Q: I recently replaced my old Jenn-Air downdraft range with a new slide-in model with interchangeable modules and grills. The cooktop has a fair amount of stainless steel. What is the best way to clean cooking oil and food splatters on the stainless-steel portion of the cooktop? I presently use a spritz of Windex and wipe up with paper towels, but this leaves unsightly streaks and I spend an inordinate amount of time to buff up the stainless steel. I hesitate to use stainless steel polish so close to the heat elements. There must be an easier way to clean stainless steel stoves given their popularity. Many thanks for any advice. — S.C.S., Hawthorne
A: Stainless steel appliances are all the rage, will apparently never go out of style, they look terrific, and they increase the value of your home — and you want easy care on top of all that? Not likely. Windex is often recommended to clean stainless steel, notably by the company that makes it. It contains ammonia, which shouldn’t leave streaks, but also detergents and various chemicals that evidently do, and which can build into a dull film. Paper towels may deposit lint, too.
It’s best is to wipe up spills immediately using just warm water and a microfiber cloth. But if you need something stronger, try that all-purpose wonder product, white vinegar. It’s non-toxic, removes hard-water stains (a common Westchester problem), kills microbes, leaves no residue or smears, and it’s surprisingly effective as a cleaner. (It can also remove heat stains.) The smell dissipates fast, and to cap it off it’s so cheap it’s almost free. Rinse and dry the surface with a clean microfiber cloth when you’re done and it should be good as new. If you need to restore the shine once in a while, try a light application of mineral oil on a clean cloth.
As for commercial polishes: Consumer Reports tested cleaners made especially for stainless steel appliances and gave the highest rating to Weiman. The manufacturer claims it also repels dust and dirt and resists fingerprints. It’s formulated for use on stoves, although not recommended to come into contact with food. Online reviews are mixed. I’d go with the vinegar.