Cleaning Stainless Steel Q&A
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What do I use for brightening stainless steel? Our kitchen sink is
very dull and I want to make it look a little nicer.
BH from Coconut Creek, FL
The usual procedure to get the most sheen is to either use a metal
polish, an acidic cleaning product, a wax product, a mild abrasive
such as "Soft Scrub" or a fine steelwool. The operative word
is "fine". Perhaps a short stainless steel tutorial is in
order… then you will understand how to treat this material with the
respect it deserves. The secret to stainless steel's strong resistance
to corrosion is in its composition… it is a blend (or, more
correctly, an alloy) of iron and 10% or greater chromium… with
nickel added to produce a tough surface.
This alloying process produces a metal that has self-protective
properties. During manufacture, the surface of the steel reacts with
oxygen to form an extremely hard coating… chromium oxide… that
protects the steel within. Though very durable, this coating is not
invulnerable and, if penetrated, the steel will rust! Therefore, care
must be taken to protect the stainless steel surface from scratches!
There is not just one stainless steel… indeed there are hundreds
of formulations of this metal designed for different applications and
for different environments. For example, your stainless steel kitchen
sink would not keep its pristine appearance for long in sea water…
most stainless steel is especially susceptible to chloride (salt)!
Some types of stainless steel are non-magnetic, while others are
magnetic! Some types can be welded… others not. Just understanding
the varying types of stainless steel can be a life study!
Stainless steel can be cleaned and brightened with vinegar… the
acidity will remove a slight amount of metal oxide. However, don't
leave any acid in contact with stainless steel for a long time… it
can cause permanent pitting in the surface.
Chlorine bleach should NOT be used on stainless steel. Chlorine is
a very reactive chemical and can damage the steel's oxide coating.
Using a mild abrasive or steelwool pad can also help brighten up
stainless steel, but there is a risk of leaving surface scratches, or
"whorls", that may be aesthetically undesirable. Plus… you
are wearing away the oxide! Metal polishes are a better solution. One
product I am personally familiar with and highly recommend is Gel
Gloss at http://www.gel-gloss.com!
This product will both clean and leave a coating that will restore
sheen and offer some chemical protection to the sink. Gel Gloss can
also restore the stain resistance and sheen to old plastic laminate
countertops that have reached their "golden" years!
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Written by Jerry Alonzy
Jerry Alonzy, a.k.a. the Natural Handyman, has been an active handyman for over 30 years with experience in most areas of home repair and renovation.
As a do-it-yourself author and web developer since 1995, he has been featured in USA Today, the Today Show and on radio shows, magazines, newspapers and websites. His material appears widely on the web, but primarily on his website... The Natural Handyman. You can also find him on Google+ and Facebook.