How to Remove Rust from Stainless Steel Sink in 3 Easy Steps

When you first bought your stainless steel sink, you thought it would look good forever. Now you’re several years in and the iron alloys have started to rust. How can you get rid of rust on a stainless steel sink?

To remove rust from a stainless steel sink, you only need to follow these simple steps:

  • Combine water and baking soda to make a paste
  • Rub the mixture into the steel with a toothbrush
  • Spot clean the area and rinse away residue

Yes, it’s really that easy! Ahead, we’ll elaborate further on the steps to follow to eliminate rust from a stainless steel sink, including the items you need and the exact recipe quantities. We’ll also discuss why stainless steel rusts and what you can do to prevent it in the future. You’re not going to want to miss this!

3 Easy Steps to Remove Rust from a Stainless Steel Sink

Stainless steel sinks develop rust spots from use over time.

Okay, it’s time to tackle that unappealing rust stain marring your otherwise beautiful stainless steel sink.

Before we lay out the steps to follow, you’ll need the following items:

Step 1 – Make a Baking Soda Paste

Begin by mixing distilled white vinegar with baking soda in approximately equal proportion. Combine the ingredients until they make a paste.

Why use baking soda? It’s abrasive, but only somewhat so. In other words, it’s gritty enough to scrape away the rust on your stainless steel and you shouldn’t have to worry about the baking soda scraping up your sink.

Oh, and baking soda is free of damaging chemicals as well. No wonder it’s such a renowned household cleaner.

Step 2 – Gently Rub the Paste Onto the Sink Surface

Take your paste and apply it in the stainless steel sink where the rust stains are. If you only have a bit of rust on the sink, you can use a soft cloth and rub the baking soda paste into the stain. Should you prefer to put a bit more elbow grease into your efforts, then try a clean toothbrush.

Apply paste liberally to the affected area

If your stain is more encompassing across the sink, a toothbrush might be too small for your endeavors. In that case, a soft-bristled brush as we linked you to above should more than suffice.

Now, let the paste sit for 10-15 minutes.

Step 3 – Clean the Surface

After about 10-15 minutes, once the baking soda paste has done its job, turn the tap on and rinse away any residue. You should also use a washcloth or paper towel to clean up the residue in the sink.

The handy part about this simple cleaning method is that you can trust it for other stainless steel surfaces across your kitchen. These surfaces may include your microwave, pots and pans, and even parts of your dishwasher.

After! The little rust spots are completely gone!

Is the Rust on Your Stainless Steel Sink Stubborn? Try These Heavier-Duty Options

If rust has overtaken most of your stainless steel sink or the baking soda paste didn’t quite do the trick, don’t despair. You’re not out of options yet. You might just have to try a slightly different method. Here are two that we recommend.

Loose Baking Soda Method

We hope you have some leftover baking soda, because it will come in handy for this next cleaning method.

First, you want to thoroughly clean your sink, then leave it moist but not wet. Cover the stains with a heaping helping of baking soda, ensuring none of the rust spots are visible.

Next, wait for a while, ideally an hour if you have the time to spare. Then take your soft-bristled brush or a toothbrush and scrub the baking soda into the sink. When you’re finished, rinse away the residue and dry your sink using paper towels.

Oxalic Acid Solution

If even the baking soda won’t erase the rust, then it’s time to try something a bit heavier-duty. Oxalic acid is typically reserved for washing machines and dryers since it can clean ink stains and rust alike. To do that, the oxalic acid takes insoluble iron compounds and makes them into soluble complex ions.

This oxalic acid contains 99.6 percent of the stuff. Besides removing rust, you can also rely on oxalic acid for treating pool liner stains, wood stains, iron stains, and bleaching.

To use oxalic acid, apply it over the stain and let it sit per the manufacturer’s instructions. Then take a clean sponge, dampen it, and begin scrubbing. Do make sure that you follow the grain of your stainless steel to prevent scratches.

Finish up by rinsing out your sink and using paper towels to dry it.

Is the spot on your stainless steel sink even more stubborn?
Check out: How to Remove Chemical Stains from Stainless Steel Sink

Avoid Using These Methods for Eliminating Rust from a Stainless Steel Sink

Difficult rust stains can be frustrating, but you always want to start with the gentler, less abrasive options and then work your way up to the harder stuff if need be. Even still, there should be a limit to how heavy-duty you’re willing to go.

Keeping that in mind, avoid doing the following if you want to maintain the beauty of your stainless steel sink.

Do Not Scrub with a Wire Sponge, a Scrubber Sponge, or Steel Wool

Even if you were to follow the grain of your stainless steel sink, if you’re cleaning it with a wire sponge, a scrubber sponge, or steel wool, we can almost assure you that you’ll create some lasting damage. Sure, you might scrape up the rust, but at what cost? These sponges are too abrasive on stainless steel.

Do Not Clean with Scouring Powder

Another no-no is using scouring powder. Although this solution will work for treating rust, the scouring powder could leave some stainless steel surfaces scratched. It’s not worth dumping in your sink.

Do Not Use Chloride Cleaners

Chloride cleaners are also heavy stuff, acting too abrasively for your stainless steel sink. What’s even worse is that the chloride can wear down the chromium layer on your stainless steel sink. Keep reading to learn why that’s so bad!

Why Do Stainless Steel Sinks Rust?

Okay, so you’ve treated your stainless steel sink and it’s now free of rust, but you’d like to learn more. For instance, where does the rust come from? Well, stainless steel is comprised of iron alloys, as we mentioned in the intro. The alloys are made partially of chromium, around 10 percent.

The chromium forms a film atop stainless steel surfaces like sinks, pots and pans, and even utensils. The problem arises when this chromium film breaks down or disappears, which can happen through long-term use.

Without the protection of the chromium, the stainless steel is free to rust.

How to Prevent Your Stainless Steel Sink from Rusting

If scrubbing away the rust of your stainless steel sink was a pain, you’ll want to avoid doing it again anytime soon. Let’s wrap up by sharing some actionable tips for preventing future instances of stainless steel sink rust.

Rinse Away Cleaner Residues Thoroughly

When using cleaning products on your stainless steel sink, leaving residue behind could encourage the degradation of the chromium film. Use your tap to clean the entirety of the sink; if your faucet has a removable hose, that will let you get in the corners of your sink. Then pat the sink dry with paper towels.

Don’t Use Hard Water

Hard water is that which has minerals and metals in it. The deposits in hard water settle on your stainless steel sink and eventually rust it. More so than just that, hard water can dry out your hair and your skin if you bathe with it, so it’s worth filtering throughout your entire house.

Soften your sink water with a water filter system. Your stainless steel will stay rust-free and you’ll feel better about the potability of your water.

Keep Your Sink Dry When Not in Use

Our last tip is an easy one. Since water can cause and contribute to rust, you want your stainless steel sink to be dry as often as possible. This may seem tough because hey, it’s a sink, and water comes out. However, you can strive to keep your sink dry if you work at it.

When you’re done washing the dishes or pre-rising so they can go in the dishwasher, dab at your sink with paper towels. The same goes for when you finish washing your hands. Also, check the tap, ensuring it’s not leaking.

Conclusion

If your stainless steel sink has rusted, it’s easier than you might have thought to treat the sink. You only need some water, baking soda, and a toothbrush or soft-bristled brush. If you require a heavier-duty option, we introduced some methods to use there as well. Now that you know how to keep your sink rust-free, you can enjoy cleaner and more sparkling stainless steel surfaces!

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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