Give your stainless sink some sparkle—here’s how to clean it
It’s all about the buff
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For most homeowners, the benefits of choosing a stainless steel sink for the kitchen far outweigh the drawbacks. The pros of using stainless steel include its durability, its affordability, overall heat resistance, and the fact that it’s less likely to chip or break your dishes and glassware compared to harder materials like cast iron or porcelain. (Who among us hasn’t mourned the loss of a wine glass that landed in the basin with a little too much force? R.I.P. Stemmy, I loved swirling you around.)
The cons? While the material won’t stain as the name promises, improper care or negligence can lead to rust and scratches. And, if you’re customizing your kitchen design, its industrial look may not be for everyone, since stainless steel only comes in one color: stainless steel. (The material does come in a variety of finishes, however, from matte and satin finishes to an ultra-shiny mirror finish that is, unfortunately, more prone to visible scratches.)
Caring for a stainless steel sink couldn’t be simpler with the right tools. And, by regularly cleaning your stainless steel sink, you can ensure that it will not only last, but sparkle like the day it was installed for years to come. But, before we explain the best practices for maintaining your sink, there are a couple things to consider when selecting one.
Consider the sink’s radius before buying and cleaning a stainless steel sink
If you’re considering a new sink, one factor to think about for aesthetic and long-term maintenance reasons is the radius. If you’re like me, you’re thinking, I want a rectangular sink, not a round one, so why do I care about its radius?
In sink-speak, the radius is actually the curve of the sink’s interior angles. Want a sink with sharp 90-degree interior corners, shaped like a rigid box? Choose a zero-radius sink. Since this style of sink has no curve to it, it actually has a higher overall capacity, and lends a modern, sharp look. It is, however, more difficult to clean, and can lead to build-up in the corners.
A sink with a standard radius will have softer, rounded corners, this is what we traditionally think of when we think “kitchen sink.” A more recent trend in sink radius is the half-inch radius, which offers a compromise between sharp angles and rounded bottom. It’s also much easier to clean than a zero-radius style, while still providing sharper angles than a standard radius.
Ultimately, the choice is an aesthetic one, but choosing a sink with softer angles may lead to less time spent scrubbing out gunk, and your future self may thank you.
Often when shopping for steel appliances, consumers will find a lot of terms and numbers to consider. The first to consider is the steel’s gauge. Stainless steel’s thickness is measured by gauge, and home sinks generally come in gauges between 16 and 22. The lower the gauge, the thicker the steel, while steel with a higher gauge will be more likely to dent or become damaged, though often you’ll find that as the gauge gets lower, the price of the sink increases, as does its durability.
The next thing to be aware of when sink shopping is the steel’s grade. Most household products that are made of stainless steel are either 304 or 316 grade. 304 grade is your classic 18/8 stainless, meaning it’s made of 18% chromium and 8% nickel. 316 grade also contains these elements, but it benefits from the addition of around 2% molybdenum, which increases the material’s anti-corrosive properties, meaning it can withstand more exposure from chloride and saline exposure: in short, it too is more durable. While 304 grade steel is the most common type of steel used in home appliances, 316 is typically found in commercial grade kitchens. While you may not come across 316 grade steel in your shopping as often, we thought we’d point out the difference just in case you do.
What you’ll need
- A soft sponge
- A non-abrasive stainless steel cleaner such as Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser or Kohler Stainless Steel Cleaner, or for a more natural option, baking soda
- Club soda
- Rubber gloves
- Optional: Isopropyl alcohol
Tools to avoid
- Steel wool
- Wire brushes
- Abrasive cloths or pads
Time Needed: 15 minutes
How to clean a stainless steel sink
Step 1. Clear the bowl of the sink of any dishware or pots or pans. As with any household cleaning products that may contain corrosives, we recommend wearing rubber gloves and any protective eyewear while cleaning. Apply a small amount of your cleanser to the surface of the sink. If you are using a powdered cleanser such as baking soda or Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser, be sure to add enough water to the powder to form a loose paste.
Step 2. Always scrub your sink in the direction of the polish lines, and gently buff the entire surface of the sink with the cloth and cleanser. If cleaning a zero-radius sink, use a Q-Tip or soft-bristle brush to gently loosen any food or limescale build-up from the corners.
Step 3. Rinse away the cleanser thoroughly using hot water and buff the sink with a clean cloth to dry it. For added shine, a final wipe down with club soda will make the sink sparkle.
Step 4. Unlike copper, stainless steel is not antimicrobial, and if further disinfection is desired, you may spray a thin layer of isopropyl alcohol on the sink, let it sit for 20 minutes, and wipe it down with a clean, dry cloth.
How often should I clean my stainless steel sink?
It’s recommended that, in addition to daily maintenance, you should thoroughly clean your stainless steel kitchen sink weekly, as outlined above. This will remove water buildup, food debris, and other residue.
For general maintenance, we recommend that stainless steel sinks be wiped down with a damp cloth daily or after each use. A well-fitting stainless steel sink grid placed in the bottom of the sink will also help prevent staining and scratching, and it won’t create stains the way that rubber or silicone sink mats, which often trap water beneath them, can.
Avoid leaving cleaning products, wet sponges, metal cans, or steel or cast iron cookware in the sink; these can lead to corrosion or rust spots. Never ever use bleach to disinfect your stainless steel as it, too, can lead to corrosion.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.