How to Remove Scratches From Stainless Steel Appliances

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

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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.

Stainless Steel Scratch Removers

Stainless steel can be wiped down with plain water, a vinegar-and-water blend or special cleansers that help keep the metal's luster (which beautifully highlights all those fingerprints!). But what happens when your appliance's perfect sheen gets an unsightly scratch?

Stainless steel comes in various grades and finishes, and home-grade stainless steel is usually the norm for all appliances. So before you attempt to buff out a scratch in your fridge or sink, be sure to check with the appliance's manufacturer to verify which type of stainless steel you're working with.

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Here are some stainless steel scratch removal techniques for you to try:

  • For fine scratches, cleaners such as Comet and Revere Stainless Steel and Copper Cleaner are non-abrasive cleansers that will gently buff stainless steel. They come in a dry powder that needs to be combined with water or as cream-based cleaners that go on the metal a bit smoother. Appliance manufacturers often make their own cleaners that are easy to find at home improvement stores.
  • Sanding with wet sandpaper is recommended for deeper scratches. Sandpaper comes in various grits, so check first with your appliance manufacturer about which kind of sandpaper will work best for your stainless steel.
  • If you have a lot of scratches, there are a few DIY scratch removal kits, such as Scratch-B-Gone or the Siege 63001 Stainless Steel Sink and Cookware Scratch Remover pack, that will take you step by step through the scratch removal process. These kits feature products similar to the two described above in one kit and will cost you a little more out of pocket.

One piece of advice is universal -- always rub or buff the scratch with the grain of the metal. If you go against the grain of the steel, you'll only make the scratch worse!

When in doubt, call a professional. Maybe you've tried everything, or maybe your scratch is more like a gash. There are professional stainless steel restorers who will come to your home to give you an estimate for repairs. This route will cost the most, but if you've tried everything or if it's too big a job, leave it to the experts.

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Sources

  • Allegheny Technologies. "Moly-grade stainless steel makes waves at Middle Eastern airport." (Sept. 30, 2011) www.alleghenytechnologies.com/aerospace/docs/aerospace.../Doha.pdf
  • Comet Cleanser. (Sept. 30, 2011) http://cometcleanser.com/index.htm
  • The Consumer Link. "Revere Cleaner." (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.theconsumerlink.com/EZBrite/list/revereclean/15
  • Finishing. "Removing Scratches from Stainless Steel Appliances." (Sept. 18, 2011) http://www.finishing.com/4000-4199/4148.shtml
  • International Stainless Steel Forum. "Introduction to Stainless Steel." (Sept. 18, 2011) http://www.worldstainless.org/About+stainless/What+is/Intro/
  • New York Architecture. "Chrysler Building." (Sept. 30, 2011) http://www.nyc-architecture.com/MID/MID021.htm
  • Scratch-B-Gone Homeowners Kit. (Sept. 20, 2011) http://www.scratch-b-gone.net/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=1&osCsid=c6i3cn7b9pns4pq34h276sovb2
  • Stainless Steel Industry of North America. "Stainless Steel Overview: Tutorial." (Sept. 22, 2011) http://www.ssina.com/overview/how.html
  • Whirlpool. "Stainless Steel Appliance Cleaner and Polish." (Sept. 20, 2011) http://www.whirlpool.com/-%5B31462A%5D-1001017/31462A/