Q: We have a fairly new stainless steel cooktop that (we think) someone cleaned with a steel-wool cleaning pad. The cooktop is now visibly scratched almost everywhere around the knobs and on the cooktop itself. We don’t want to have to remove it to fix it. Is there any way to buff the scratched areas to lessen their visibility? Are there other options?
A: Unless stainless steel has a clear coating designed to minimize fingerprints, as refrigerators and dishwashers often have, it’s generally possible to make scratches blend in by sanding with progressively finer-grit abrasives. But, in this case, even if an anti-fingerprint coating isn’t an issue, you might be better off leaving your cooktop as-is.
One picture you sent focuses on the knob area, where part of the line showing gradations between low and high flames has been worn away. Were you to try sanding that area to minimize the scratches, you’d risk removing the markings completely. Also, the cooktop seems to be scratched all over, with deep scratches that go in all directions, so you wouldn’t be trying to make a single scratch disappear; you’d be treating the whole surface.
That said, if you want to try to improve the look, consider aiming for making the scratches less noticeable, rather than re-creating a like-new surface. Test the effect where it’s less conspicuous before you commit to tackling the whole surface. If you typically leave a teapot on the stove, the area it hides might be a good place to start.
When your cooktop was made, the stainless steel was brushed in one direction, leaving small, parallel lines. Most instructions you see for scouring away scratches emphasize that all the rubbing you do should be in the original direction. But if you’re treating the entire surface, as you probably would need to do, you have two options: Stick with the original pattern, or switch to a random pattern. The latter might be easier, considering how many deep, random scratches you’re starting with.
You could buy a scratch-removal kit, but be aware that most kits sold for taking scratches out of appliances are designed for treating small areas. The Rejuvenate Stainless Steel Scratch Eraser Kit gets good reviews on Amazon, but it contains just small pieces of coarse, medium and fine scrub pads, a handle to hold them, a small piece of microfiber cloth and one tiny pouch of Cutting Lube. For a project like yours, it would be better to get wet-dry sandpaper or abrasive pads in a variety of grits, and use water for lubrication.
To start, you’ll need something coarse enough to make headway against the scratches. Lower-grit numbers correspond to more aggressive abrasives, so try 400. If that doesn’t make a difference, go to 240, then 120 if necessary. Sand in one direction or a random pattern, depending on the result you’re after. Once everything is evenly scratched up, go to the next-highest grit, and work up from there. Keep the sandpaper or abrasive pad wet.
Finally, wipe down the surface several times, and buff with a clean microfiber cloth, going in the direction of the grain if you opted for trying to re-create the original finish. Don’t remove the handles to scrub around them; Bosch’s cleaning instructions for some models warn that the innards of the cooktop could be damaged if moisture gets inside.
The process for scrubbing away scratches may sound simple, but the challenge — a very significant one — is creating an even surface everywhere, including around the knobs, burners and edge details. Once you commit to tackling the whole surface, you can’t just stop, or it will look worse than it does now. That’s why it might be better to leave the cooktop as-is. Celebrate the fact that you can cook on it and clean up without needing to be fastidious about not creating scratches. Over time, new scratches will help make the existing ones less noticeable, because they’ll become part of the background texture.
But if that approach is too frustrating to accept, you do have one other option, short of investing in a new cooktop. Consider buying a replacement stainless-steel top for your model. If you have the part number handy, you’re in luck. If not, you can try to find the number on a label that may be on the underside of the unit. Perhaps there’s a cabinet underneath where you can use a flashlight and peer in. Or call the company’s customer-service line and ask for help in determining the number of the replacement part. Then search websites of appliance-parts companies, such as partselect.com, appliancepartspros.com and repairclinic.com. These websites often also have illustrations, where you can confirm that you have the right part number.
Before you order, pin down a delivery time. Pandemic closures interrupted supply chains, and there’s often a long wait for parts and appliances. “If what you need is not stateside, you could be in for a long wait,” said a customer-service representative at PartSelect who would give only her first name, Pam.
Typically no installation instructions come with the part, so you would probably need to pay a repair person to make the swap. Get estimates before you order, so you know the total price. But it’s sure to be less than a new stovetop, which would also require hiring someone to take out your old cookstove and install the new one.