How to Clean Stainless Steel in the Restaurant

Restaurants are drawn to stainless steel for its sleek industrial look, durability, and affordability. From the reach-in refrigerator to the stock pot bubbling on the stove, stainless steel is unavoidable in commercial kitchens. When not well maintained though, the stainless look can backfire and make a kitchen look unsanitary and dingy with just a few smudges. It is crucial to clean stainless steel regularly to maintain a polished look.

Whether in the front of house or back, keeping that stainless steel stainless is essential to the image of a spotless restaurant and hygienic kitchen.

What to Know About Stainless Steel Before You Clean


  • Stainless steel contains a thin, virtually invisible layer of chromium on its surface to protect the steel beneath from water and air. It is easy to clean but very sensitive to abrasive tools and corrosive stains.
  • Never let anything sit on stainless steel for long. This includes spills, cleaning solutions, and water.
  • Only use very soft tools to clean stainless steel such as high quality cloths, microfiber, sponges, etc. Do not use a brush, old rag, or anything rough as it will scratch through the chromium layer and damage the stainless steel beneath.
  • Use alkaline or alkaline chlorinated cleaners but never use chloride cleaners on stainless steel. They will cause irreparable corrosion.
  • ALWAYS wipe with the grain when you clean stainless steel equipment. If you cannot see the grain easily, take a dry, soft cloth and gently wipe vertically or horizontally to feel which way is easiest. The path of least resistance is the correct way to wipe.
  • Clean stainless surfaces regularly to keep the chromium layer in good shape.

Steps to Clean Stainless Steel


  1. Wet a soft cloth or sponge with water and wipe down the stainless steel surface along the grain to remove as much gunk as possible.
  2. If you have any remaining spots that did not come off with water, add a gentle, non-chloride cleaning detergent to your cloth.
  3. Gently rub the stain back and forth along the grain until the detergent dissolves the foreign body- no scrubbing.
  4. Once the stains have been dissolved, wipe down any areas that the detergent touched with water to make sure it is all removed.
  5. Then, dry the surface thoroughly of any water with a dry, soft cloth.
  6. To add some shine, or simply get rid of fingerprints, a traditional stainless steel cleaner will do the job.
  7. Apply small amounts of the stainless steel cleaner to your soft cloth or sponge as you go. Make long even strokes along the grain across the entire surface to get an even finish.

What Not to Do


  • Never use an abrasive tool like a brush or wool.
  • Never use chloride cleaners on stainless steel.
  • Do not let moisture, detergents, or spills sit on stainless steel for long.
  • Never clean in small circles, instead wipe in long, straight strokes with the grain of the steel.
  • Do not scrub at stains, instead let the cleaner or water slowly break them down as you gently wipe over them.


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