The Best DIY Stainless Steel Cleaner for a Smudge & Streak Free Home

The Best DIY Stainless Steel Cleaner for a Smudge & Streak Free Home

7 minutes to read

woman spraying diy stainless steel cleaner on kitchen sink

There are parts of our homes that when we give them even just a little attention, everything else just looks a little more tidy. Cleaning the smudges and fingerprints off of our stainless steel appliances? Yep, that's one of them!

There are tons of products on the market that claim to help with this, but we've found they all fall short of their promises and most of them contain toxic chemicals that we don't want lingering around our homes.

So off to DIY land we went!

We've been working on this recipe for months and have tested it on numerous different stainless steel appliances in the kitchens of any friends and family that were brave enough to say "yes"!

After a lot of testing and tweaking, we landed on a formula that does the trick with almost any stainless steel surface it meets and it's now found a permanent place in our cleaning routine.


The Best DIY Stainless Steel Cleaner Recipe

Cleaning stainless steel appliances can be a hassle, but if you're up for the challenge, this DIY solution will become your go-to cleaner. Here's the recipe for our DIY stainless steel cleaner to help you keep your appliances clean and smudge-free at home!

This DIY stainless steel cleaner is:

  • Natural
  • Effective
  • Non-toxic
  • Budget-friendly
ingredients for diy stainless steel cleaner


  • 1 ½ cups distilled water
  • ¼ cup white distilled vinegar
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch (for streak-free shine)
  • 10-12 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10-12 drops lemon essential oil (for extra cleaning power and fragrance)
  • A few drops of dish soap (for cutting through grease)
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon of olive oil (for added shine)


  1. Gather Your Supplies: Prepare all the tools needed to make the cleaner. Here's what you need:
    • A new spray bottle
    • Measuring cups and spoons
    • Small funnel (optional, but helpful)
    • Mixing bowl or container
    • Spoon or whisk for stirring
  2. Prepare the Spray Bottle: Use a new glass spray bottle to avoid any potential chemical reactions between vinegar and residues from previous products. Thoroughly clean the new spray bottle with dish soap and warm water to remove factory dust. Make sure to rinse it well!

Pro Tip: Generally, we are huge advocates of upcycling and reusing glass, but in this case, we recommend using a new spray bottle to avoid any potential chemical reactions between the vinegar and possible residues from previous products kept in a reused spray bottle.

  1. Mix the Ingredients: Use a mixing bowl to combine all of your ingredients. You can add shine to your solution by mixing 1 tablespoon of olive oil (this step is optional).
  2. Stir the Mixture: Gently stir the mixture using a spoon or whisk until all the ingredients are well combined.
  3. Transfer to the Spray Bottle: Using a funnel, carefully pour the mixture into the cleaned spray bottle.
  4. Label the Bottle: Always label the spray bottle to help you keep track of what's inside. The label should include important details like its content and the date it was made.

Making this DIY cleaner could cost you less than $5, while store-bought products cost around $12. You can easily clean your stainless steel appliances without the extra cost!

Important Things to Know Before Cleaning Stainless Steel

Cleaning stainless steel can be a bit tricky, but using the right products and techniques is crucial to avoid damaging your appliances. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

  1. Don't Use Abrasives: Abrasive materials like steel wool or hard-bristled brushes can scratch the surface of your appliances.
  2. Use A Reusable Cloth: Effortlessly clean stainless steel with a reusable cloth for a streak-free shine and eco-friendly maintenance.
  3. Use Baking Soda for Stubborn Smudges: Baking soda is a popular all-around cleaning agent. You can use it on a soft cloth to clean stubborn smudges.
  4. Don't Use Oven Cleaner: Using an oven cleaner to clean stainless steel appliances is a big NO. These cleaners often contain harsh chemicals that can damage the surface of your appliance.
  5. Avoid Products with Chloride: If you do use a store bought product, always check the ingredient list to see if it contains chloride. This ingredient can cause pitting and corrosion on stainless steel.
  6. Dry Immediately: Use a clean and dry cloth right after cleaning your appliance to prevent water spots and streaks.

Following these tips will help you keep your stainless steel appliances clean and in excellent condition, ensuring they last for a long time.

Woman cleaning stainless steel refridgerator using diy stainless steel cleaner

Take Your Recipe to the Next Level

For all you pro DIYers out there, here's some extra credit:

Using Citrus or Herb-Infused Vinegar for Your Cleaner

You can enhance your DIY cleaner by using citrus or herb-infused vinegar instead of plain vinegar. The best part is, you can easily make it yourself!

  1. Gather the Ingredients: If you prefer citrus, you can use the peels of lemon, orange, or lime. For herbs, you can use rosemary, thyme, or any other herb you enjoy.
  2. Prepare the Vinegar: In a clean jar, put in the citrus peels and/or herbs then add the white vinegar. Make sure the solids are submerged.
  3. Steep the Herbs: Seal the jar and allow it to steep for one week.
  4. Strain the Solids: Open the jar after a week and use a strainer to separate the vinegar from the solids.
woman making citrus-infused vinegar in a jar

Storage and Shelf Life

When you make your stainless steel cleaners at home, it's important to know how to store it properly. Proper storage can extend the shelf life of your DIY cleaners, ensuring they remain effective for as long as possible.

Storage Tips

  1. Use Airtight Containers: Store your DIY stainless steel cleaners in airtight containers to prevent them from evaporating or becoming contaminated. Mason jars, glass spray bottles, or any well-sealed container will do the trick.
  2. Label Your Containers: Always label your containers with the name of the cleaner and the date you made it. This will help you keep track of how long you’ve had it and when it might be time to make a new batch.
  3. Keep in a Cool, Dark Place: Store your cleaners in a cool, dark place like a pantry or a cupboard. Avoid direct sunlight or places with fluctuating temperatures, as these can degrade the ingredients more quickly.
  4. Avoid Moisture Exposure: Ensure your storage area is dry. Excess moisture can cause your cleaners to lose their effectiveness or spoil more quickly.

Shelf Life

Our DIY stainless steel cleaner has lasted us up to 3 months when stored in a cool, dark place but we usually use it up before then.

If you decide to use our DIY recipe as inspiration and make your own version, here are some guidelines for different ingredients and their shelf lives:

  1. Vinegar-Based Cleaners: Cleaners made with vinegar typically last around 6 months. Vinegar is a natural preservative, so it helps extend the life of your cleaner.
  2. Baking Soda Solutions: If your cleaner contains baking soda, it should be effective for about 2-3 months. Baking soda can lose its potency over time, especially if exposed to air and moisture.
  3. Essential Oils: You can add a citrus essential oil or lavender extract to improve shelf life, fragrance, and efficacy. However, essential oils can also degrade over time, so aim to use these cleaners within 3-6 months.
  4. Alcohol-Based Cleaners: Cleaners that include rubbing alcohol can last up to a year. Alcohol acts as a preservative, helping to keep the solution fresh and effective for a longer period.

Following these storage tips can help you improve the shelf life of your DIY cleaners. With good practice, you can ensure the best quality for your cleaners whenever you need them!

What Type of Cloth Should I Use?

When you search online, you'll probably come across many suggestions to use a clean, dry microfiber cloth for wiping down your appliances. They're easy to use and effective in picking up dirt and removing grease, making them a popular choice for cleaning pretty much anything.

But, not so fast.

Despite the extraordinary cleaning power of microfiber cloth, there's a negative side to using them that we just can't ignore and we don't think you should either.

Microfiber cloth is made from plastic materials like polyester and polyamide. Every time you wash a cloth that contains these materials, tiny plastic debris, known as microplastics, get washed into the waterways.

Microplastics are so small that they don't get filtered in water treatment plants and end up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans - causing irreversible damage to aquatic life.

It's sad to say that microfiber cloths are the leading contributor of microplastics.

So, what can we do?

We recommend using a reusable and absorbent cloth made from natural fibers. Using a Swedish Sponge Cloth is an excellent alternative to microfiber cloths.

Here's Why We Love This Alternative:

  • Machine washable
  • Made from renewable resources: wood and cotton
  • Reusable (replaces paper towels!)
  • Versatile (we love using these to dry hand-washed dishes because of their incredible ability to absorb!)
  • Compostable!
a swedish sponge cloth set on a woven basket

How Often Should Stainless Steel be Cleaned?

In general, it's a good idea to wipe down stainless steel surfaces once a week.

This helps prevent the buildup of dust, fingerprints, and smudges, keeping your appliances looking polished. For areas that get a lot of use, like kitchen sinks, countertops, or frequently touched appliances, you might need to clean them more often—perhaps every few days.

A kitchen with stainless steel appliances

Daily touch-ups can be helpful too. If you notice a spill or a smudge, wiping it away with a damp cloth can prevent stains and reduce the need for deep cleaning. Using a reusable cloth works best to avoid scratching the surface.

Deep clean stainless steel appliances with our DIY cleaner every two to three weeks to maintain their shine and hygiene. Use baking soda to tackle stubborn grime and make sure to clean the cracks and crevices of the appliances.

A stainless steel air fryer with cooked fries inside

Why Conventional Stainless Steel Cleaners Aren't the Best for Your Home

Many conventional stainless steel cleaners have stuff in them that's not so great, like butoxyethanol and petroleum distillates. These can bother your skin, eyes, and breathing if you're around them too much.

a baby touching the surface of a stainless steel dishwasher

Using cleaners without these nasty chemicals or making your own is the smarter move.

Another ingredient to be wary of is phthalates, which are often used to add fragrance to products. Phthalates have been linked to health problems and premature death. Frequent exposure to these chemicals can have serious long-term health effects.

a stainless steel dishwasher loaded with white tableware


Stainless steel appliances add a sleek and modern touch to any home, but keeping them smudge-free can be challenging. That's why we've crafted a recipe for a DIY stainless steel cleaner that's natural, effective, non-toxic, and budget-friendly.

Our DIY recipe creates a powerful cleaner that keeps your stainless steel surfaces spotless without harmful chemicals.

Give this recipe a try and enjoy the benefits of a cleaner, healthier home!

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