Stainless steel has been the go-to material for over 20 years. While it’s true that other surfaces are starting to pull focus from the dominance that stainless appliances had in the kitchen, it’s a classic surface that will remain a solid design choice for many years to come.
Stainless is the preferred surface in professional kitchens for a reason: its durability. Stainless steel is more hygienic because it's non-porous, so bacteria can't penetrate the surface. It's also resistant to heat, oxidation-like rusting, and staining, hence the name.
The rise of industrial-style, professional ranges, and refrigerators in high-end, residential kitchens helped to secure its fashionable status as the surface of choice. But, stainless steel surfaces do show more fingerprints, dark spots, and greasy smudges than more traditional surfaces do.
I like that about it! If the handles of my fridge door are smudgy, I want to see it. That's how I know they need cleaning! Here's how I do it:
First off, you have to know that there are many types of stainless. The finishes range from mirror polish to brushed steel, and everything in between. Generally, the shinier the stainless, the more you’ll have to clean it. These days, most stainless surfaces fall more toward the brushed category, to make it easier to maintain. Similar to wood, stainless steel flows in a grain-like pattern—and it’s important to clean with the grain. Cleaning against it means you’ll push debris into the grooves, dulling it even more.
Most "specialty" cleaners have silicone, which helps to make the surface shiny but doesn't really clean it. Same with those crazy pastes that require lots of time and elbow grease. No thank you!
Depending on the finish, I will use either an All-Purpose Cleaner, Glass Cleaner, or even Leather Cleaner to keep the gleam on my stainless surfaces. I use a lint-free cloth, spray, wipe, and call it a day. BTW: I always apply the cleaning product to the cloth, I never spray directly on the surface to avoid streaking.
If you do get streaking, it will probably be the silicone cleaners that existed before. You can take your stainless back to neutral, by simply flicking plain water on it and rubbing it off. Then finish with Glass Cleaner.
After 20 years of lusting after it, we finally splashed out on an industrial-style glass-fronted fridge, so I lean more on Glass Cleaner because then I can do the handles, case, and door with just one cleaner. But every once in a while, I'll give it a good once over with Leather Cleaner, to protect it from water spots, and make it shine.