Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Clean Stainless Steel with Olive Oil

DIY Featured GeekMom
Photo: Kelly Knox

The first day with our shiny new stainless steel refrigerator, I stood and admired its gleam… for about 10 seconds, when my daughter ran straight to it and smacked two yogurty handprints on the door. Rather than shoo her away from every appliance in the kitchen until she turns 18, I decided to focus on a way to clean the stainless steel instead. To the pins!

Tips on Pinterest included specific stainless steel cleaners like Affresh or Weiman, as well as Pledge furniture polish or Windex glass cleaner wipes. As we already had some of the wipes, I gave one a shot, but no luck. The streaks and fingerprints still glared at me defiantly.

Plus, as the mom of a preschooler whose hobbies include touching every surface in the house, I preferred to try something more natural, and somewhat inexpensive. Many pins recommended olive oil to polish stainless steel, to my surprise, and so I decided to give it a shot.

It was difficult to work up the courage to smear olive oil on our aforementioned new appliances. What if it streaked? What if it went rancid and our fridge ended up smelling like the dumpster behind Carabbas? Then it occurred to me that I had the perfect test subject: our old, messy stainless steel trash can.

Photo: Kelly Knox

It’s not obvious to see in the photo above, but the stainless steel trash can looks brand new again. Olive oil acted as a polish, turning the entire surface a bit darker, and got rid of the smudges. It didn’t feel noticeably greasy, either.

Here are the steps for cleaning and polishing stainless steel with olive oil:

1. Clean the surface with a non-abrasive soap or baking soda and water.

2. Once the stainless steel is dry, rub in a small amount of oil with a soft rag. Go with the stainless “grain” and use some elbow grease to really work it in.

3. Wipe the stainless steel with a clean, dry rag or paper towel to remove excess oil and give it a little more shine. (Some walkthroughs mention an additional step of wiping it down with vinegar, which I didn’t do.)

My confidence boosted by the experiment on the stainless trash can, I tried the same steps on the dishwasher, which was in dire need of cleaning.

Photo: Kelly Knox

The water drips and fingerprints went away after the olive oil was applied. On the dishwasher, though, I didn’t get as much coverage as I did on the trash can, and there were some streaks.


Pinbusted or Pintrusted? Trusted, hesitantly. I’ll try this on the same surfaces again when they get full of fingerprints.

I will add a caveat, however: I’m still too chicken to try it on the refrigerator.

I’ve read about varying results when applied to stainless steel, probably due a “faux” stainless finish or a lower grade stainless steel. You may want to test a small corner or the side of the appliance before applying the oil on a large area.

Do you use olive oil on your stainless steel? Or do you have another trusted method?

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8 thoughts on “Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Clean Stainless Steel with Olive Oil

  1. I am not overly worried about using a cleaning supply on something like the fridge or dishwasher. Even when the kids were toddlers, I wasn’t terribly afraid that they would lick the fridge as I was in the middle of spraying it down with stainless steel cleaner. Don’t drink the cleaners themselves (we’ve always kept our cleaning supplies on a high shelf rather than under the sink), and they’re safe to use on surfaces that you touch.

    For stuff like a sink or pots and pans that can be rinsed, I use Barkeeper’s Friend–it’s a powder that you shake on and scrub (and then rinse). It works really well even on stainless steel pans where the bottoms turn all rainbow-colored from the stove, or where you burned sugar all over the inside of the pan. For the appliances, I use a stainless steel appliance cleaner (I think that’s what the bottle’s nothing fancy, just a spray cleaner that you wipe down with paper towels). When I worked in a fast food restaurant in high school, we used a similar stainless steel cleaner for the counters where we prepped food–it was some commercial-grade food-safe cleaner that got rid of all the mess and didn’t leave a residue behind (maybe check out restaurant supply stores?).

    Does the olive oil leave an olive-oil-y residue behind? I think my cats *would* actually lick the fridge if I cleaned it that way (they will go after cooking oil on plates if left unattended…)

    1. I’ve seen comments that say some dogs do try to lick the olive oil if it’s not completely wiped off. So the cats might give it a try, too… I don’t have any pets, so I couldn’t test that out!

  2. You should only use a little olive oil and really polish it in to get the desired result. If you do that, there won’t be any olive oil left on the surface for your animals (or children) to lick.

    I don’t buy products to clean when I can use something that I already have in my home. It’s daft!

  3. I thought I was going to have to replace the door on our fridge because it was so stained and nothing worked. Then I stumbled upon a comment on some website where someone suggested olive oil. That was 5 years ago. I was astonished at how well this worked. My fridge looked brand new. The trick is use very little olive oil (I use the Pam spray olive oil) and wipe it good. The best part is that I think it seasons the steel because within a year, it stopped spotting and showing finger prints as much. I now only have to give it an olive oil cleaning maybe once every couple of months. In between, a damp washcloth followed by a dry with a dry washcloth if it is dirty, and it is good to go. This trick made me fall in love with stainless steel all over again.

  4. Thanks for the tip that non-abrasive soap should be specifically used when it comes to cleaning steel items. I plan to have a few exterior modern steel sculptures installed in my garden soon and I’d like to learn how to properly maintain them. Temperatures shift around a lot when the seasons change in my area so I also wonder if that would be something to consider when it comes to the things I have to be mindful of with such sculptures.

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