Be gentle when cleaning your stainless steel appliances. Even the finest abrasions will appear if you're using a heavy hand.

©iStockphoto.com/Elena Moiseeva

Walk into most new or remodeled homes these days, and you're guaranteed to find at least one or two -- if not an entire kitchen full of -- stainless steel appliances. From the sink and oven to the refrigerator and dishwasher, even the microwave and toaster, stainless steel is the trendy, shiny, modern appliance material du jour.

Stainless steel isn't a single metal but rather an alloy, a mixture of specific metals. Steel scrap is melted and blended with metals such as chromium or nickel, heated, pressurized and finally treated to give stainless steel its defining characteristics. Stainless steel is somewhat of a wonder material, featuring amazing properties that have manufacturers using it for everything from silverware to large industrial projects. Stainless steel is corrosive-resistant (doesn't rust easily), easy to produce, heat-resistant and completely recyclable.

You've embraced your beautiful stainless steel kitchen, pesky handprints and all. No worries, though -- stainless steel can be cleaned frequently without damage. What you do have to be careful about, however, is scratching the metal. This is when maintaining stainless steel can be a rather tricky chore.

Read on to the next page to learn about cleaners and scratch removers that are safe for stainless steel.