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How to Polish a Stainless Steel Range Hood

Sleek modern kitchen design with a kitchen island

Stainless steel is an appealing option for kitchen range hoods. It adds a modern twist to architecture and design features, but it also provides durability and functionality.

It’s not easy to find a material that looks better than stainless steel when it’s polished to a mirror shine. That shimmering, high-gloss look isn’t the only reason people choose stainless steel. Many people appreciate that it’s a generally maintenance-free material and happily pay more for the aesthetic appeal.

Stainless steel holds up well against corrosion, high heat, and most chemicals, making it an ideal choice for a kitchen range hood. Unfortunately, even though stainless steel is tough, it can still age. You may notice scratches or a dull cast to the pieces over time.

You don’t have to suffer from less than shiny stainless steel, though. While stainless steel is one of the toughest metals to polish, it’s possible to get your range hood back to its original shine. It doesn’t matter how large or small your project is, you only need to know one basic three-step process for buffing and polishing stainless steel.

Step 1 – Clean and Prep Stainless Steel

The first place to start with any corrective project is cleaning the surface. Any leftover debris or residue can make scratches worse, so it’s best to start with a clean slate when learning how to polish stainless steel.

How to Clean Stainless Steel

Use a mild detergent, like dish soap, and a clean sponge to gently clean the surface. Make sure you remove any sticky spots, even if you have to use a soft-bristled brush to clear the gunk off. Do not use steel wool or anything that could damage the stainless steel further.

Rinse the soap off with clean water and dry it with a clean towel. Note that smudges do not matter at this point, you will address those later.

Preparing Rough or Damaged Areas

Pieces with significant mottling or rough edges may need to do some additional prep work before moving on to buffing. Some people like to do an initial once-over with something in the 80 to 120 grit range, especially if you did some welding on the piece or have significant surface damage and gouges. It’s a way to level the surface for a better finish.

Make sure that you clean the piece again before moving on to the next step. Any contaminants left behind could interfere with the final product.

Step 2 – Buffing Stainless Steel

Once you have a clean, dry surface, it’s time to pull out the tools and get to work. The buffing or sanding stage may not be the most fun, but it’s necessary to restore that mirror shine you want.

How to Buff Stainless Steel

Buffing stainless steel is a gradual process that may require a little trial and error on your part. 

When you get the stainless steel piece to an even, satiny finish, it’s time to move on. Note that you want to remove any imperfections before moving to the polishing phase to get optimal results.

Why is Buffing Stainless Steel So Important?

If you truly want your piece to shimmer, so clear you can practically see your reflection, then buffing is a necessary step. Especially with food and kitchen items, it can be tempting to take the easy route and just use olive oil or something similar to do a quick polish and call it a day. Unfortunately, that method won’t last, and it won’t correct any scratches.

Consider this: you have a dull, scratched piece of stainless steel. You apply oil or polish by hand that fills in the cracks, including the microscopic ones. That polish wears down quickly, debris gets caught in the crevices, and it takes no time for every scratch to stand out like a sore thumb. Plus, the light reflects strangely off the surface giving it a dull appearance.

Step 3 – Polishing Stainless Steel

Polishing stainless steel requires less elbow grease, but possibly a little more finesse. It’s also the highlight of your project because you get to see actual results.

Hand Polishing Stainless Steel

Maybe you used power tools to buff the piece but now you’d like to get down and dirty with the polish and your own two hands. It may even be the best option for smaller pieces that won’t take long.

Carefully clear away any excess compound or debris left behind during the buffing process. You should get a nice sheen with a polish and a clean, dry cloth. Start at one edge and work across the surface in circles, like waxing a car.

When you finish, make sure you wipe away any excess polish with a clean, dry towel.