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How to Remove Chemical Stains from a Stainless Steel Sink

Contrary to popular belief, stainless steel is not immune to stains, scratches or wear and tear. While it is more durable and typically more impervious to stains, it can still get stained every once in awhile. 

The good news is most of the time these stains can be removed with items used around the house, but even if the at-home solutions don’t work there are also some great products out there you can use to restore your stainless steel sink back to its beautiful luster!

So how exactly do stains happen in stainless steel sinks? Stains can happen any number of ways whether it is from hard water, acidic foods or any number of chemicals or cleaner you may pour down your sink.

How to Remove Chemical Stains from a Stainless Steel Sink

While you’re probably not pouring highly toxic chemicals down your sink, just every day acidic items in your kitchen and house can react with the stainless steel to cause stains. 

Time and use will wear down anything, so don’t be alarmed if your stainless steel stains because there are plenty of solutions.

Around the House and Store Bought Cleaners

As I mentioned, there are several options when it comes to cleaning your stainless steel sink, some with items around the house and some with store bought cleaners. My advice is to always use what’s around the house for maintenance and then go for the heavy duty store bought cleaner for the tougher stains and deep clean every once in awhile. Store-bought cleaners are always going to be more abrasive and have a greater chance of dulling your stainless steel. By using a more gentle cleaner on a regular basis, you will still keep your sink clean while also extending it’s life and durability.

Around the House Solutions

These are my personal go-to solutions for keeping my stainless steel sink clean and sparkling. If you don’t have these few items already sitting around your house, I would suggest getting them because you can use them to clean everything from your sink to pans to kitchens surfaces.

    • Baking Soda and Soap – Baking soda really is a secret weapon when it comes to cleaning kitchen surfaces and tools. Combine baking soda and mild dish soap in a bowl to make a paste-like substance. Then, take whatever type of rag you have, microfiber works best, dip it in the paste and clean the stain. Make sure to clean moving with the grain of the stainless steel, so you don’t scratch the surface. Then, rinse it clean!
    • Baking Soda and Vinegar – If your water is hard which most people’s is, it can stain your stainless steel over time. To get rid of these stains, sprinkle baking soda in your sink. Then, put vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the entire sink. The baking soda and vinegar react to help dissolve stains. Allow it to sit for a couple minutes and then wipe the sink down with a rag or scrubby. Rinse the sink when you’re done. This solution will really make your sink sparkle. I use it from time to time to restore the shine to my own sinks.
    • Hot Water and a Towel – Often times if the stain is not too severe, it can be removed by creating vapor from hot water. Boil water in a kettle or something you can easily pour from. Place a microfiber towel or paper towel over the stain. Then, pour the boiling water over the towel. Allow it to sit for about ten minutes, and you will be able to wipe the stain away!

Store Bought Cleaners

Often times it can feel like there are just too many options when it comes to cleaners. I’ve rounded up a few of the top brands as well as the best eco-friendly options.

    • Therapy – This cleaner and polisher is a great option, because it offers a little extra power yet is safe for day-to-day use of cleaning and polishing your stainless steel surfaces. It’s also made with plant-based ingredients, so it doesn’t have that harsh chemical scent many cleaners have and also comes with a microfiber towel as an extra bonus.
    • Bon-Ami – This cleaner has been around since 1886, yes, you read that correctly. It can be used on all types of surfaces, and is just a great cleaner to have on hand in the house. It’s also hypoallergenic and doesn’t have any extra perfumes or dyes added.
    • Barkeeper’s Friend – Barkeeper’s Friend is another one of those cleaners that can be used on a variety of surfaces whether it’s in the kitchen or bathroom. This one also comes with a non-scratch cloth which makes it ideal to use on cleaning stainless steel. Barkeeper’s Friend is pretty powerful, so I wouldn’t suggest using it on a daily basis but rather for those really tough stains. It also has a fairly strong scent, so if you’re sensitive to strong odors or have small children in the house it may not be the best option for you.
    • Magic Stainless Steel Cleaner – This specific aerosol Magic Stainless Steel Cleaner is also a polisher. It’s non abrasive and actually helps to protect as well as clean when you use it on your stainless steel appliances. I also like that it’s an aerosol because it makes it a bit easier to use.
    • Method – This is a great day-to-day cleaner, non-abrasive and eco-friendly option. If you are looking for non-toxic solutions for cleaning and maintaining your appliances, method is a great option for you!
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Avoiding Stains and Scratches

Avoiding stains and scratches is always the goal, right? Thankfully, there are ways you can avoid or lessen the chance of stains and scratches in your stainless steel sink altogether.

  • Say no to bleach – Do not put bleach down your stainless steel sink. Bleach will most definitely stain it and while you can get rid of those stains, it’s just easier to avoid by not putting bleach down your stainless steel sink in the first place!
  • No Steel Wool – Avoid using steel wool or other really abrasive brushes to clean. Opt for a microfiber rag or something softer that won’t scratch up your sink. Along these lines when you do clean your sink, always make sure to clean with the grain. If you look closely, you’ll see an obvious grain, and this is what you should be following.
  • Limit Cleaners – Limit your use of really abrasive cleaners. They are great to use very once in awhile but day-to-day cleaning should be done using a mild dish soap and water.

Identifying Common Stains

Being able to identify stains is often times the first step in deciding how to get rid of it. Here are a few common stains you may encounter with your stainless steel sink.

  • White stains – If you see white stains on your stainless steel appliances or in your sink, it is a sign of water damage. It’s most likely a build up of calcium from your tap water. You can try using something like Barkeeper’s Friend or even vinegar and baking soda to remove these water stains effectively.
  • Rust – This may seem surprising since stainless steel is supposed to be rust-resistant, but it can still happen. Don’t worry, though, using baking soda and vinegar or any type of store bought cleaner should do the trick to remove it.
  • Dull spots – Dull spots in your stainless steel sink can happen over time, from acidic foods or chemicals and are typically easy to get rid of. Just try one of the methods I listed previously, and if the at-home-method doesn’t work use Barkeeper’s Friend or Bon-Ami to do the job. You can also use a polish from time to time to avoid the dulling of your stainless steel.
  • Heat stains – This is not a typical stain you’d find in your sink, but it is something you may have come across in your stainless steel pans. These heat stains look almost like a rainbow and are caused by heating and cooling. This is why I say it’s more typical to find these stains in cookware where heating and cooling is more prevalent. For these heat stains, I would suggest trying the vinegar and water method or Barkeeper’s Friend. (Barkeeper’s Friend is just a great product to have on hand!)

Other Resources:

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Wrapping Up:

Removing Chemical Stains from Stainless Steel

Stains happen, even to stainless steel. The great news is most of the time the stains can be removed and your stainless steel can be restored to its former glory. 

Just like with any appliance or tool knowing how to keep your sink clean and maintain it on a day-to-day basis will save you from having to put in a lot of work later. 

Making sure to rinse your sink out after you use it will ensure any harsh chemical or acidity is not left to sit and stain the surface. 

Also investing in a good polish for your stainless steel will help to lengthen its life and luster. Just remember, Barkeeper’s Friend is truly your friend!

Photo from PxHere.

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