Written By Nikola Petrovski
Published Nov. 1, 2020

Stainless steel adds an element of class and elegance to any kitchen or automotive part, but it’s not just for looks. It has its roots in durability and practicality. In fact, stainless steel has been used in commercial kitchens, laboratories, hospitals, factories, the automotive market, and other industrial environments for decades due to its well-known durability and ease of sterilization.

As stainless steel has become an increasingly popular material, various lines of cleaners that help to polish and disinfect that steel have also grown in popularity. What is it about stainless steel cleaners that makes them better than regular cleaners? Here, we have researched and come up with some of the best stainless steel cleaners on the market today that deliver excellent results.

The Best Stainless Steel Cleaners

If you want a stainless steel, aluminum, and chrome cleaner all from one bottle, we recommend the 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish. The solution comes in an aerosol can, and comes out as a white foam that works instantly when sprayed on a stained surface. Only a small amount is needed to lift grease and dirt stains from the metal surface.

After it’s buffed, it leaves a thin protective film that prevents streaking, hides scratches, and resists fingerprint marks to help maintain the brilliance of stainless steel. You can also use it solely as a polisher, and you only need a soft microfiber cloth to rub it in. Other than that, it has a pleasant citrus fragrance and is gentle on the hands.

Key Features
  • Packaged in an aerosol can
  • Ready-to-use, non-evaporating formula 
  • Citrus fragrance
Specification
  • Brand 3M
  • Model 14002
  • Weight 21 ounces
PROS

Leaves a protective film that hides blemishes 

Works instantly when applied 

Easy to use and safe on the hands

Polishes the surface and slows re-soiling

CONS

The citrus fragrance might not appeal to everyone

Might leave grease smears 

A little underpowered for tough stains

For the discerning bargain shopper, we recommend checking out Hope’s Perfect Sink Cleaner and Polish. This cleaner doesn’t come as a spray, but as a concentrated liquid that you squeeze onto a soft cloth to apply where you want it. It’s a gentle, but thorough cleaner that not only cleans, shines, and polishes, but also restores stainless steel surfaces to their best gleaming appearance.

This water-repellent cleaner is specially designed to create an invisible barrier along the surface that deters water stains, rust stains, and other tough spots to extend the overall clean look and feel of your stainless steel surfaces. It’s also a very effective and appropriate cleaner for cast iron, composite, porcelain, Corian, acrylic, and vitreous china, and it won’t scratch or damage these materials.

Key Features
  • Concentrated solution 
  • Multi-surface cleaner 
  • Creates a water-repellent coating 
  • Safe on skin
Specification
  • Brand Hope’s
  • Model 9SK12
  • Weight 8.5 ounces
PROS

Removes rust stains and water spots 

Removes tough stains and leaves a brilliant shine 

Fairly easy to use 

Doesn’t streak the surface

No harsh chemicals included

CONS

Can leave a white residue if not buffed 

Has a strong odor 

Might leave micro scratches on steel

Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser is a creamy, pre-mixed formulation that’s designed to cling on vertical surfaces for a better clean. This makes it great for cleaning refrigerators or shower doors. It can help lift dirt or scum from the surface, leaving it cleaner for longer. It also removes rust and mineral deposit stains from the surface.

You only need to use a little amount of the product to clean a large area. It works best when squeezed onto a wet cloth or sponge, and you can rinse it off within a minute and expect good results. It leaves a streak-free shine and a pleasant citrus fragrance after you use a soft cloth to dry the surface. You can use the product on aluminum, copper, ceramic, porcelain, brass, alloys, and stainless steel.

Key Features
  • Cream-based, ready-to-use formula 
  • Citrus fragrance 
  • Comes in a convenient squeeze bottle 
  • Clings on vertical surfaces
Specification
  • Brand Bar Keepers Friend
  • Model 02620
  • Weight 13 ounces
PROS

Removes dirt in under a minute

Polishes and removes streaks from the surface 

Gets rid of dirt, scum, and rust stains

Safe for a variety of surfaces

CONS

A bit on the expensive side 

Only available in small bottles 

Might leave a white residue if not rinsed properly

For a combination of user-friendliness and quality cleaning, Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish gets our vote. This pH-neutral formula not only cleans, but it also polishes and protects your stainless steel. This convenient and easy-to-use formula provides a uniform spray and coverage that thoroughly cleans grease, stains, fingerprints, smudges, dust, food residue, and more.

You simply spray it on and wipe it off with a clean, soft towel. You can also buff it for extra shine, and the polish itself will leave a light barrier that deters further fingerprints, dust, watermarks, streaks, or smudges. This product is widely used in homes, but also in commercial environments such as restaurants, health spas, laboratories, caterers, workshops, and much more.

Key Features
  • pH-neutral formula 
  • Spray-on application
  • Cleans and polishes any metal surface
Specification
  • Brand Weiman
  • Model 8541814638
  • Weight 22 ounces
PROS

Gets rid of haze, fingerprints, and grease streaks

Removes watermarks 

Leaves a protective barrier to prevent smears 

Resists scratches 

Leaves a brilliant shine when buffed 

Repels dirt and dust

CONS

May ship with a leaking container

Has a strong smell 

The pump may let out a weak stream

If you’re short on time, but still want a thorough clean, try the Magic Stainless Steel Wipes. Handy disposable wipes saturated with a cleaner and polish in one allow you to give your stainless steel a quick cleaning without sacrificing quality. Equipped with “Stay Clean Technology,” these stainless steel cleaning wipes not only get rid of fingerprints, grease, dust, watermarks, food particles, smudges, and dirt, but they also provide a barrier to deter new messes from settling quickly onto your shiny surfaces, helping to extend your time between cleanings.

These wipes are ideal if you’re in a hurry because company’s coming, or if you noticed a few offensive spots and just want to do a quick once-over. They’re an effective cleaner for any type of stainless steel surface you can think of, and are easily disposable, saving you the extra laundry caused by cleaning towels.

Key Features
  • 30 cleaner wipes
  • pH-neutral formula  
  • Stay Clean Technology leaves a protective barrier on the surface
Specification
  • Brand Magic
  • Model 8541814575
  • Weight 1.32 pounds
PROS

Easy to use 

Quickly cleans and shines the surface

Removes dirt, dust, and watermarks

Safe on all stainless steel surfaces

Resists scratches and stains

CONS

Feels greasy 

You take longer cleaning larger appliances such as a fridge

Has a strong odor

For a product that’s safe for family and pets, we recommend the Bon Ami Powder Cleanser, a gentle cleaner that’s formulated with natural ingredients. The powder has only two ingredients: tallow soap and feldspar. They are derived from renewable corn and coconut oils. The cleanser doesn’t contain harsh chemicals like chlorine, dye, or perfume. This makes it a gentle cleaner that won’t scratch surfaces or cause allergic reactions.

The powder comes ready to use, and while the application can be messy, it’s effective at removing dirt, grime, and rust stains. It also absorbs unpleasant odors. The product works best when sprinkled on a wet cloth, and it leaves the surface looking clean and polished. It can be used on a variety of surfaces including porcelain, ceramic tiles, chrome, granite, and stainless steel.

Key Features
  • Gentle, powder cleanser 
  • Contains no harsh chemicals 
  • Non-abrasive formula 
  • All-purpose cleaner
Specification
  • Brand Bon Ami
  • Model SYNCHKG110580
  • Weight 14 ounces
PROS

Doesn’t corrode or scratch the applied surface 

Absorbs bad odors 

Comes ready to use 

Cleans and polishes the surface 

Pure eco-friendly formula

CONS

Messy application 

May ship with dents in the container

May not be effective for cleaning grease stains

Outdoor enthusiasts and RV owners can benefit from having the CLR Stainless Steel Cleaner, which cleans stainless steel barbecue grills, cooking appliances, and other kitchen fixtures. It’s a water-based formula that comes packaged in an aerosol can, and cleans thoroughly without damaging the surface. You just need to hold it at least 6 inches from the surface and spray lightly. Then you can use a soft cloth to wipe away the dirt or residue marks. It leaves the applied surface with a brilliant shine.

Like most stainless steel cleaners, this leaves a protective film that resists streaks, water spots, and fingerprint marks. This helps to keep the surface cleaner for longer. You can use it to mask scratches and other blemishes on steel.

Key Features
  • Aerosol spray 
  • Water-based formula 
  • Dual action: cleans and shines
Specification
  • Brand CLR
  • Model CSS-12
  • Weight 12 ounces
PROS

Safe for cookware and appliances 

Resists fingerprint marks 

Leaves a shiny protective barrier 

Resists streaks and water spots

Removes residue

CONS

Can irritate your eyes 

Heavily soiled surfaces may need a second application

Might arrive with dents in the container

If you’re looking for a gentle yet effective cleaner for your stainless steel wheels, then Griot’s Garage Wheel Cleaner could work for you. Not only is it good for stainless steel, but it also works for aluminum, chrome, powder-coated, and polished wheels. It’s a pH-balanced formula, meaning it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals that would damage the wheels or brake pads. 

The solution comes in an easy-to-use, spray-on bottle. It can effectively remove road grime, brake dust, tar, and dirt. For the best results, you need to rinse the wheels before applying the cleaner. Then you gently agitate the solution with a wheel scrubber or brush so that you can remove the caked-on dirt. It leaves the wheels looking clean and shiny after it’s rinsed.

Key Features
  • pH-balanced formula 
  • Packaged in a spray bottle
  • Safe for all wheel finishes
Specification
  • Brand Griot’s
  • Model 11106
  • Weight 35 ounces
PROS

Cleans and shines the wheel 

Effectively removes tough stains stuck on the wheels

Safe on the hands 

Can be slightly diluted

CONS

Might leave a white residue 

Smells a bit odd 

You need to wash the wheel beforehand

The Sonax Wheel Cleaner is a great cleaner that can be used both by DIYers and professionals. It’s an acid-free formula that’s safe on most metals, including aluminum, magnesium, and stainless steel. It also won’t damage chrome, clear-coated, or painted wheels, or plastic wheel covers. The formula is designed to attach on the wheel surface and emulsify tough stains such as caked-on brake dust. 

One interesting feature is that the solution changes color when it dissolves dirt. It sprays on as fluorescent yellow and gradually changes color to deep red or purple, showing that it has effectively dissolved the dirt and is ready to be rinsed off. You need to gently agitate it with a wheel brush and thereafter rinse it with plenty of water.

Key Features
  • pH balanced 
  • Color-changing formula 
  • Safe on all wheels 
  • Comes in a convenient spray-on bottle
Specification
  • Brand Sonax
  • Model 230200-755
  • Weight 16.9 ounces
PROS

Effectively removes debris and dirt 

Doesn’t damage wheel finishes 

You can easily tell when it's time to rinse it off 

A gentle formula that’s safe on the hands 

Safe on tires and brake pads

CONS

Needs to be rinsed off with high-pressure water to remove residue deposits 

Not recommended for anodized brake systems 

Might come leaking straight from the package

Best Stainless Steel Cleaners Buying Guide & FAQ

The minute you notice that the wheels or rims of your vehicle are looking dull, then it’s time to clean them with a stainless steel cleaner to restore the brilliant shine. Steel often gets dull from exposure to water, dirt, dust, or grease, but the good thing is that chemical manufacturers have come up with clever ways to restore its showroom appearance. 

Sure, using soap and warm water may help to get rid of the dirt, but it won’t leave a long-lasting protective coating or make the surface look shinier. If you aren’t a fan of using homemade products for cleaning, you can rely on our buying guide to find the best stainless steel cleaner on the market. 

Why Do You Need a Stainless Steel Cleaner?

In comparison to other metals, stainless steel is more durable and hard-wearing, which makes it more important to keep it in top shape by cleaning it from time to time. Most cleaners on the market not only clean but also polish the surface. If you’re not getting a brilliant shine for your cleaner, you can always use a metal polish as a finishing touch. 

Not everything that’s made of stainless steel is impervious to rust. Qualities vary, and exposure to harsh chemicals like chlorine can cause it to rust. However, rust shouldn’t be the main reason that you consider replacing your steel rims or buying a new home appliance. Most cleaners on the market can effectively dissolve rust deposits and form a barrier that prevents future corrosion. They can also be used with dedicated rust removers.

If you like to cook when you’re out camping or backpacking, then it’s expected that your cooking appliances will get stained from grease or food particles. Instead of spending time boiling water and carrying a detergent, you can use a stainless steel cleaner to get rid of the dirt that’s stuck on your cooker. 

  • It’s an easy and fast method of cleaning stainless steel. 
  • It restores the brilliant shine on your wheels and rims. 
  • Some cleaners leave a protective coating that prevents further staining or corrosion. 
  • Most of these cleaners are affordable. 

The Most Common Types of Stainless Steel Cleaners

There are different types of stainless steel cleaners, thanks to the fact that manufacturers now have a global audience for their products via the online market. This creates room for improvements and newer cleaners that are tailored to be efficient, and meet the user’s demands. Here’s a close look at a few.

Sprays

Sprays are the easiest to use, and you can get the job done in a short time since they give a broad area an even coat. Spray cleaners are also better at getting in the nooks and crannies, and that’s why they make the best rim or wheel cleaners.

Aside from that, using a spray cleaner is fairly easy since you only have to pull the trigger and use a cloth to rub in the cleaner. For best results, you should choose a spray pump that allows you to control the stream so you can choose between a wide or narrow spray. 

Creams 

Cream cleaners mostly come in squeezable bottles or a tub. They’re formulated with more ingredients than spray cleaners and therefore are more efficient cleaning agents. However, since the solution is thick, it requires more work to rub it in and get an even coat. 

You have to be careful to use just the right amount; otherwise, it may leave streak marks or a residue on the surface. Other than that, cream cleaners have longer-lasting effects than other alternatives. 

Powders 

Powder cleaners require a little prior preparation before applying them on the surface. Depending on the formulation, you may need to mix it with water or an activator solution provided by the manufacturer to form a thin paste. The paste is then rubbed on the stainless steel surface and worked in until the dirt deposits come loose.

While powder cleaners don’t come ready to use, they’re typically powerful formulas and give the best cleaning results, especially when prepared correctly. However, the application can be messy, so you should consider covering the floor with old newspapers when preparing it.  

Wipes 

Wipes are best used when you need to quickly clean a stained surface before it becomes dull and unappealing. You can keep them in your glove compartment, garage, or kitchen so that you can use them whenever needed. 

Some advanced wipes can perform a dual action of cleaning and polishing the surface. You may still need to rub it in with a different cloth to get the best shine, as with the other cleaners. The downside to having cleaning wipes is that it can take a long time to cover a large surface, and you need to wipe it down evenly. Otherwise, the untouched parts will stand out when the surface has dried. 

What to Look for When Buying Stainless Steel Cleaners

Stainless steel cleaners come in many types and formulations, so you can’t assume that one cleaner is safe for both your wheels and home appliances. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on the type of surface you can use it on. Some formulas are pH neutral, meaning they don’t contain harsh chemicals that would damage brake pads, tires, or other parts they come in contact with. However, we do not recommend using stainless steel cleaners on aluminum or chrome-plated wheels. Instead, use a dedicated wheel cleaner.

Also, you should note that if the steel is in poor condition, you’re going to need a strong cleaner. For instance, if you intend to clean a rusty and greasy cooking appliance or an old wheel, then you need a strong cleaner and polisher to restore the immaculate shine on the steel. You can opt for a dual-action formula that offers a cleaner and polisher in one bottle. However, most of these powerful formulas will have a strong smell, and you need to wear gloves to avoid skin irritation. 

The Most Important Features of Stainless Steel Cleaners

Making a list of the must-have features in a product is always a great place to start before shopping. You’re guaranteed to get more value for your money by prioritizing cleaners with some of the features discussed below. 

Size 

The size or quantity of the cleaner you choose mostly depends on the number of metal surfaces you need to clean or how long you intend to use it. For instance, if you want a cleaner you can use to clean most of your garage tools and kitchen appliances, then you need to get a 1-gallon bottle so you’ll have enough for the job. The same case applies if you want to buy a cleaner only once every few months. 

On the other hand, if you need the cleaner only for a one-time job like cleaning your wheels, or you’re shopping from a budget point of view, then you can choose smaller 16- to 32-ounce bottles. 

Formulation 

The formulation or ingredients used to make the cleaner will tell you whether it’s effective or not. You need to confirm that the cleaner does exactly what’s advertised. The best way to confirm its effectiveness is to read online reviews from customers who have previously used it. In addition, be sure to get an eco-friendly product. 

Also, consider what you need from the cleaner. For instance, if you intend to clean your wheels, you need a formula that’s safe for wheels, rims, tires, and any other component it may come in contact with. 

pH Balanced 

Buying a pH-balanced, or pH-neutral stainless steel cleaner is vital if you’re going to use it on your wheels and rims. You’ll want a guarantee from the manufacturer that the cleaner won’t stain, scratch, or damage the wheel. Some cleaners are highly acidic and need to be handled with caution. Such cleaners can corrode the tires or damage your vehicle’s paintwork.

In contrast, pH-neutral formulas are safe on your hands, meaning that you won’t necessarily have to use gloves. They’re also safe to use on a variety of metal surfaces.

Best Stainless Steel Cleaners FAQ:

So far, we’ve seen that the best way of cleaning and maintaining the brilliance of stainless steel is by using a dedicated cleaner. Most of these cleaners are fairly easy to use and also provide a brilliant shine. Read some of the answers we’ve provided below for more information on how to take care of stainless steel. 

Q: What is the best homemade stainless steel cleaner?

A simple homemade solution for removing tough stains on steel is a combination of baking soda and vinegar. You only have to sprinkle a bit of baking soda on the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and use a cloth soaked in vinegar to rub it off. 

Q: What should you not use on stainless steel?

Do not use harsh abrasive cleaners since they will scratch the finish. In addition, don’t use cleaners with chlorine in the formulation since they can bleach or dull the finish. Also, avoid using steel brushes or steel wool since they can scratch the surface and cause it to rust. 

Q: How much is the best stainless steel cleaner?

The best stainless steel cleaners are priced from $15 to $25. You can also find some high-quality cleaners way below that price point, such as our best value pick. 

Our Top Pick

3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish easily scoops our top pick because it helps to clean and prolong the gleam of stainless steel. It’s also quite easy to use since you only have to spray and wipe it down every few weeks. 

Final Thoughts

If the 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish is a bit over your budget, you can opt for Hope’s Perfect Sink Cleaner and Polish. It’s a more affordable option that cleans dirt and water spots. It also leaves the applied surface shiny after buffing.

You may also like our reviews of the Best Detailing Spray and Plastic Restorers

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