How to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink and Make it Shine

Stainless steel sinks are known for their reliability. They are also quite easy to clean, which makes them the go-to choice of home owners. However, the longer you wait to clean your stainless steel sink, the harder it gets to clean. In this post, we talk about the proper way to clean your stainless steel sink, and keep it looking shining and new.

First, scrub your sink with baking soda and lemon juice, and rinse with vinegar. Afterwards, rub olive oil or baby oil for extra shine. For stubborn stains, rub in a paste of tartar cream and vinegar. Rinse your sink and dry it with a towel after every use to prevent water stains.

When it comes to stainless steel maintenance, there are some strict dos and don’ts. You cannot keep your sink spotless simply by cleaning it occasionally.

Step by Step Guide to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink

This method is a tried and tested way to make your stainless steel sink spotless. Like I said, all you need is a couple of household items:

  • Baking soda
  • Lemon
  • Vinegar
  • Olive oil

Step 1 – Rinse the Sink with Hot Water

Empty your sink completely and rinse it with hot water. This is to get rid of any food particles on there. Use the faucet sprayer if you have it. Make sure to run water around the sides and on the faucet as well. Use dish soap where necessary.

Step 2 – Sprinkle Baking Soda on the Surface of the Sink

Without drying your sink, sprinkle some lemon juice on it and cover its surface with baking soda. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes.

Fun Fact: Baking soda is a great alternative to toxic scrubs and does the job perfectly. It removes stubborn grease and dirt and dissolves them easily in water. In addition to cleaning, it can also get rid of unwanted smells!

Baking soda is particularly great for stainless steel sinks as it gets the job done without being too harsh on the material. Unlike some store-bought scrubs, baking soda will not leave your precious sink scratched in any way.

Step 3 – Carefully Scrub in the Direction of the Stainless Steel Grain

This is where many people make mistakes and end up with a scratched sink. The trick is to scrub in the direction of the steel grain, not opposite to it. Use a gentle nylon scrub brush for scrubbing and a toothbrush for nooks and crevices around the faucet.

Those annoying hairline scratches on steel will begin to fade too as you scrub.

Step 4 – Pour Undiluted Vinegar on the Surface of the Sink

After scrubbing, pour or spray undiluted vinegar all over the sink’s surface. As the vinegar comes in contact with baking soda residue, it will start to fizz. Don’t be alarmed, this is how the vinegar plays its part. Its acidity will dissolve calcium deposits on your sink that result in water stains.

Vinegar also acts as a non-toxic disinfectant. Wait for the fizz to die out and then rinse the sink thoroughly with water. Dry it with a towel once it is all cleaned up.

Step 5 – Buff with Olive Oil for Extra Shine

Your sink would be thoroughly clean and dry by now. For extra shine, apply a few drops of olive oil or baby oil to a lint-free cloth and rub it all over the sink. Although optional, this buffing step will make your sink sparkle like never before.

And voila! This is how easy it is to give your stainless steel sink a newly bought shine in just 5 simple steps. Here’s a video tutorial to guide you through this process.

But this is not all there is to know about stainless steel sinks maintenance. Let me share two more ways to get rid of some stubborn stains that just won’t go away.

How to Remove Stubborn Water Spots from a Stainless Steel Sink

If you’re still left with some stuck-on water spots even after our 5-step guide, there is another trick to get rid of them for good.

  • Take one part vinegar and 1/4th part tartar cream and mix them together to form a paste.
  • Apply it directly onto stubborn stains and rub gently with a cloth.
  • Let the paste sit on the stain for about 5 minutes.
  • Rinse it clean with warm water afterwards and dry with a towel.

Tartar cream’s acidity as well its abrasiveness is really useful in getting rid of stubborn stains from stainless steel. Vinegar itself is usually strong enough to remove all stains. However, if you’re still left with some, this is a useful tip to remember.

How to Remove Discoloration from a Stainless Steel Sink

Stainless steel can get discolored when exposed directly to high temperatures. A stainless steel sink usually gets discolored when you place hot dishes in it. Contrary to common belief, this discoloration is not irreversible. There is a way to make it almost unnoticeable. Here’s how you can do it with just 3 household items:

  1. Take a terry cloth and soak it in club soda. Rub this cloth over the discolored area on the sink and scrub it.
  2. Now, pour some white vinegar over another terry cloth and cleanse the affected area with it.
  3. Lastly, apply powdered cleanser or polisher to a cloth and use it to scrub the surface. Make sure that the cleanser or polisher you use is bleach-free. You’ll notice the discolored spots will begin to fade away as you keep scrubbing.
  4. Once the stains are gone, rinse the sink clean with warm water and soap.

How to Maintain the Shine and Cleanliness of a Stainless Steel Sink

In order to prevent stains and discoloration in the first place, let’s look at a few tips to keep your sink clean and shiny at all times:

  • Do a quick cleaning after every use. This is to wipe away waste residue and liquids so that they don’t dry up and get stuck to the surface
  • Dry your sink regularly. When you leave water on your sink’s surface, it evaporates afterwards and the salts in it leave a stain behind.
  • Don’t use greasy cloths to wipe a wet sink. Dry it first with a dry towel before buffing with an oil.
  • Dishwashers, soaps and detergents all contain chlorides that must be wiped away after use to prevent corrosion. Using warm water to clean your sink will get rid of germs and will give your sink a nice shine.

Common Mistakes to Avoid – How to Increase the Lifespan of a Stainless Steel Sink

Before I wrap this post up, I want to share some common mistakes people make that leave their sinks with irreversible damage.

Here are some absolute don’ts when it comes to cleaning stainless steel sinks:

  • Never use harsh cleaners to scrub a stainless steel sink. This includes abrasive scrubbing pads, steel wool and steel brushes. Tools like these will not only scratch the sink’s surface but will also leave metal particles behind. This will make your sink more prone to rust.
  • Do not let your sink air-dry. This is the main reason behind water spots. Instead, use a towel to dry your sink after you do the dishes. It will prevent mineral deposits and clean corrosive chemicals. This may seem like a hassle but the results will surprise you.
  • Avoid leaving dirty dishes and wet sponges or cloths inside the sink for too long. Items like these may contain salts and chemicals that have chlorides. Chlorides can damage stainless steel by resulting in a mild form of corrosion called pitting corrosion.
  • Use stainless steel bottom grids instead of rubber mats. The former allows a free flow of water while the latter can cause corrosive chemicals to get trapped.
  • Do not use your sink as a cutting board. You don’t wash your dishes over the cutting board, so why use the sink for cutting food? Sharp kitchen tools like knives can permanently damage your sink’s surface.
  • Try not to let steel and cast iron cookware sit in your stainless steel sink for too long. Moisture on the sink combined with the cookware’s iron material can cause stains and rust.

Wrapping It Up

By now, you know everything to clean your stainless steel sink right now!

Some people avoid scrubbing or cleaning their stainless sinks altogether because they are afraid to damage it. However, as long as you don’t use the wrong tools or methods, nothing can harm your sink. But what can damage your sink is sheer negligence. This is why it is important to take proper care of your stainless steel sink so that it doesn’t lose its shine and luster overtime.

So, let’s get cleaning!

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George Sab is a retired home improvement professional. For over 30 years, he has educated his clients and helped them make the best choice for their homes. George started A Great Sink in 2017 to share his knowledge with the world and assist his readers on their journey to their perfect home!


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