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Stainless steel appliances look sleek, but it doesn't always live up to its name — it easily looks dirty and doesn't hide streaks or marks left by grease and grime. Dirt, grime, and dust can also cause stainless steel to rust over time. Luckily, it doesn't take much effort or money to make your stainless steel surfaces shiny and new.

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Cloth and water

Simple cloth and water can clean so much around your house, including your stainless steel. This is by far your cheapest option, and works well for brushed stainless steel. It's best to clean your stainless steel with a microfiber cloth because microfiber absorbs water without scratching the surface. Much like your car, you'll want to dry your stainless steel with a dry cloth after cleaning to prevent water spots.

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Dish soap and oil

This method requires plain dish soap and either baby oil or mineral oil. Begin by placing a dab of dish soap on a non-abrasive cleaning rag. 100% cotton works best. Add just enough water to dampen your rag, then wipe down your appliance in the same direction as the grain. Much like wood, the grain of your stainless steel is the faint banding you can see on the surface. Wiping against the grain isn't harmless, but may leave cleaning residue deep in the grain's crevices. If there are any water streaks left behind, dry them with a clean towel. Next, polish the appliance with baby oil or mineral oil. Simply place a few tiny drops of the oil on a second clean, non-abrasive rag and polish with the grain.

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Vinegar and oil

White vinegar is an inexpensive yet highly effective household cleaner. To clean stainless steel, simply spray white vinegar directly on the appliance or apply with a microfiber cloth. Let the vinegar sit for a few seconds, then wipe clean in the direction of the grain. Repeat this step until the grime is gone. Polish your steel surface by dabbing the corner of a clean cloth in olive oil and polishing in the direction of the grain. Any remaining olive oil can be wiped away with a clean cloth.

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Club soda

There are so many things you already have in your home that can easily clean stainless steel, including club soda. Like vinegar, club soda can be sprayed directly into your stainless steel surface, then wiped in the direction of the grain. It gives a nice shine, and no polishing is necessary.

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Flour

The flour method is messier than other methods, so you might reserve it for cleaning the sink or possibly your pots and pans. Wipe the stainless steel surface to cookware to remove any caked-on residue. Once it's dry, cover it in flour. Then, using a clean cloth, buff in a circular motion until it shines before rinsing off the remaining flour. Easy peasy.

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Furniture polish

Love to use lemon oil furniture polish on your wood? It works on stainless steel too. Just put a little on a clean cloth and apply to the appliance. Follow up by wiping down with a different clean microfiber towel. Much like wood, it's best not to spray furniture polish directly on stainless steel to prevent unwanted residue build-up.

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Glass cleaner

Parents far and wide complain of fingerprints on stainless steel appliances, and glass cleaner is the perfect remedy. Simply spray on the glass cleaner and wipe with a microfiber cloth in a circular motion to remove the fingerprints.

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WD-40

This one may surprise you. WD-40 instantly makes stainless steel surfaces clean and shiny. Simply spray directly on your appliance or onto a rag, and wipe away. While WD-40 is an effective cleaner, use it with care. WD-40 is petroleum-based and should be used with caution around surfaces where you also handle food.

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Commercial cleaners

As you might expect, there are dozens of commercial cleaners made specifically for stainless steel. Unfortunately, these cleaners are also the most expensive way to clean stainless steel. However, sometimes a commercial cleaner is necessary to remove stubborn spots and stains. Always read the directions, and test these cleaners in an inconspicuous spot on your stainless steel surface first.

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Maintenance

Regular maintenance goes a long way. The best way to keep your stainless steel surfaces in tip-top shape is to use one of these methods to clean them regularly. This way, nearly no elbow grease is required, and your appliances and surfaces will look like new for a long time.

Clean appliances regularly sergey02 / Getty Images

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