Stainless steel appliances can be a great look. I have a stainless steel dishwasher and refrigerator as well as a black and stainless steel microwave which I love. Not only are stainless steel appliances attractive, but they are also durable and easy to clean. At least, they are somewhat easy to clean. The problem is that your nice shiny stainless steel refrigerator can easily be damaged if you use harsh cleaners or abrasives.
Abrasive materials can scratch the surface of your stainless steel appliance. I have some scratches on the front of my fridge. I have no idea how they got there. But another problem is that these stainless steel appliances can develop rust spots.
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It’s supposed to be stainless steel. Stainless steel doesn’t rust, right?
The truth is that there is no such thing as a rust-free material, only rust-resistant. They are not even truly stainless, only mostly stainless. Stains are easily dealt with but rust, well, that will make you crazy when it appears on the front of your beautiful shiny fridge.
Don’t worry, you can fix it. These rust spots are usually small and only on the surface, so that is good. The bad part is their appearance means that the steel has been damaged somewhat.
The stainless steel of your fridge is made with several different materials but the one that makes it rust-resistant is a layer of chromium oxide, the same material that renders any stainless steel “stainless.” Certain harsh cleaners can damage this layer, causing the spots of rust. You must avoid any cleaners that contain chlorine, fluorine, bromine, iodine, ammonia, or alcohol. This means you should not use Windex glass cleaner! It contains ammonia. If you don’t know what a cleaner contains, don’t use it. According to Kenmore, this layer can repair itself over time. I don’t know if this is true. Perhaps there are tiny stainless-steel loving elves that will come in the night and fix up your chromium layer.
The best way to do regular everyday cleaning of your stainless steel appliance, whether fridge, dishwasher, or stove, is with a mild soap and water solution. I simply mix some dishwashing liquid with water in a little plastic container or bucket. Use a cloth or paper towel to rub the surface down, then use a clean damp cloth to wipe away the soap a few times. You can then buff the surface dry with another clean soft cloth or paper towel. For this, I prefer microfiber cloths. They clean well but also rinse out well, making it easier to remove the cleaning solution. If you notice streaks appearing as you dry your fridge, just keep buffing and they will disappear. In fact, most of the time, they will disappear on their own as the surface dries.
There are of course many other options for cleaning stainless steel appliances, but this article is about removing those terrible rust spots so I better get to it.
Removing Rust Spots from Your Stainless Steel Fridge
There are two methods that work best for removing the rust spots. Baking soda and water or baking soda and lemon juice. If the rust spots on your fridge are tiny and hardly noticeable as rust unless you squint at them, you should be able to use baking soda and water. If they are a bit larger, you may want to go with the lemon juice solution.
Baking Soda and Water
Before beginning, place a towel, newspaper, etc. on the floor against the front of the fridge to catch any baking soda that falls off the surface. This will make cleanup easier after you’re done. Otherwise, the dried baking soda is easy to sweep up.
Combine equal parts baking soda and water. Make just a little bit of this solution at a time. You won’t need large amounts so there is no point in wasting baking soda. All you are doing is creating a rubbing compound to remove the spots. This solution will not scratch the surface of your stainless steel fridge.
Use a soft cloth or paper towel to rub some of the solution onto the spot and rub the area until the spot is removed. As the steel has a brushed finish, most guides say you should rub in the direction of the grain so as not to create offset scratches. This is probably a good idea but there is no need to be paranoid. This is not so highly abrasive as to easily scratch the surface.
If you are having trouble removing the spots, just apply a bit more compound and keep rubbing. This will also remove normal stains or deposits.
Baking Soda and Lemon Juice
Baking soda and lemon juice are also recommended. There is no reason that baking soda and lemon juice should be more effective for much the same reason that baking soda and vinegar is not an effective cleaning solution. The baking soda works by scouring the rust spots off. In essence, you are creating a rubbing compound.
Straight vinegar is often recommended as an alternative but to be honest I’ve had no luck using vinegar to remove rust spots.
Bar Keepers Friend
I suggested Bar Keepers Friend in my guide on removing white deposits from stainless steel pots. You can easily use it to remove rust spots from your stainless steel fridge. In fact, this is one of the uses suggested by the manufacturer. Another advantage of Barkeepers Friend is that it can be used for all sorts of other cleaning problems, including your pots and even your shower. It not only cleans stainless steel but is also safe for brass, copper, aluminum, ceramic, porcelain, glass, and Corian. It’s really one of my favorite cleaning products. To learn more about what it can do, see Barkeeper’s Friend on Amazon.
For your fridge, I’d recommend using the premixed liquid version of BarKeeper’s Friend, linked above. Just apply some of the cleaner and rub it in with a soft cloth, sponge, or paper towel. Rub in the direction of the grain lines. Wipe off with clean water. Don’t leave it on too long. You want to remove it within one minute. Unlike the baking soda solution, it will cling well to the surface of the refrigerator or dishwasher, making it easier to clean only one spot without having it drip down or getting baking soda everywhere.
Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish
I have a love-hate relationship with stainless steel polish and cleaner. For cleaning, I’m not a fan. It’s much easier to use soap and water and regular maintenance or Bar Keeper’s Friend. For putting a factory sheen back on your stainless steel appliance, it’s great. For protection, it helps, but once stains, fingerprints, and water streaks do appear (and they will), it’s tougher to clean that it would have been had you skipped the polish. Other people seem to have better results.
I do not like Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish, which is the most well-known and readily available brand. I’ve tried one other with similar results. I do intend to try 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish as well as some other popular cleaners.
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