So many of my friends have stainless steel all over their kitchens now — not just the appliances, but the cabinets and counters, too. Why do you think it's so popular?
Adam Kamens (CEO, Amuneal Manufacturing Corp.): Stainless steel really makes an impact when you walk into a kitchen. It gives the room a more professional look, a sense that this place is a strong, efficient tool for serious cooking. And stainless steel is easy to take care of. It won't chip, fade, or stain — it really only shows wear upon close inspection.
The main complaint I hear is about how it shows fingerprints. Is there any way to prevent them?
We recommend a wax-based aerosol spray for that. It's called Stainless Steel Cleaner/Polish, from a company called Ball. Once or twice a week you spray on a light mist. Don't put on too much — you don't want to soak the surface and make it greasy. Then wipe the mist with a clean, lint-free cloth.
It's that easy?
Just make sure you wipe in the direction of the grain lines in the steel. The spray will bring back the original luster and leave a thin layer of wax. It's not hard or sticky, but it resists fingerprints. But if fingerprints do show up, they can be easily wiped away.
What about cleaning products people should never use?
Don't use oils to keep away fingerprints — lint will stick to the oil. And don't use cleaners with bleach after you've put on the waxy layer, or else it will dry out and lose some of the luster.
What kind of damage do you see from people using the wrong cleaners?
Scratches, mostly. Don't use anything abrasive, not even mild products like Soft Scrub or Scotch-Brite pads. You don't want to scratch or ruin the surface.
So what about accidental scratches. How do you deal with those?
That's the only time you'll want to use an abrasive like Scotch-Brite or steel wool. First, mist on some of the Ball polish, then abrade the steel. Rub gently in line with the grain until the scratches aren't visible. Put on more Ball polish when you're done — it has a little bit of body and will help fill in fine scratches.
How do you deal with serious dents?
Dents and creases are very tough to repair, unless you can get inside the steel compartment and knock out the damage from within.
What if I entertain a lot and really use my kitchen?
You can choose a finish with a deeper grain — it won't be rough to the touch, and it will hide scratches. Or you can apply one yourself later on. Start with 200-grit sandpaper wrapped around a wooden block, or use a foam sanding block to keep the pressure even. Or you can use an orbital sander to wipe out the original grain altogether, and put on what's called a nondirectional finish. Basically it's pre-scratched and has a satiny overall look. We recommend it for commercial installations, but it's not a bad idea if you have lots of family around helping you cook and lots of chaos in your kitchen.
Does stainless steel ever rust with just normal kitchen use?
If it's partly open to the outdoors, on a patio maybe, it won't rust but it may show signs of corrosion. Same if you live near the ocean and it's exposed to salt air. Then you should order a marine-grade of stainless steel called the 316 series. It's for appliances, cabinets, or counters that will be outside. If rusty blotches do form, you can always gently sand them away.
Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc. Originally Published: Maintaining Stainless Steel Surfaces
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