5 Tips for Maintaining Interior and Exterior Stainless Steel

Great tips for maintaining your stainless steel components!

Stainless steel looks amazing when it’s clean and polished, but without regular maintenance and the right types of cleaning that stainless steel can start looking a little worse for wear. Like any other surface, without the right cleaning method and materials, stainless steel will quickly become marked and stained. Eventually it will be permanently damaged. 

If you have a stainless steel interior in your home or business, you will already be aware of the necessity of keeping it clean. Although stainless steel is extremely durable and looks fantastic, keeping it clean can sometimes be a nightmare unless it is done in the right way. 

In the following article, we’ll look at cleaning both interior and cleaning exterior or industrial stainless steel fittings.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Interiors 

Most stainless steel interiors are focused around cooking areas such as your kitchen. Regardless of whether you have a stainless steel interior in your home or business, you’ll notice how fingerprints quickly become noticeable. Dirt, grease, and grime can quickly accumulate, leaving your surfaces looking a tired and rundown. 

We need to note here that almost all abrasive cleaners will scratch bright and polished stainless steel surfaces, so it’s vital that you carefully choose what cleaning sponges, cloths, and pads you use to wipe down your stainless steel appliances.

You should start by getting a clean, dust, and, most importantly, grit-free cloth to help avoid scratching the stainless steel. One of the common misconceptions about cleaning stainless steel is that it requires a lot of hard work to clean, but in reality, it’s a lot easier than many people understand. 

One of the best ways to clean stainless steel is to use a cloth rinsed with warm water and dishwashing liquid. Follow this up with a rinse down with plain warm water. Don’t allow the warm water to dry on the surface of the stainless steel. Instead, wipe it off with an absorbent cloth. Removing any standing water left on the stainless steel will help prevent watermarks on the surface of the stainless steel as it dries. 

If you have stainless steel countertops that feature any sort of ridges or texture, then a nylon bristle brush is the best way to remove any grease or grime. However, if you know what it is you’re trying to clean off your stainless steel, you’ll be much better prepared to clean stainless steel surfaces. 

Common Interior Contaminants on Stainless Steel 

Removing dirt and grime may not require any specialized equipment but knowing what you are removing can make the job even easier. Just follow the recommendations below: 

Dirt & Grime – To remove dirt, grime, dust, and fingerprint smudges from your stainless steel surfaces use warm soapy water and a clean or new soft cloth. This will remove 99% of these marks without scratching your stainless steel surfaces. 

Pen Inks – If you have an ink stain on your stainless steel, it can be quite difficult to get rid of, but it’s not impossible. Usually, solvents such as alcohol or xylene are used to remove ink, but always test them on a piece of stainless steel that isn’t exposed to ensure that they won’t mark the metal. After removing the ink stain, gently wash the area with warm soapy water and dry with a cloth. 

Oil Stains – Oil stains can be a problem especially in workshops and kitchen areas. In most cases, oil stains can be removed with xylene alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. If those don’t work, then mineral spirits can be used, followed by a thorough clean afterwards with warm water. Always test solvents first on areas that aren’t exposed.

Adhesive Marks & Tapes – Alcohol or mineral spirits are the best way to remove adhesive marks from your stainless steel. For older tape or adhesive marks, it may require some soak time to soften up the adhesives. Always wash the area afterward and test any products on areas that aren’t exposed. 

Water Scale – Vinegar (being acidic) is the best way to remove any water scale, and it’s best followed up with warm soapy water. Don’t use any cloth or pads that will scratch the surface of the stainless steel. 

Exterior Cleaning of Stainless Steel 

Before we cover the different ways to handle cleaning exterior stainless steel, it’s important to mention the effect of the environment on the surface finish of your stainless steel. In damp environments, stainless steel or stainless steel equipment that hasn’t been correctly grounded will face increased rates of degradation and corrosion. Where there are chloride salts (such as by the ocean) corrosion can happen quite quickly. Carefully look at the environment around your stainless steel if you see high rates of corrosion. 

The methods we listed above are great for mild stains and interior stainless steel applications. Still, for more serious marks such as corrosion, rust, or weld discoloration, you’re going to need some specialized cleaning solutions. In the next section, we’ll cover some more advanced methods to clean stainless steel. 

Mild Corrosion – Signs of mild corrosion are easy to spot but often difficult to clean and remove. Mild corrosion can occur when free iron particles linger on the surface of your stainless steel or contaminants such as chlorides are allowed to contact your stainless steel. If left without proper cleaning, it can quickly lead to permanent marks and pitting in your stainless steel surfaces. 

Mild Rust – Any rust on the surface or joints of your stainless steel is serious and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Iron particles embedded on the surface of the stainless steel oxidize and leave dark or spots or stains. A cleaner that includes phosphoric, oxalic, or sulfamic acid should be used to clean rust marks. Carefully flush the area with warm soapy water after and be careful that any acid doesn’t wash off onto other areas around the stainless steel. 

Weld Discoloration – One of the most effective ways to remove weld discoloration from stainless steel is with an electrolytic weld cleaner such as the TIG Brush. While an electrolytic weld cleaner should be used by someone experienced with the equipment, it is much safer than alternative methods such as pickling paste. Pickling in particular requires safety procedures, training, and safety equipment to ensure the user’s and the environment’s safety. 

5 Tips for Cleaning Exterior Stainless Steel 

  1. Don’t use abrasives on stainless steel – Never use abrasive pads, sandpaper, steel wool, metal brushes, or any harsh abrasive cleaners on your stainless steel. Some soft abrasives may work when used in extremely specific scenarios, but always do a spot test and allow the material to dry before moving on to cleaning large areas. 
  2. Use appropriate safety equipment – Safety glasses or goggles, aprons, gloves, and other equipment will keep workers safe when handling any acid or corrosive cleaners. If you’re using an electrolytic weld cleaner to clean discoloration and protect the surface, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of safety equipment you need to wear. 
  3. Clean in a ventilated and safe environment – Always clean stainless steel components in a well-ventilated area and avoid splashing any chemicals on other surfaces. 
  4. Always add water to acid, not acid to water – If you have to use any type of acid when cleaning stainless steel components, always add the water slowly and carefully to the acid to avoid any splashing. Read the safety information before handling any acid to ensure that you are following all of the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  5. Follow the procedures – Even if you have used cleaning products before, always double-check the procedures to ensure you don’t miss a step. Not all cleaning products are the same, and different cleaning products require different clean-up and handling procedures. 

How to Clean Stainless Steel – Conclusion 

The most critical part of cleaning stainless steel is acting quickly and not leaving contaminants to linger on the surface of the stainless steel. 

If you’re involved in the production of stainless steel, devices such as the TIG Brush are the safest, easiest, and most economical way to regularly clean welded joints on stainless steel. The TIG Brush also adds a passivation layer to help protect the metal surface from further corrosion.

Don’t hesitate to reach out and contact one of our customer service specialists today. We’ll be more than happy to discuss the electrochemical weld cleaning process and demonstrate how the TIG Brush could change the way your company handles post-fabrication weld cleaning (and passivation). 

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