The word “stainless” in stainless steel can be misleading. Stainless steel is better described as being corrosion-resistant. What makes it so corrosion-resistant is the high percentage of chromium present in stainless steel.
When exposed to oxidizing materials such as caustics, water, and air, chromium forms a thin impervious oxide layer that stops further corrosion.
Fascinating fact about chromium oxide in your stainless steel fixtures—when a stain is properly cleaned and dried, that layer of chromium oxide will reform on its own in a few days’ time. It’s like the Wolverine* of metals.
One of the biggest reasons customers end up with rust on their stainless steel fixtures is improper cleaning and care. However, that’s easy to solve and best of all, it does not require expensive specialty cleaners.
Cleaning Products You Should Be Using
- Hand dishwashing liquid/soft water solution
- Mild soap/soft water solution
- CresClean™ spray, for removal of tough stains
- 3M™ Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish, for removal of tough stains
- White vinegar, for brightening and removing hard water deposits
- Club soda
Cleaning Products That Should Never Be Used
- Cleaners containing any abrasive particles (Comet®, Ajax®, Bon Ami®)
- Harsh chemicals containing strong acidic or alkaline materials
- Chlorinated cleansers, sanitizers, or bleach of any kind
Other Ways to Protect Against Corrosion
- Avoid leaving any object made of steel or metal—hairpins, paper clips, aerosol cans, etc.—on the stainless steel surface
- Avoid letting seawater or excessively hard water sit on the surface
- Avoid leaving salt or salty foods to dry on the surface
- Fix any scratches in the surface to prevent debris from collecting there and hindering the “healing” process
- Do not leave water to evaporate as that may result in hard water stains
To remove stubborn stains or to treat a scratch, use a synthetic, abrasive general purpose pad such as Scotch-Brite® to apply stainless steel cleaner/polish. Carefully rub out the spot by rubbing in the direction of the grain. (Exception: High-polish stainless steel surfaces should never come in contact with any abrasive brush, cloth, or cleaning agent).
To remove dirt and debris, apply one of the mild cleaners mentioned above using a soft cloth. Rinse the surface thoroughly with clean water followed by wiping dry with a clean soft cloth and stainless steel cleaner/polish.
Follow this simple advice, and your stainless steel fixtures will look better and last longer.
Below is a fascinating video produced by the International Stainless Steel Forum, a network of associations in the stainless steel, chromium, nickel, and molybdenum industries. This short video offers a brief synopsis on the value of stainless steel, including its beauty, durability, and recyclability, which make it an ideal material for a wide variety of applications.
*Editor’s Note: Wolverine is a fictional character created by Marvel Comics. Wolverine has a near-indestructible metal alloy, adamantium, bonded to his skeleton. Adamantium is absolutely rust-proof but is, unfortunately, completely fictional and not available on the market today.