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Nothing is more classic than the sleek, modern look of stainless steel appliances in your home kitchen, but nothing is more annoying than seeing the scratch marks that will inevitably come with them. Frankly, your microwave, dishwasher and refrigerator deserve better, as they’re some of the first things you and your guests will see when dining, cooking or congregating for a late afternoon happy hour.
Fear not — there are a handful of products and techniques to effectively eliminate these eyesores so you can guarantee smooth, mark-free bliss. Check out our approaches to removing stainless steel scratches, both big and small, as well as a few of our favorite non-abrasive cleaning compounds that should become pantry staples.
How to Remove Fine Scratches
Before you purchase products to target fine or deep scratches, make sure your stainless steel appliances don’t have a protective coat or any type of barrier that will prevent them from doing their job. These methods will not work if an additional layer is present.
For nicks, dings, and more subtle lines, buffing and polishing will be your best option. Invest in a non-abrasive cleaner/compound like Rolite Metal Polish, Bar Keepers Friend, or Flitz Multi-Purpose Polish and apply them with a microfiber cloth. These products will temporarily fill the gaps and grooves, clean, polish, and even protect the surface from future damage. Still, results aren’t permanent — you’ll have to be somewhat consistent with their application, depending on how often you use the appliances.
Also, be sure to always clean in the direction of the grain (either side to side or up and down) and avoid rubbing perpendicularly or in a circular motion, as this can cause scratches to worsen.
Should you want to go the au naturale route, everyday household items like non-gel toothpaste and baking soda (with water) can also do the trick but are typically less effective. Never leave stainless steel to soak in solutions that contain bleach, lemon juice or salt — these can damage the finish and leave you with irreversible stains or dullness.
Rolite Metal Polish Paste
Bar Keepers Friend Powder Cleanser
Flitz Multi-Purpose Polish and Cleaner Paste
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
How to Remove Deep Scratches
Deeper scratchers are certainly going to require a more laborious but finessed approach. The more traditional route is to take a piece of wet, fine-grain sandpaper and brush the stainless steel in one direction. As with fine scratches, you never want to go against the grain, back and forth, or in a circular motion — this will add more scratches and defeat the purpose of attaining a smooth, shiny surface. If necessary, finish your sanding with an even finer sandpaper, and end with one of the compounds above to clean and polish.
If the idea of using sandpaper is too intimidating, opt for a scouring pad with a few drops of mineral, vegetable or even olive oil (probably the most effective of the three). Work with the grain to buff the surface, but go beyond the scratch to naturally blend the area outside of it inward. This will make your stainless steel look less uneven before cleaning and polishing, which you’ll want to do after you’ve buffed out the scratch.
No matter which process you choose, one of the best all-natural cleaners (and finishers) for stainless steel is vinegar. Simply spray the area with a 50-50 solution of distilled vinegar and water and wipe away. Vinegar does an excellent job of cutting through grease, so you’ll want to apply it before anything with an oil base. As a cleaner, it is most effective on its own or to remove the debris of scratches after they’ve been buffed away or filled with compounds.
And there you have it — shiny, smooth, scratch-free stainless steel without needing to take drastic measures by ordering replacements.