When you shop through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. This educational content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink

No more unsightly stains.

Stained “stainless” steel has always been a pet peeve of ours. And once we discovered how shiny our sinks could become using some simple techniques, we got serious about keeping it clean.

You must clean stainless steel sinks, both for aesthetic reasons, and to preserve their corrosion resistance. This material thrives with regular cleaning; it won’t wear out with excessive rinsing. Thankfully, there are some easy cleaning routines, which will have your sink looking new and fresh.

Preventing Stains on Stainless Steel Sinks

Ironically, stains are a stainless steel sink surface’s worst nightmare. They accumulate quickly without warning, taking away the gleam of your kitchen sink.

With regular cleaning, though, it’s easy to prevent smudges and discoloration. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep it dry: Water spots are the most common stains — they occur every time water touches the surface and isn’t removed. After each use, grab a dry cloth and remove all leftover water. If you leave the undrained water, it will stain once it dries, making your job a little harder.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals: Strong chemicals, like oven cleaners and bleach, can leave unsightly stains on your beautiful sink. So avoid washing your sink or flushing the drain with them.
  • Remove acidic foods: Don’t let acidic foods like pickles or mayonnaise, sit in the sink for long periods. Do your best to remove them as quickly as possible.
  • Regular cleaning: A daily clean using white vinegar works effectively at removing smears from your stainless steel sink.
  • Use a sink protector: Try investing in a stainless steel sink protector. This way, you’re eliminating all contact with the bottom of your sink, keeping it stain-free. However, avoid using rubber mats, as these may create hard-to-remove stains.

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink

Here’s what you need:

  • Your favorite cleaner — stainless steel-approved cleaners include: Bar Keeper’s Friend, Bon-Ami, WD-40.
  • Two-sided sponge.
  • Rags and cloths.
  • Rubber gloves (optional).

1. Rinse Your Sink

Open the tap and rinse your sink with warm water. You only need to make it wet and remove fresh residue.

2. Apply Your Cleaner

Grab your cleaner of choice. Bon-Ami or Bar Keeper’s Favorite, are applied with warm water and a sponge. Get your sponge wet with the cleaner and warm water and then begin to scrub your sink.

Follow the direction of the polished lines to preserve the aesthetic of the material. Here it’s good to know what kind of finish you have.

Some finishes require a vertical motion, while others need you to move in a circular direction. You can read about this in your owner’s manual, or a quick Google search on your sink should do it.

Wear Gloves

If you don’t want your hands to come in contact with a cleaner, wear gloves. If you have sensitive skin or work with harsh chemicals, always protect your hands when cleaning (1).

3. Rinse with Water

Because most cleaners contain some amount of chloride, you must rinse your sink thoroughly after cleaning. Open your tap and get all the soap residue out. Then make sure you wash your hands properly, too.

4. Dry Off

Once all the cleaner is gone, and most of the water has drained, grab a clean towel or cloth and dry off your sink. Any water left will leave visible watermarks once it dissipates, taking away the fresh, clean look of your basin.

How to Remove Rust from Stainless Steel

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • Baking soda.
  • Water.
  • Old toothbrush.
  • Paper towel.
  • Clean cloth.

1. Mix Baking Soda and Water

Combine one tablespoon of baking soda with two cups of water.

2. Apply Mix

Get your old toothbrush and dip it in the solution. Begin to scrub the rust stains. The baking soda will gently lift the rust away from your sink.

3. Rinse and Wipe Off

Rinse your sink with running water. Take a piece of paper towel and apply some water to it. Wipe the spots, and you should see the orange rust on the white paper. Dry off your sink with a clean cloth.

Removing Hard Water Stains from Stainless Steel

Here’s what you need:

  • Pure white vinegar.
  • Clean cloths.

1. Saturate Cloth

Submerge one side of your cloth in pure white vinegar. Despite its acidic make-up, vinegar is mild enough to be used on stainless steel. It works effectively at breaking up scale deposits.

2. Scrub the Stains

Use the dry side of your cloth, or a new dry one, and scrub where you’ve applied the vinegar. Scrub in small, vigorous motions. Re-saturate your towel as needed when encountering stubborn stains.

3. Rinse with Water

Saturate the cloth with warm water, wring it out and wipe your sink down. Continue this until you’ve removed the vinegar. Then grab a dry cloth or towel and dry the surface.

How to Remove Scratches

You’ll need the following:

  • Non-abrasive cleaner or compound — you can use Bar Keeper’s Favorite, Perfect-It Rubbing Compound, a whitening toothpaste.
  • Water.
  • Microfiber cloth.

1. Mix Compound

Most of these cleaners come in a powdered form, so mixing them with water is essential. Create a paste using one tablespoon of powder with a few drops of water — combine it into a soft paste. Aim for a toothpaste-like consistency.

If the cleaner you’re using isn’t a powder, skip this step.

2. Apply to Sink

Get a clean cloth and apply some cleaner or paste. Then work in the same direction as the grain in your sink’s surface. Rub back and forth in the same direction — keep adding more solution until the scratch is gone.

3. Rinse-Off

Wash your cloth with warm water until the solution is gone. Then wring it out until it’s damp and wipe your sink to remove the solution. Take a dry cloth and dry the surface, before examining the scratch.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Sinks Naturally

1. Club Soda

Club soda is an excellent, natural way to clean your sink and restore its shine. All you do is apply the drain stopper and then pour in enough club soda to cover the bottom.

Then grab a soft cloth and scrub your sink. Follow the polish directions. Once you’re happy, drain the soda off, then dry with a new soft cloth to avoid water spots.

2. Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the best and inexpensive cleaning tools you find in the kitchen. It’s just abrasive enough to remove residue and stains without being too harsh to ruin the surface.

Take your baking soda and make a paste by mixing with water. Use, for example, two spoonfuls of baking soda with a few drops of water. Apply the paste to your sink, especially around the crevices of the drain, and let it sit for a minute or two.

Rinse it off using either warm water or white vinegar — the latter is best, as it also disinfects the area. When you add vinegar, it will create fizz, which helps to clean your sink further. Then dry off with a clean cloth or rag.

3. Lemon or Orange Peel

Save the peels from your lemons and oranges and use them on your sink. For minor cleaning, take a peel and rub the surface. Use the skin, as it will deodorize and restore shine.

Methods for Restoring Shine

1. All-Purpose Flour

All-purpose flour is an unexpected but fantastic way of polishing your sink. Add a few tablespoons of flour in your basin and start rubbing it around with a clean cloth. Use a firm hand, but not so much that you’ll break a sweat.

When finished, rinse it out with warm water and dry off with a towel.

2. Olive or Baby Oil

Applying a small amount of either olive or baby oil to your sink can keep it shining. This trick works as a conclusion to all the cleaning methods above.

Add a small amount of your oil to a clean, dry rag or cloth. Then wipe all your sink until you’ve distributed the oil, and your sink glistens.

What to Avoid When Cleaning Stainless Steel

Stainless steel surfaces require care. Here are a few things you should avoid doing when cleaning:

  • Steer away from metal tools: Avoid using wire brushes or steel wool. These can scratch the surface and even embed iron particles, which create rust stains. Instead, use regular sponges.
  • Remove rags and cloths: Don’t leave anything to dry on the sink. Things like soap cleaners, towels, sponges and rags can dull the surface. Worse still, they can harbor bacteria and mold.
  • Rinse regularly: Because of the chloride content in most cleaners, you must rinse your sink frequently.
  • Avoid hard sponges: Use softer, scratch-free sponges like ScotchBrite for cleaning stubborn residue.
  • Remove steel and cast iron cookware: Don’t leave this type of cookware for long periods in your sink. These materials, mixed with water or moisture, can lead to rust and staining.
  • Not a cutting board: Please don’t use your sink as a cutting board. Knives and sharp objects can cause irreversible scratching.

Keep it “Stain-less”

Preserving your beautiful stainless steel sink is vital for sanitary purposes as well as aesthetic reasons. Learning how to clean a stainless steel sink is easy — you have several methods you can use.

However, always keep your sink dry to avert water stains. It also helps to avoid harsh chemicals and keep iron and other cookware out of your sink.

Feedback: Was This Article Helpful?
Thank You For Your Feedback!
Thank You For Your Feedback!
What Did You Like?
What Went Wrong?
Headshot of Sylvia Jones

About the Author

Sylvia Jones

Sylvia Jones is a hands-on, DIY aficionado from Indiana. She is passionate about home improvement, gardening, and environmental conservation. In her spare time, you can find Sylvia getting involved in home improvement projects around the house with her husband, or spending quality time out in the yard.