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A Guide on How to Clean and Polish Stainless Steel

polishing of stainless steel

Stainless steel is a widely used material in commercial kitchens due to its strength, resistance to corrosion and modern look. It can be found in numerous kitchen essentials such as appliances, cookware, countertops, and utensils. Although it is a popular choice, maintaining its shiny appearance requires proper cleaning techniques. This guide will provide you with tips and insights on how to clean and polish stainless steel, ensuring that your kitchen shines while preserving the integrity of this durable material. 

What is Stainless Steel?

metal polish for stainless steel

Stainless steel is a metal alloy made up of iron, carbon, and chromium, with at least 10.5% chromium. Chromium oxide layer forms on the steel’s surface, making it resistant to rust and corrosion. However, despite its strength, stainless steel requires special cleaning methods. Although it is highly resistant, its protective coating can still get damaged. Therefore, it is important to clean stainless steel properly and avoid using certain cleaning agents.

Types of Stainless Steel

remove scratches from polished stainless steel

Stainless steel is a commonly used material in foodservice equipment and appliances. In this industry, two main types of stainless steel are utilized: Type 304 and Type 316. Type 304 is a suitable option for most foodservice applications since it offers good resistance to corrosion and staining. However, if your environment has high chloride exposure, such as being situated near the coast or using harsh cleaning chemicals, Type 316 is a better option due to its even greater corrosion resistance. Both types of stainless steel are easy to clean and maintain, which makes them essential materials for commercial kitchens.

The Method to Clean Stainless Steel

stainless steel mirror polishing compound

To maintain the longevity of your stainless steel surfaces, whether they’re cookware or prep tables, it’s crucial to safeguard the protective layer. Follow these guidelines to ensure the cleanliness of your stainless steel equipment and cookware:

  • Steer Clear of Abrasive Methods: Avoid using cleaning implements that could scratch the steel’s surface, such as steel wool, wire brushes, or scrapers.
  • Eliminate Deposits and Moisture: Residues from hard water and food left unattended can result in unsightly water spots and degrade the protective layer.
  • Say No to Chloride-Based Cleaners: Opt for cleaning solutions specifically formulated for stainless steel and devoid of chlorides. Chloride-containing cleaners can induce pitting and staining, compromising both durability and appearance.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Tables and Equipment

how to clean stainless steel

Mastering the art of cleaning stainless steel ensures a hygienic kitchen and safeguards your investment in top-notch equipment. Here are some tips for maintaining your stainless steel in pristine condition.

  • Gather Your Supplies: Before diving in, ensure you have the necessary items ready: mild detergent or stainless steel cleaner, microfiber cloths, a soft-bristled brush, and warm water.
  • Eliminate Food Residue: Clear away any food remnants or debris using a soft-bristled brush to gently dislodge stubborn particles.
  • Use Detergent Solution: Create a cleaning solution by mixing a small amount of mild detergent with warm water. Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution and wipe down the stainless steel surfaces.
  • Follow the Grain: Stainless steel has a directional grain pattern. Always clean or scrub parallel to these lines for optimal results.
  • Thorough Rinse: After cleaning, ensure thorough rinsing with clean water to eliminate soap residues, preventing streaks and ensuring a flawless finish.
  • Dry Completely: Use a dry microfiber cloth to completely dry the surfaces, preventing water spots and mineral deposits from forming.
  • Sanitise Safely: Apply a food-safe sanitiser post-cleaning formulated for stainless steel to avoid damage or discolouration. Let it air dry without wiping or rinsing.

Eliminating Rust from Stainless Steel Equipment

does stainless steel rust

Even with regular cleaning and maintenance, stainless steel items can still develop rust over time. Here is a guide to help you restore them.

  • Identify the Cause: Rust may stem from factors like mechanical wear, food residues, water exposure, or chemical reactions. Understanding the root cause enables you to take preventive measures.
  • Employ a Non-abrasive Pad: Gently scrub away rust using a non-abrasive pad. Avoid applying moisture or chemicals directly to the pad. Work along the grain to minimise the risk of scratching. It’s wise to test the pad on a discreet area beforehand.
  • Utilise a Cleaning Paste: Use a soft cloth or microfiber towel to apply a cleaning powder, such as Bar Keepers Friend. Dampen another part of the cloth to wipe off any excess paste.
  • Thoroughly Rinse: Once the rust is removed, rinse the stainless steel surface thoroughly with clean water.
  • Ensure Complete Drying: Dry the stainless steel equipment/table completely with a clean, dry cloth to prevent water spots and maintain its appearance.
  • Consider a Protective Coating: To ward off future rust, contemplate applying a protective coating or stainless steel polish. This helps preserve the shine and shield against rust.

Maintaining the Shine of Cookware

how to clean pots and pans

Stainless steel cookware is a prized asset in professional kitchens, prized for its resilience, inert surface, and sophisticated aesthetic. Regular upkeep is key to preserving its luster and functionality. We advocate for hand washing in a three-compartment sink rather than using a commercial dishwasher. Here’s a step-by-step guide to effectively clean your stainless steel cookware:

  • Preparation: Ensure the cookware has cooled before starting. Eliminate any food remnants or residue using a soft-bristled brush or non-abrasive scrubbing pad.
  • Wash with Warm Water: Fill a sink or basin with warm water or load warm water in an automatic dishwasher and add mild dish soap. Submerge the cookware and gently scrub with a soft sponge or cloth. Avoid abrasive cleaners or steel wool to prevent scratching.
  • Thorough Rinse: After removing food particles and grease, rinse the cookware thoroughly with clean water to eliminate any soap residue.
  • Immediate Drying: Use a clean, dry cloth to immediately dry the cookware after rinsing. Air drying can lead to water spots and streaks.
  • Stubborn Stain Removal: For tough stains or burnt-on food, create a paste with baking soda and water. Apply, let sit for a few minutes, then gently scrub with a soft sponge. Rinse and dry as usual.
  • Polishing: Restore the shine of your cookware using a stainless steel cleaner or polish. Apply a small amount to a soft cloth and buff in circular motions until the surface shines.


SHEEN is a viscous colourless liquid formulated to clean and restore the natural brilliance of stainless steel, chrome and other bright metals. 
SHEEN leaves a fine, invisible film which seals and protects the surface from re-soiling, fingerprinting, corrosion and surface deterioration. 
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Preserve the integrity of your cookware by refraining from harsh chemicals, bleach, or abrasive cleaners. Stick to mild dish soap and non-abrasive tools.
  • Storage: After cleaning and drying, store your stainless steel cookware in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent moisture buildup and tarnishing.


    Stainless steel is a important material used in commercial kitchens because it is durable, resistant to corrosion, and looks sleek. Its widespread use proves its reliability in various culinary applications, such as cookware and countertops. However, it is essential to take meticulous care and adhere to proper cleaning techniques to maintain its pristine condition. To ensure the longevity and brilliance of stainless steel, avoid using abrasive methods and chloride-based cleaners. Additionally, it is important to address rust promptly. By focusing on gentle cleaning, immediate drying, and occasional polishing, stainless steel cookware can maintain its shine and functionality for years to come. This reflects the enduring allure of this essential kitchen material.

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