clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

How to Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is prized for its sleek, modern appearance and durability, particularly in the kitchen, where everything from the sink to the fridge to the toaster may be made of this popular metal.

Stainless steel stove in kitchen iStock

But while the material may be “stainless,” it isn’t completely scratch-proof, and after years of wear and tear, it can start to look a little dull.

The good news is that it’s not difficult to restore stainless-steel surfaces to their former glory, especially if you have the right materials and products. Here’s how to get scratches out of stainless steel.

Assess the Damage and Gather the Materials

Are you dealing with light, minor scuffs or deeper, visible scratches? Depending on the condition your stainless steel is in, your approach will be different.

What You Need for Small Scratches

For less significant nicks and dings, all you need is a non-abrasive, stainless-steel scratch remover compound, which will work to fill in the fine lines and smooth out the surface.

There are effective products on the market made just for this purpose, such as 3M Super Duty Rubbing Compound, Bar Keepers Friend, and Rolite Metal Polish. You can also try common household products, such as non-gel toothpaste or baking soda. In addition, you’ll need several microfiber cloths for applying and removing the compound.

What You Need for Deep Scratches

For tougher scratches, it may be necessary to rub them out with an abrasive pad. You’ll need a scouring pad or scrubbing sponge, plus some cooking oil (olive oil works well). There are also kits on the market, such as Rejuvenate Stainless Steel Scratch Eraser Kit and Scratch-B-Gone, which contain all you’ll need to remove deeper scratches.

Keep in mind, however, that this technique should only be used on uncoated stainless steel; if the metal has a protective clear coating or synthetic surface, you’ll end up doing more harm than good. Check to see what you have in your owner’s manual.

Determine the Direction of the Grain

No matter how deep the scratch you’re trying to erase, you’ll want to work with the grain of the stainless steel. Take a close look at the metal and you’ll see very fine brush lines going either side to side or up and down.

Follow these lines while you’re working; don’t rub perpendicular to them or in a circular motion. Going against the grain can actually cause more damage to a stainless-steel surface.

How to Fill in Small Scratches

If you’re dealing with smaller scratches, start by preparing the non-abrasive compound. Some are sold as powders that need to be mixed with a few drops of water to form a paste, while others already come in paste form. Non-gel toothpaste can be used as-is, and baking soda can be mixed with water until a pasty consistency is reached.

  1. Make sure the surface is completely clean of dirt, dust, and food particles.
  2. Then dab a small amount of the compound onto a microfiber cloth and rub it continuously over the scratch. Work gently, and in the same direction as the grain.
  3. After a few minutes, use a fresh, damp microfiber cloth to wipe the compound off and examine your progress. If necessary, polish again with more compound until the desired results are achieved.
  4. Wipe the excess compound off with the moistened cloth and use a fresh one to dry the surface.

How to Buff Out Big Scratches

If applying compound doesn’t work, or if you can tell right off the bat that the blemishes you’re dealing with require a more aggressive tactic, it’s time to break out the scouring pad.

  1. Apply a couple of drops of oil to the pad, and use a firm, moderate pressure to buff the surface, always working with the grain.
  2. Work in a slightly larger area than just the scratch to achieve a more uniform appearance.
  3. Examine your efforts and repeat if necessary. When you’re happy with the results, remove the excess oil by buffing the same area with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.