Stainless steel sinks are a favorite for many homeowners. They are sleek, shiny and look classier than many other options. Stainless steel is also known for durability. Stainless steel sinks won’t chip, crack, or fade.
However, these sinks can be difficult to clean, and it can be quite noticeable when they’re dirty. If you’ve been wondering how to restore your stainless steel sink to its original, shiny glory, look no further. I’ve put together an easy-to-follow how to clean stainless steel guide so you can easily get your kitchen sink looking brand new again.
How Often To Clean a Stainless Steel Sink
First, some tips on how often you should clean your stainless steel sink. Trust me, you’ll have a much easier time cleaning your stainless steel sink if you do it more than just a few times a year before guests come over.
With each sink use you should rinse it with warm water. Rinsing your sink after washing dishes will get rid of food and dish soap residue. To really keep your sink in top shape, you should also dry it after rinsing with warm water on a daily basis.
If you’ve been rinsing your sink after use, you should only need to deep clean it once every couple of weeks.
Don’t use this number as an end all command though. If your sink looks dirty, has food stuck on the steel, or is looking dull, that means it’s time for a deep clean. Wondering how exactly to deep clean? Here’s a step-by-step guide.
A Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink Drain by Aqua Mechanical / CC BY 2.0 Cleaning your stainless steel sink is something you should do regularly to keep it in good shape. It’s much easier to clean regularly than to try and get stains out.
Steps For a Clean Stainless Steel Sink
You sink could have food stains, rust, soap build-up, or coffee grounds like mine. No matter what’s causing the mess, this cleaning guide should help.
Ready to get your kitchen sink clean? This step-by-step guide will get your sink looking like-new again with minimal effort and time on your part! Let’s get started.
1. Rinse the Sink
You need to start without chunks, grains, or other bits of food, so rinse your sink well.
Start by rinsing your sink well in hot water. If you have an in-sink dispenser you can run it a couple times to make sure it isn’t clogged.
The cleaning process is easiest if you start with a somewhat clean surface. If there are bits of food stuck on the sink you can let hot water run over them for a few minutes until they loosen and come up on their own.
2. Coat the Sink
Fill the sink with as even a layer of baking soda as you can along the entire surface.
Filling a sink with baking soda is one of the magic ingredients in stainless steel cleaning. In fact, I often joke that either baking soda or vinegar or both can solve any cleaning problem you have. I’ve used them for cleaning the sink, cleaning the bathtub, getting rid of hair-dye stains, and even unclogging toilets.
To clean a stainless steel sink, you’ll start by coating the sink with a thin layer of baking soda. Do this on a damp sink, which will help the baking soda stick. This will allow you to coat the edges of the sink as well as the bottom.
3. Scrub in the direction of the grain
Gently scrub in the baking soda to start cleaning.
Once you’ve layered on your baking soda, you can start scrubbing it into the stainless steel. There are a few important notes here.
- Don’t use a highly abrasive scrubber. Steel wool with damage your sink and cause rust. Even the scratchy side of a normal kitchen sponge can be too abrasive. Instead, use the softer side of a sponge or washcloth. You can use a toothbrush to clean around the drain and the corners.
- Wear gloves. Although you can see from the pictures that I didn’t put on gloves for this stage, I wished I had. The baking soda made my skin feel dry and uncomfortable. In general, it’s always smart to wear gloves when cleaning.
- Scrub in the direction of the grain. If your sink is brushed steel (you can see faint lines in the steel), scrub in the direction of those lines. This will help you clean better and will make your sink last longer.
4. Spray Vinegar
The reaction of white vinegar and baking soda works wonders for cleaning hard water stains as well as unclogging drains and toilets.
Once you’ve got the baking soda scrubbed into the kitchen sink, it’s time to spray in white vinegar and watch the chemical reaction happen. The vinegar and baking soda will begin to bubble, which helps thoroughly clean the stainless steel sink and remove hard water stains.
This is easiest if you have a spray bottle and can spray the white vinegar evenly over the kitchen sink. If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can pour slowly and carefully, trying to evenly disperse the vinegar.
Vinegar is a very popular cleaning product because it has a decent acidity content that can cut through stains, grease, and grime without causing damage.
5. Rinse the Kitchen Sink
If your second rinse pulls up as much dirt as mine did, you can repeat these first steps again before continuing.
Let the vinegar and baking soda sit for at least five minutes. Once the bubbles have subsided, then you can rinse the sink again.
If your sink still looks especially dirty or the baking soda/vinegar solution turns brown, you may want to repeat steps 2 through 5 again. If there’s just one small stubborn stain, keep reading this guide for spot targeting.
Use a soft, non-shedding towel to dry the sink to avoid water spots.
After you give your sink a rinse, use a cloth to dry it off. You should always dry your sink after cleaning to avoid water-spots.
You want to make sure that the towel or washcloth you’re using doesn’t shed. You don’t want your clean sink to be filled with bits of fuzz! You can also use a paper towel for drying your sink, though it may take more than one since you also don’t want paper pieces in the sink.
This power combo can tackle any especially difficult spots.
Now that your sink is dry, it should be easy to see any trouble spots that are still stained or dirty. If there are spots, don’t worry. Here’s how to target specific stains.
Mix one cup of vinegar with ¼ a cup of cream of tartar. This combination will clean difficult areas. Just rub in the mixture using a soft cloth, let sit for five minutes, and then rinse.
While this combination works well, you shouldn’t use it on the entire sink and you shouldn’t start with this mixture. It’s always best to start with the baking soda and only use this on areas that are still stained.
8. Buff the Sink
A bit of olive oil goes a long way in bringing extra shine to your stainless steel sink.
Finally, the last step in making your sink look great is to buff the sink using a cloth and a few drops of olive oil. This will add some shine to the steel as well as create a protective layer to keep your sink cleaner for longer.
One important note here is that you want very little olive oil. If you add too much oil, your sink will look greasy instead of shiny. If you do add too much, you can use a clean towel to wipe some of the oil away.
Another note is that, while olive oil can make the steel look great, you should only use it to buff the sink. Wiping down the handles and faucet will leave an oily residue that you don’t want on your hands when you’re trying to wash your hands or get a glass of water.
Voila, a clean sink!
As you can see, the finished sink is much cleaner than the original. By wiping down the sink every time you use it and carrying out these deep clean every couple weeks, your sink will be shiny, well cared-for, and easier to clean in the future.
Clean Sink by Taber Andrew Bain / CC BY 2.0 Having a shiny sink can go a long way to making your kitchen or room look clean and ready to use whenever you use. Additionally, the oil can provide another protective layer.
Recommended Cleaning Products:
There are a few items you can switch out or use to clean your stainless steel sink and get the same results. They include:
- Bar Keeper’s Friend Soft Cleanser
- Or any mild detergent
- Stainless steel cleaner & polish
- Windex Original
Recommended Rust Removal Products:
If your stainless steel sink has rust on it, you can use the following products to safely strip it away without causing damage to your sink. You should know that how successful you are with using them to clean your stainless steel sink will depend on your water quality. If you don’t follow the cleaning and care guidelines and use the wrong products, you can void your warranty.
- Autosol Rust Remover
- Bar Keeper’s Friend MORE Spray & Foam Cleaner
Home remedies are popular to help clean your stainless steel sink too. However, you do have to be very careful so you don’t damage the finish. This is why it’s essential to not allow any parts of your sink to soak in the following mixtures. You should also test it on a small part of your sink before you use it to ensure that it works while leaving your sink shiny.
- Vinegar works as a weed killer, and it also works well for major stains or grime buildup on your sink. To use it, you’ll mix a half of a cup of white vinegar with a half of a cup of water. Dip a soft cloth into the solution and rub at the stain or grime. You want to rinse it thoroughly straight away and dry the sink to prevent it from damaging your sink’s finish.
- A second homemade solution for stains or grime is to get a small amount of water and mix it with baking soda to make a thick paste. Get an old toothbrush and gently scrub at the stains. You want to rinse it off right when you finish and dry the sink to prevent lasting damage.
Why Prevention is Better Than Allowing or Buildup
You need to clean your stainless steel sink for aesthetic considerations and to help it stay resistant to corrosion. You should get in the habit of routinely cleaning your sink to preserve the appearance and make sure that the surface’s integrity doesn’t get compromised. You have many different methods to cleaning stainless steel sinks, like the one we outlined above. Unlike other materials, it’s not possible to wear out your stainless steel sinks by excessively cleaning them.
You should do a simple daily treatment with a weekly cleaning using a soft abrasive cleaner. Bar Keepers Friend, Bon-Ami, and other typical household cleaners are good choices. You can use them easily with sponges, warm water, and clean cloths on your sink without causing damage.
Most detergents and soaps contain chlorides to help them clean better, but they can slowly wear away at the finish on your stainless steel sink if they sit on it and cause corrosion. Rinse it with hot water to wash them away and kill any lingering germs. This is why you want to rinse the sink well after each use. Scrub in the direction of your sink’s polish lines so that your cleaning efforts will blend well with the surface of the sink when you finish.
You want to avoid using steel wool or ordinary carbon steel brushes on your sink because they can leave iron particles behind that lead to corrosion and rust.
Finally, make a point to wipe the surface completely clean using dry, clean towels so that the water doesn’t evaporate and leave water spots behind. Don’t use greasy cloths or oily rags when you wipe your sink’s surface. Simply drying your sink regularly will help prevent water and surface rust marks from appearing.
Stainless Steel Undermount Sink by Granite Charlotte Countertops / CC BY 2.0 Preventing stains can go a long way to keeping your sink looking nice. Scrubbing at stains is a good way to damage the sink’s finish.
How to Make Your Stainless Steel Sink Sparkle
Club soda will work to make your stainless steel sink sparkle. To start, put the stopper in your sink and pour some club soda in. Rub it with a soft cloth and drain it out. Rinse it lightly and dry it with a soft cloth to prevent water spots or surface rust.
Baking soda works to clean oven racks, so it’s no surprise that it works to clean stainless steel sinks. It’s just abrasive enough to scrub away your light hard water deposits, but it’s not abrasive enough to scratch the shiny surface of your sink. Make a paste using baking soda and water and try cleaning your sink with it. Rinse the sink with vinegar when you finish cleaning to create a fizzy, bubbling solution. Vinegar will disinfect naturally while removing hard water stains from the sink.
Dry out the sink. Once you get it clean and dry, you can make it shine a little more. To do this, you’ll apply a few drops of olive oil using a lint-free cloth and buff the sink until it starts to shine and sparkle.
A Few DON’TS for Stainless Steel Care
- Never use a steel wool pad on your stainless steel sink. They leave iron particles behind that can lead to corrosion or rust.
- Don’t leave sponges, soap cleansers, rags, or towels to try on your sink’s surface. They can easily cause the surface to dull, and they also harbor bacteria.
- Regularly rinse the sink to keep the chlorides in your cleansers from impacting the luster of your steel.
- If you have hard-to-clean projects, get a ScotchBrite tape scouring pad when you have to exert a little effort. Move in the direction of the grain to blend it in.
- Never leave cast iron or steel cookware sitting in your stainless steel sink for long periods. Iron and moisture on the top of your stainless can lead to staining and surface rust.
- Leaving cleaning pads, wet sponges, or rubber dish mats in your sink can quickly and easily lead to staining and discoloration because they trap water.
- Just like you wouldn’t clean your dishes with a cutting board, don’t use the sink as a cutting board. Sharp kitchen instruments like knives can damage your sink’s surface.
General Tips for Keeping Your Stainless Steel Sink in Top Shape
- Drying your sink regularly works well to prevent rust marks and water stains.
- Wear rubber gloves when you work with cleaners for your sink to protect your hands.
- Do a quick, light cleaning each time you use your sink to keep it looking nice. Clean up any waste residue in the sink before it dries, and don’t let liquids sit for too long.
- Don’t ever mix cleaners because some products will react to create dangerous gasses.
- Never use solvents in closed spaces without adequate ventilation.
- There are dozens of compound or blended cleaners on the market. You should contact suppliers and ask if they advise putting them on stainless steel before you use them.
How to Clean Old Sink Faucets
Cleaning your sink’s bowls isn’t enough. You’ll need to clean the faucets and the edges of your sink too. If the dirt is stubborn, you can use a soft brush on it. If the sink is older and there is grout around the edges of the sink and under the faucet, you may want to slip on a pair of gloves and use a harder, longer brush to reach the grime buildup. Use detergent or soap to get rid of the grout. You shouldn’t bleach the kitchen sink because it can permanently damage your steel’s sheen.
Clean the sink’s faucet with soft soap and warm water solution first. You can get a soft nylon scrubber or a bigger toothbrush that you soaped in soapy, warm water to get rid of old water spots, calcium deposits, and soap spots. Getting an over-the-counter solution to use for calcium deposits works best if you have hard water.
If you don’t want to go pick any cleaner up, you can get a plastic bag and fill it with a 1:1 solution of water and vinegar. Tie this bag with the solution around the faucet. Make sure that the cleaner is covering the metal parts of the faucet. Leave it on for a minimum of an hour. Wash it off using cold water and get a cotton cloth to buff it well to finish.
Avoid scrubbing and harsh acidic cleaners on your faucet to prevent leaving patches. The vinegar process can take a few hours to show up, especially if you have a decent amount of calcium buildup from your hard water. However, it works well to de-gloss the metal surfaces gently without causing damage.
Why Glossing a Stainless-Sink is Important
Each time you finish using your stainless steel sink, you can use a cleaning agent to give the sink a good gloss. You do want to remember to use a clean cloth. Microfiber and cotton are the best choices to give your sink a wipe down after you use it. You want to leave no water remnants or cleaning solution after you finish the cleaning process on this sink.
Glossing could seem like an unnecessary step when it comes to cleaning your sink, but it’ll ensure that the sink returns a glossy sheen each time you use it. If you do, you’ll get rewarded by a very shiny sink that looks like new.
Additionally, the glossing process will work with virtually any stainless steel appliance in your home. If you have one of those larger two-door steel finish refrigerators or oven doors that are steel, you can use the same tools and cleaning solutions to get rid of the buildup and grime. Make sure you get in all of the small nooks and crannies.
How to Safely Remove Stains
Although we call them stainless, a better term is stain-resistant. If your water has a high iron content, you could see brown surface stains forming that look like rust. In areas that have over-softened or hard water, you could see a white film developing on the surface of the sink. You can prevent most water stains by drying the sink after each use.
When the stain has already formed and it’s too late to take preventative steps, you can use ammonia that you dilute to the manufacturer specifications to get rid of whatever soapy water can’t strip away. Ammonia also works well to remove fingerprints. You should be careful with this because even though some ammonia-based cleaners like Windex can work, some do contain active additives and ingredients that could damage your sink. This is why we recommend using diluted ammonia.
To get rid of rust stains, get a paste out of water and Bon Ami. Allow this paste to sit on the stains for 15 to 20 minutes before carefully wiping it away with the grain. If you have stubborn rust, you should try Barkeepers Friend because the active ingredient is too weak to damage the sink while removing the stain. Don’t leave the solution on the stain for too long because it can etch the sink.
A sinking feeling #5 by Ian / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Water stains can cause an unsightly look on your stainless steel sink, so it’s best to wipe them away after you use it.
Sanitizing Your Stainless Steel Sink
Even though it may be your first instinct to reach for bleach if you need to sanitize your sink, make sure you don’t do this with a stainless steel sink. However, there are a few things you can reach for instead:
- Boiling Water – Fill the basin with boiling water and allow it to sit undisturbed for several minutes. This isn’t the best method you have because it doesn’t keep the germ-killing temperature long enough to completely disinfect the sink unless you want to add more. However, it’s easy and quick enough for some homeowners.
- Vinegar – You can use vinegar with caution because it can cause damage if you leave it to sit too long. We recommend mixing ¼ cup of salt with 4 cups of vinegar. Soak a paper towel or rag in the solution and layer them over your sink’s surface. Let it sit for 10 minutes before you take them off and thoroughly rinse the sink.
Six Reasons Why Stainless Steel Sinks are so Popular
- Absorbs Shock – One nice thing about these things is that, on impact, they will give a little. This can cushion your glasses and dishes to prevent breakage.
- Complements Any Décor – You’ll get very clean lines with a cool texture when you have it that can help reflect the surrounding patterns and colors, like your backsplash. It also complements any decor long after colors go out of style.
- Easier to Clean – When you clean it with a household cleanser and a soft towel, stainless steel will retain the luster. It’s a sanitary surface that many healthcare facilities trust.
- Greater Capacity – This material has a flexibility and strength that allows for you to have deeper sink bowls. This will give you more usable space than cast iron or porcelain.
- Luster – Stainless steel won’t stain, rust, or fade. The finish also resists scratches, and it’ll keep its luster longer than other materials.
- Tough – This material is more durable than cast iron or porcelain, but it’s more forgiving than composite is. They won’t crack, nick, or chip with heavy use. If you get a thin and cheap stainless steel sink, it can dent. So, you may want to pay more upfront for a quality product.
Hope this guide on how to clean a stainless steel sink was useful!
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.