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Cleaning Stainless Steel

How often should stainless steels be cleaned? The answer is quite simply: “Clean the metal when it is dirty in order to restore its original appearance.” This may vary from one to four times a year for external applications, or it may be once a day for an item in hygienic or aggressive situations. In many applications, the cleaning frequency is after each use.

Cleaning Stainless Steels

Routine Cleaning (All Finishes) Use soap or mild detergent and water (preferably warm) Sponge, rinse with clean water, wipe dry if necessary. Follow polish lines.
Fingerprints (All Finishes) Soap and warm water or organic solvent (e.g., acetone, alcohol, methylated spirits) Rinse with clean water and wipe dry. Follow polish lines.
Stubborn Stains and Discoloration (All Finishes) Mild cleaning solutions, specialty stainless steel cleaners Use a sponge, rag or fiber brush (soft nylon or natural bristle). Rinse complete with clean water. Wipe dry. Follow polish lines.
Lime Deposits from Hard Water Solution of one part vinegar to three parts water Soak in solution then brush to loosen. Rinse well with clean water.
Oil or Grease Marks (All Finishes) Organic solvents (e.g., acetone, alcohol, methylated spirits, proprietary “safety solvents”); baked-on grease can be softened beforehand with ammonia Clean after with soap and water, rinse with clean water and dry. Follow polish lines.
Rust and other Corrosion Products (Embedded or Adhering “Free Iron”) Rust stains can be removed by adding one part of nitric acid to nine parts of warm water. Leave for 30 to 60 minutes, then wash off with plenty of water, and flush any drains thoroughly. See also previous section on Passivation. Rinse well with clean water. Wear rubber gloves, mix the solution in a glass container, and be very careful with the acid. (See Precautions for acid cleaners.)
Dark Oxide From Welding or Heat Treatment “Pickling Paste” or pickling solutions Must rinse carefully, and use care in handling. Dispose of solutions according to environmental regulations.
Scratches on Polished (Satin) Finish Slight scratches – use impregnated nylon pads. Polish with scurfs dressed with iron-free abrasives for deeper scratches. Follow polish lines. Then clean with soap or detergent as for routine cleaning. Do not use ordinary steel wool – iron particles can become embedded in stainless steel and cause further surface problems. Stainless steel and “Scotch-brite” scouring pads are satisfactory.

Penn Stainless Products is providing this guide on an informational basis only. When selecting specific cleaners or cleaning processes, we strongly recommend that you work with an expert in the field of stainless steel maintenance and follow all directions supplied by the manufacturer of any cleaning solutions used.

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