Can stainless steel get stained? Unfortunately, yes. Can you do anything about that? Fortunately, yes.
At our shop, the world revolves around stainless steel. We cut it, bend it, weld it, roll it, so we’ve had a lot of experience with stains, scratches, and finishes. If it can happen, it probably happened here at Stevenson. The team works exclusively for industrial applications, but on the personal side, we are also the go-to experts for Aunt Petunia who left the cast iron pan in the sink on Mother’s Day, or Cousin Eddie who scratched his work surface with a beer cooler. Here are some expert tips we share with them:
- Notice the direction of the grain in your appliance. When scrubbing or washing, always rub in the direction of the grain.
- Use a soft rag for daily cleaning. Dish soap and warm water are adequate to remove most contaminants. Rinse with clean water to remove soap or detergent residue. A few years ago we removed an exhaust hood from a chinese restaurant and we asked about his maintenance routine. The owner said he used the same method nightly of gently washing the hood with soft rags and warm water with a little dish soap. The stainless steel still had a grain in it – after fifty years!
- When you really want to impress the guests, you can polish your equipment. Take a little white vinegar and dip a soft rag in it. Rub stainless in the direction of the grain. Fingerprints on the fridge will disappear. Until you open it.
- Use a cloth towel to dry spills or watermarks, instead of paper towels.
- Some stains are stubborn. Maybe the plumber forgot a wrench in the sink or one of the kids left orange juice seeping all over. If none of the above "gentler" methods worked, you need the nuclear option. You can try to remove stains with baking soda or, if out of options, use a Scotchbrite pad and a lot of elbow grease to get the stain out. Please note there is a danger of ruining the finish, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Remember to only scrub in the direction of the grain to minimize damage.
In any case, there are a few things you should never use on stainless steel. Scouring products like steel wool or brillo pads will contaminate your stainless steel and make them more susceptible to rust. Don’t use them! Chlorine will corrode stainless, so don’t use it to clean your equipment and don’t soak your whites in a stainless steel sink.
Yes, we do have some secret weapons in our shop, and there are commercial products available that work well. However, most of your stains and spills can be polished up with household goods just like we recommend to our own families.