How to Remove Chemical Stains from Stainless Steel Sink!

When you think about stainless steel, you probably think that it can’t be stained. After all, the name itself implies that. However, the truth is that chemical stains can be a problem with stainless steel sinks.

How can you remove chemical stains from a stainless-steel sink? Generally, you will want to make a paste out of dish soap and baking soda. Then, saturate your cleaning tool of choice in this paste and rub the stain gently. This method will vary depending on the exact type of stain.

In some cases, you will have to deal with a permanent chemical stain on your sink. However, if you know how to prevent and quickly address these stains, the chance of this will be minimal.

How Can You Remove Chemical Stains from Stainless Steel Sinks?

The name “stainless steel” is somewhat of a misnomer. Stainless steel is more resistant to staining than other types of steel, but it is indeed possible to cause chemical stains on it. There is a layer of chromium oxide on the surface of stainless steel that protects it from corrosion and prevents rust formation. It will even protect the stainless steel against scratches, as the chromium oxide will form again.

The first thing you need to know about removing these stains is that when there is a chemical spill onto your stainless steel sink, you need to start the cleaning process immediately to maximize your chances of completely removing the stain.

You should also make sure to take care of your own safety in the process. When you are removing the stains from your sink, make sure that you wear a mask and a strong set of kitchen gloves.

Different Types of Stains on Stainless Steel Sinks

The method you use to remove the stain from your sink depends on the type of stain. There are many different types of chemical reactions that can cause stains on stainless steel.

Generally, when you are trying to remove the chemical stain from stainless steel, you will follow a general procedure. Mix dish soap and baking soda to create a paste. Then, soak either a toothbrush, a microfiber cloth, or a sponge in the paste. Once the cleaning tool is saturated, you will need to wipe the stain gently until you see it disappear.

1. Acid Stains

Strong acids that have a pH of less than 1.0 can sustain stainless steel. There are drain cleaners that can do this, so you should avoid using them with a stainless-steel sink.

Removing Acid Stains

When removing acid stains, you should first make sure to wear protective gloves, since these solutions are strong and can harm your skin. Then, take the following steps  

  1. Rinse the area with water.
  2. Mix a paste that is equal parts water and baking soda.
  3. Rub the paste onto the stain, and let it sit.
  4. Wipe it off with a damp cloth.
  5. If the stain is still there, soak the area with ammonia and let the ammonia sit for 5 minutes.
  6. Rinse and dry the area.

2. Bleach and Chlorine Stains

Household bleach is diluted sodium hypochlorite, occasionally containing small amounts of other compounds. When you spill bleach on stainless steel and leave it there, you will see dull brown or gray stains, which are evidence of corrosion.

Chlorine is chemically very similar to bleach. Although this type of staining can be irreversible in some cases. When your sink is exposed to chlorine or chlorides, it can cause pitting, which is a type of corrosion. Table salt is sodium chloride, which falls into this category.

If your sink is exposed to substances that contain chlorine or chlorides for short periods of time, such as salty water or chlorine bleach, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if the exposure lasts for a long time, this staining can be permanent.

In fact, salty water can cause bimetallic corrosion as well. As an electrolyte, salty water can conduct electricity. If there are any other metals in the sink, the electrolyte could cause an exchange of electrons between the metals that can end up corroding the sink.

Removing Bleach or Chlorine Stains

To remove chlorine or bleach stains, do the following:

  1. Mix a paste that is equal parts water and baking soda.
  2. Rub the paste onto the stain, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Wipe off the paste with a damp cloth.
  4. Spray vinegar on the sink afterward. Vinegar is acidic, which will allow it to help these stains dissolve; however, it is not so acidic that it will do damage to your sink.
  5. Let all the substances sit for about 20 minutes.
  6. Wipe the substances off. Now, the stains should be gone.

3. Iron and Rust Stains

Iron staining can happen when people rub their stainless-steel sinks with steel wool. This can leave behind small pieces of iron that can end up reducing the chromium concentration on the surface. Once the chromium concentration goes below 10 percent, it will no longer protect the steel, and rust can start to form. However, once you remove the pieces of iron and the rest, the chromium oxide layer can repair itself and undo the damage.

Removing Rust Stains (Method One)

If you have rust stains that are a result of scratching the sink, follow these steps:

  1. Mix laundry detergent and vinegar into a paste.
  2. Slather the paste onto the stain, and let it sit for about one hour.
  3. If you see it start to dry out in that time, you can spray more vinegar onto the paste.
  4. When you wipe the paste off, the rust will probably be gone. If not, repeat the above steps one more time.
  5. Now, rinse and wipe down the sink copiously to get rid of all the tiny pieces of metal that caused the rust. 

Removing Rust Stains (Method Two)

  1. Make a paste using baking soda and water. Mix one tablespoon of baking soda in 2 cups of water.
  2. Now apply the paste over the rust using a soft toothbrush and gently scrub the spot.
  3. Once the spots are out, rinse it away. You should use warm water to rinse the baking soda.
  4. Wipe the stainless steel sink with a cloth or paper towel.

For a more detailed post on removing rust spots from your stainless steel sink, follow the steps laid out in this post.

4. Hard Water Stains

If you don’t have a water softener, you may have mineral deposits that accumulate on the surface of your sink over time. Dissolved iron can cause rust stains, and calcium deposits can cause cloudiness on the steel’s surface.

Removing Hard Water Stains

Removing hard water stains is simple. Do the following:

  1. Make a paste that is half baking soda and half water.
  2. Rub the paste onto the stain and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Wipe with a damp cloth.
  4. Rinse your sink with vinegar.

Alternative Methods to Remove Chemical Stains from Stainless Steel Sinks

If the above methods do not work, there are a few other ideas you could try. Here are some of the best solutions that you can use easily.

  1. For simple chemical stains use liquid dish soap and baking soda. Make a paste with these and use a nylon scrubbie. Scrub the surface along the grain with very gentle hands. The spots should be gone.
  2. For very strong chemical stains you can use vinegar solutions. Use some undiluted vinegar and dab the brush inside. Gently scrub the area. Once done, wipe the vinegar away.
  3. Do you know flour sack and powdered cleaners are also a great way to deal with chemical stains? Moisten the edge of an empty flour sack. Now you need to sprinkle all over the stain some powdered cleaner. Use the sack to scrub in a circular motion. You need to be gentle. Now simple damp another edge of the sack. Use it to clean and wipe in the opposite route.
  4. You can also use lemon oil or silicone-based products to buff the stainless steel sink. Gently buff the spots with a clean cloth. Once the spots are gone, wipe it up with clean fabric.

Ways to Prevent Chemical Stains on Stainless Steel Sinks

Of course, with any problem, prevention is the best solution. That’s why you might find the following prevention tips to be useful.

Avoid using any substances that contain chlorine or bleach around your sink. You should remember that most soaps and detergents contain chloride, meaning you should rinse your sink after using them. You should also avoid exposing your sink to oven cleaners.

It’s also a good idea to avoid the use of abrasive cleaners on your sink, such as steel wool and wire cleaning brushes. Also, you should make sure that you do not scrub against the grain of the steel with these metal cleaning tools since this is what could leave little pieces of metal behind to cause rust.

Check out our guide on how to properly clean a stainless steel sink for detailed step-by-step instructions.

Steeling Yourself and Your Sink

It can be very frustrating to deal with chemical spills and stains on your stainless-steel sink. However, it’s not always a crisis. In some cases, you will be able to remove the stain entirely.

The methods will vary depending on the type of stain, but it is usually important that you act as quickly as possible. Of course, it may be even more important to know how to prevent these chemical stains in the first place.

Overall, if you take care of your stainless steel sink, you will stand a good chance of being able to use it stain-free for an exceptionally long time.

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!

4 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve tried all of these methods and still have a spot. Not really a stain now but a lighter spot in the stainless. I’m not sure what the stain was – coffee maybe. Any other suggestions?

    • Hi Carolyn Myatt, You should make a paste of baking soda and vinegar. Keep the portion of baking soda larger and let the vinegar help you make a paste. Apply the thick paste over the spot and let it sit for fifteen minutes.
      Or you can use club soda on a cloth to wipe the entire sink and create a luster. The light spot should go away.
      If nothing really works, try using a strong abrasive stainless steel clean to get rid of such hard spot.

  2. THE TILE PEOPLE WHO INSTALLED TILE AND USUAL CHEMICALS USED MY KITCHEN STAINLESS STEEL SINK TO CLEAN UP AND DAMAGED IT. WHAT CAN I DO TO RESTORE IT?????????? WE USED MR. ERASER AND TRIED SCRUBBING WITH SOAP TO NO AVAIL. WHEN WET, IT LOOKS JUST OK. THE LIGHT DISCOLORATION COMES BACK AFTER STAINLESS STEEL IS DRY. SPRAYED A LITTLE OLIVE OIL ON IT BUT DID NOT HELP.

    IT IS UNDER COUNTER SINK AND WOULD BE CONSIDERABLE COSTS TO REPLACE EVERYTHING INCLUDING THE COUNTERS. IS THERE A SUBSTANCE THAT CAN BE PLACED ON THE STAINLESS STEEL SINK TO RESTORE IT????

    • Hi jeanne, read the section “Some Chemical Stains Removal Solutions” and try them. If you still can’t get rid of the discoloration, you may need to replace the sink. 

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