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How to Burnish Stainless Steel

Joseph McAllister

Stainless steel is known for its ability to resist deterioration and rust. Grime, dust particles and dirt, however, can still detract from its appearance over time.

Many appliances are now available in stainless steel.

Fortunately, as long as you follow certain guidelines, stainless steel reacts well to cleaning and polishing, allowing you to restore it to its original beauty.

Normal Polishing

Ordinary, routine cleaning of your stainless steel requires only warm tap water and a hand towel. This is the least dangerous option for cleansing steel in terms of potential surface damage. After burnishing, dry the surface with a hand towel to prevent water marks. Micro-fiber cleansing cloths are the best option for both cleaning and drying stainless steel, since they will not create microscopic scratches on the surface. In a pinch, however, ordinary paper towels will do, according to Martha Stewart's website.

Heavy Burnishing

For tougher burnishing jobs, use an oil-based stainless steel cleaning agent along with the warm water and soft cloth. Make sure you wash and rinse the surface thoroughly to avoid discoloration, and be careful to work in the direction of the pre-existing grain in the stainless steel.


Most stainless steel owners would list fingerprints as the biggest appearance problem with stainless steel appliances. Fortunately, removing fingerprints from otherwise clean stainless steel requires only ordinary window cleaner. As always, make sure you wipe down the surface with warm water and hand towel dry. Additionally, you may wish to apply a stainless steel finish that has been specially designed to fight fingerprints, particularly if you live in a house with children.


A stainless steel surface that has been neglected for a significant period of time may have discoloration damage in addition to normal wear. You can use a variety of products, from vinegar to baby oil, to remove this discoloration. However, for best results you should use a burnishing agent recommended by the manufacturer for your particular stainless steel surface. These products will not only clean, shine and brighten your stainless steel, but will also help prevent damage in the long term. Read the instructions on the product before using it, and test it in a hidden spot to make sure it works correctly. Again, be sure to wipe down with clean water and hand towel dry to finish.