If you have any stainless steel appliances in your house and you’re looking for ways to clean them, using Windex might seem like a great option at first. After all, the detergent is considered a miracle worker for many surfaces, and it’s so easy to use, so why not use it on stainless steel?
You generally can’t use Windex on stainless steel, as it contains ammonia, which can damage steel over time. However, you can use an ammonia-free Windex cleaner for your stainless steel appliances. An alternative option is to use cleaners specifically manufactured for stainless steel.
In this article, you’ll learn everything from what Windex is to what it contains to what you need to know about cleaning stainless steel surfaces and what options would be ideal in this case.
The Main Reason Why You Can’t Use Windex on Stainless Steel
Windex is primarily considered as a window cleaning product–hence the name–but in general, it’s advertised that you may be able to use it for other surfaces as well. Its formula consists mainly of ammonia, detergent, alcohol, and dye.
You might be tempted to use Windex on stainless steel surfaces because it’s so easy to use, and sometimes it seems ideal for removing stains or fingerprints from your appliances. However, now you know that it might not be such a good idea, especially if you do it regularly, because it may eventually damage the surface.
The reason why you can’t use Windex on stainless steel is one of the main ingredients I previously listed: ammonia. Ammonia is a gas that doesn’t have any color, with a very distinctive odor. Among its many uses, it’s a pretty common ingredient in household cleaning products. It’s also very effective in breaking down grease and cleaning all types of stains.
While all these qualities make ammonia great for cleaning windows, sinks, tiles, and countertops, they make it unsuitable for other surfaces, and stainless steel is one of them.
Studies have shown that ammonia can cause corrosion in stainless steel. Ammonia isn’t very corrosive in itself, but it can become so when it comes in contact with specific types of material and when there are contaminants present. Materials that can be affected by ammonia in these situations include aluminum alloys, iron, copper, and, as you might’ve guessed by now, steel.
I should stress that there are different takes on this topic, and some may suggest that ammonia may be safe enough to wipe stainless steel down as long as you dry the surface off thoroughly. There are contradicting voices on this topic, though, so if you choose to give this method a try, you’ll need to proceed with caution.
However, it would probably be best to err on the side of caution and avoid using Windex or any cleaner that contains ammonia to clean stainless steel surfaces. As long as there’s a certain amount of risk of corrosion or damage and there are other options, it’s safest to go for a choice that is 100% sure not to affect the material.
You might be thinking that avoiding the detergent altogether might be overkill, as you’d probably be able to smell excessive amounts of ammonia in the liquid. The fact of the matter is most Windex versions include fragrances to mask the strong smell of the compound that you might be able to notice otherwise.
What Can You Use To Clean Stainless Steel Instead?
Instead of Windex, you can use other cleaners explicitly manufactured for cleaning stainless steel or even options you can find at home, like oils, vinegar, or soap.
The method you use for cleaning stainless steel will depend on what appliance or type of surface you’re cleaning. There are different methods that would be ideal for general surfaces, cookware, or decorations.
An excellent general solution is using cleaners designed to remove stains and fingerprints from stainless steel without causing any damage. They’re especially useful for cleaning appliance surfaces.
An example would be Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish and Weiman Stainless Steel Wipes (both available on Amazon.com), which clean and protect the stainless steel surface at the same time.
These special cleaners contain ingredients that aren’t harmful to the material and can clean all types of stains and grime. They also protect the surface from damage and make it shinier. However, they can be more costly than other methods I’ll be mentioning in the following sections.
Other ways to clean stainless steel surfaces include using dish soap solutions or white vinegar. In any case, it’s also important to use good microfiber cloths to clean the surface for the best results.
Stainless steel cookware sets can make cleaning a little more complicated because they’re more delicate, and you need to make sure anything you use on them is food safe. This is why, in this instance, it’s usually advisable to go for natural cleaning solutions that don’t contain any harsh chemicals, like vinegar, baking soda, or dish soap.
You might also want to remember to use warm water when cleaning stainless steel cookware to make cleaning easier.
One common way to clean stainless steel cookware is to mix white vinegar with water and bring the mixture to a boil. After removing it from the heat, you can leave it to soak for a while until it cools down. After it cools down, all you need to do is clean the cookware with a sponge or soft cloth.
Check this article to find more ways to clean stains from stainless steel.
If you have stainless steel decor pieces in your house, you probably are aware of how annoying it might be to clean and maintain them. This is mainly because they’re constantly exposed to contaminants and gather a lot of dust particles and fingerprints.
Not only do you need to keep stainless steel decor clean, but you also should be careful to keep it shiny. This is why it’s generally recommended to use some type of oil when cleaning it. You can use olive oil and a soft cloth for the best results.
What Not To Use on Stainless Steel
Now you know about Windex and ammonia in general, but what else can potentially damage your stainless steel appliances and surfaces? Here are some alternatives that should be avoided at any cost to clean stainless steel:
Don’t Use Bleach
Using chlorine on stainless steel is one of the worst choices you can make. These two components should never get in contact with one another, and for a good reason.
Stainless steel gets its name because the material is covered by a layer of chromium oxide, which protects the steel from rust or pitting. Chlorine can destroy that protective layer, which is why after cleaning the surface with bleach, you may find rust or pit stains. Make sure you read the ingredients of all cleaners that you use to ensure that none of the ones containing chlorine come near stainless steel.
Don’t Salt Water Before Boiling in Stainless Steel Pots
This advice is particular for stainless steel cookware. For various purposes, you might be used to salting the water before it even boils. This may be a problem because salting the water while it’s not boiling yet can cause pitting. In order to avoid this, make sure the water is fully boiling before salting it.
Don’t Use Steel Wool or Brushes
It may be tempting to use steel wool or steel brushes to clean stainless steel surfaces and cookware. There are stains that are especially hard to remove, and you might turn to wool or brushes to finish the job.
This would be a mistake due to the following key reasons:
- Steel wool and brushes are pretty abrasive and can scratch the stainless steel surface, and this damage is irreversible.
- These steel objects you use for cleaning can leave their own particles on the surface, causing them to rust. As a result, your “stainless” steel surface will be stained as well.
You Can Use Ammonia-Free Windex on Stainless Steel
If you’re still on the fence about Windex and aren’t very keen on using items you find in your kitchen to clean stainless steel surfaces, you might be pleased to find out that you still have options. There are now a few types of ammonia-free Windex that you can find and use safely on any surface.
The Windex Ammonia-Free Glass Cleaner is an improved version and very effective at removing stains and fingerprints. As it doesn’t contain the compound, it should have no adverse effects on stainless steel surfaces.
How To Clean Stainless Steel Using Ammonia-Free Windex
Before you start using the detergent, make sure that the version of Windex that you have is ammonia-free. Check the list of ingredients to confirm.
Do a Test
Even if it doesn’t contain ammonia, the detergent might have other ingredients that may not be ideal for your stainless steel surfaces. In order to make sure you’re not going to ruin the surface, you can do a quick test.
Discoloration is one of the major problems you might face if you use the wrong cleaner so that you can test the cleaner in a small hidden patch of a stainless steel appliance. This way, you can make sure you’re not damaging the visible parts of the surface while making sure that the detergent is safe to use.
Use a Spray Bottle
Ammonia-free Windex may or may not come in a spray bottle. If it’s the latter, it’s advisable to find a spray bottle to put the cleaner in. A spray bottle can help make cleaning more efficient and uniformly spread the cleaner.
If your Windex comes in a spray bottle, there’s no need to do anything more.
Use a Cloth To Wipe
Have a soft, clean cloth ready to use and wipe the cleaner off. Abrasive sponges or cloths aren’t advisable because they can damage the surface. Make sure you wipe in the direction of the grain rather than against it.
It’s crucial to wipe every part of the surface and spread the cleaner in every corner. I reiterate that it’s of the essence to make sure to wipe every single drop of the cleaner off the stainless steel surface because it can damage the material if it’s left there for a long time.
Once the liquid is wiped off, you might be content to leave the surface as is. This is perfectly acceptable, but there are a couple more steps you can take in order to have a better, shinier, and more protected surface.
After wiping the ammonia-free Windex off, you should ideally wipe the surface again. This step helps to ensure that all the liquid is completely absorbed and off the surface and also to help make it a bit shinier as well.
Use Oil (Optional)
Once you’ve made sure the ammonia-free Windex is entirely off the surface and every stain and fingerprint has completely disappeared, there’s an optional step that you can do. If you want to make the surface even shinier and provide another level of protection to the surface, you can use oil.
You can use another cloth to wipe some oil on the surface, but wipe well in order not to leave oily patches. While you can use different types of oil, a good choice that’s also very easy to find is olive oil.
Oil is actually quite helpful for maintaining your stainless steel surfaces. It helps the surface keep its shine and glow, making it look brand new. Additionally, it also helps protect the material from further damage.
After conditioning your stainless steel surface with oil, you’re done! By following this process, you can make sure the surface is spotless and protected with minimal effort.
You may also like: How to Polish a Stainless Steel Sink
Though using Windex to clean stainless steel surfaces can seem tempting, it’s usually not a good idea due to the ingredients that can be found in it. This particular cleaner contains ammonia, which is corrosive to stainless steel and can damage the material.
However, you may try using ammonia-free Windex, which is just as effective as a cleaner but without the harmful substance that can damage your stainless steel appliances.
To use the ammonia-free Windex, you’ll need to spray it on the surface and wipe it well. Afterward, you can condition the surface with oil.