Stainless steel sinks, benches, and countertops can be found everywhere from home bathrooms to commercial kitchens. It is often the preferred material for surfaces that may be exposed to harsh chemicals and temperatures due to its excellent corrosion resistance and durability. Its nonporous surface also serves as a barrier to bacterial growth and makes cleaning and sanitizing a breeze.
However, repeated exposure to grime, grease, fingerprints, and other corrosive agents can not only damage the smooth, gleaming aesthetic of your stainless steel benchtops, but also lead to rust and degradation over the long term. Fortunately, with basic, regular cleaning and attention to a few care tips, your stainless steel sinks, countertops, and stainless steel benches will be sure to last a lifetime.
The Do’s of caring for stainless steel benchtops
Water and a cloth for everyday
Routine cleaning is essential to preserve the aesthetic qualities and corrosion resistance of stainless steel. For regular cleaning, warm water and a clean washcloth is all you need. Although a regular washcloth or a paper towel is fine, using a microfiber cloth, with very short, fine fibers, will go the extra mile in preventing scratches. Remember to wipe in the direction of the polish lines of the stainless steel to prevent the buildup of grime and cleaning chemicals within the miniscule cracks along the polish lines. Also remember to pay careful attention to crevices and joints when wiping. Thin cracks in these areas may prevent oxygen from reaching the surface of the steel, preventing a protective layer from forming and encouraging crevice corrosion. This also applies to using sponges, pads, and brushes. After rinsing and wiping, drying with another cloth will prevent water spots, blemishes made of mineral deposits that can disrupt the smooth, shining look of stainless steel.
Mild detergent and a cloth for stubborn marks
To clean grease or other more stubborn marks, using a mild dish soap or other detergent with warm water and a cloth or brush will usually do the trick. However, it is important to remember that many soaps and detergents contain chlorides, which can eat through the protective chromium and zinc layers of stainless steel, causing pitting corrosion. So although they may be great for cleaning residue, it is just as important to wipe off cleaning solutions with water as well and prevent them from drying on stainless steel countertops and benches.
Glass cleaner and a cloth for fingerprints
Fingerprints can be a nuisance on stainless steel kitchen benches and countertops as they don’t come off very easily. Treating them with soap and water is usually not necessary though, as you can easily remove them with a bit of glass cleaner. Before using, however, check the manufacturer’s websites and owner’s manual to make sure that glass cleaner can be used on your specific stainless steel product. For example, some manufacturers recommend against using glass cleaner on their products. Samsung even recommends against using grout cleaner near their stainless steel products due to their fumes harming stainless steel finishes. This goes for any other cleaning method as well (vinegar, lemon juice, etc.). Just spray and wipe in circular motions using a microfiber cloth. Make sure not to spray the glass cleaner directly onto the surface to avoid any wayward splatter and drip marks.
Stainless steel cleaner for refreshing tired stainless steel benchtops
Older stainless steel benchtops and countertops will benefit from the regular cleaning described above, but if they have been heavily stained or scratched, commercial stainless steel cleaners can restore surfaces and get rid of even the toughest stains. Before applying to the entire surface, make sure to test an inconspicuous area first for any color changes or unwanted side effects. To brighten dull surfaces to their original shine, you can actually use lemon oil, mineral oil, or a stainless steel oil to add a finishing touch after cleaning off any dirt or grime with water. Make sure to wipe along the grain when applying the oil as well.
The Dont’s of using stainless steel benchtops
Don’t use abrasive cleansers
Stainless steel can be cleaned using normal washcloths and sponges, as well as plastic brushes and pads if needed. Abrasive cleaners made of metal will scratch stainless steel and leave metal filaments that can promote rust and pitting.
Don’t forget to rinse or wipe
Make sure to regularly rinse and wipe stainless steel kitchen benches, sinks, and countertops. Grime and residue left on the surface or collected in crevices and corners may contain chlorides or other chemicals that can gradually eat through the protective chromium and zinc coatings on stainless steel, causing corrosion. Just the simple act of rinsing and wiping down stainless steel surfaces with water after use can help prolong their life and keep them sparkling like new. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is better to clean your stainless steel surfaces regularly than to get rid of corrosion and stains later on.
Don’t use products containing bleach
Bleach is a strong cleaning chemical used in dilute solutions as a disinfectant and tough stain remover. However, sodium hypochlorite, the stuff found in bleach, releases chlorides that can eat through stainless steel, causing pitting corrosion and crevice corrosion. At best, bleach will dull your stainless steel benches and sinks; at worst, it can promote corrosion and rust. Remember that bleach can be found in many different products, so check your labels before using. Alternative ways to clean stainless steel include using baking soda and a rag or white vinegar solutions. There are also many chemicals on the market that are designed specifically to clean stainless steel.
Don’t use steel wool or steel brushes
Although you might be tempted to use steel wool or steel brushes to get rid of a stubborn stain or sticky residue on a kitchen countertop or bathroom sink, these tools will scratch the protective surface of the stainless steel, making it more susceptible to rusting, staining, and bacterial contamination over the long term. Instead, use plastic pads, scrubbers, or brushes for difficult spots and a reusable soft cloth for general washing.