I started this countertop resource for 1 main reason. That reason is that there are no countertop websites with all the correct information and none of them are from an industry expert like myself. 

I am still in the trade every single day installing countertops, educating people on the type of material they are using for their homes, and making people's dream kitchens a reality.
Copyright © 2019-2021 All Rights Reserved! All photos used are copyright to their respective owners.