Stainless steel maintenance and cleaning

How do you maintain and clean stainless steel?

You have a beautiful work of art of stainless steel placed. How are you going to maintain it now? Stainless steel is stainless and very smooth, isn’t it? Then maintenance and cleaning are not necessary?

Usually that is also the case! In most cases, you hardly or do not need to maintain stainless steel. Especially if an image is free in the garden or on a terrace. But although stainless steel is indeed difficult rust and very slippery, in some cases it needs to be cleaned occasionally. Like all other objects outside, dust descends on it, the wind blows dirt on it and birds sometimes defecate on it. Maintenance and cleaning is then occasionally necessary; especially if you want it to keep looking like new.

Stainless steel doesn’t rust, does it?

Although stainless steel requires little maintenance compared to other materials, it is not completely maintenance-free. The most common idea about stainless steel that stainless steel could not rust is not quite right. If stainless steel is cleaned with the wrong means, rust can occur. This can happen when stainless steel comes into contact with chlorine or with ordinary rusting iron. Fortunately, you can usually prevent this yourself and it is not very common in practice.

Fly rust and tea stains

Fly rust is something else. Small rust speckles that appear on the stainless steel usually come from the outside; iron particles that are in the air and deposit on the stainless steel. When someone with a grinding toll near cuts through a piece of iron, tiny iron particles fly into the air. Even a train that runs over rails produces very fine iron dust. The dust ends up on the stainless steel monument and with a little moisture in the air it begins to rust; brown speckles as a result. Sometimes pollution in the air creates a kind of brown stains on the stainless steel, which is also called tea stains.

Stainless steel skin

A nice feature of stainless steel is that the skin has a restorative capacity and has an invisible protective layer that grows close again after a damage with some time. As a result, stainless steel remains beautiful for years under normal conditions. The stainless steel artwork that Jeroen Stok supplies is always clean and free of rust particles and dust. The skin surface is closed again after sanding. In principle, therefore, not much happens to it under normal circumstances.

However, over time, weather influences can cause stains and discolorations. Regular cleaning and maintenance prevents this.

1 How do I clean stainless steel?

Although there are plenty of means and stainless steel cleaners, regular soapy water with a mild detergent in combination with a soft sponge or cloth is often enough. Rinse with sufficient (preferably demineralized) water. Then rub dry with a soft cloth. Do not use scouring pads or abrasives as they may cause scratches. For the same reason, you should never wipe away sand and dirt with a dry cloth or sweeper. First, rinse the contamination with excess water. After that, the aforementioned soapy water can come in handy. If that is not enough, try a standard stainless steel cleaner of 3M. If there are stubborn stains on the funerary monument, try using a thick, soft and liquid detergent. Make sure that you never use cleaning products that have bleach or chlorine in them. Bleach, steel wool, silver polish, and chlorine-based cleaning products are disastrous for the stainless steel tomb monument.

2 A white or grey haze on the stainless steel?

Probably that is limescale of (rain) water. With cleaning vinegar, try to keep the stains wet. The lime dissolves in vinegar. Rinse with abundantly demineralized water.

3 Remove fly rust on stainless steel

To remove fly rust you need a special agent. We use the drug Rustbuster from ranex. This agent is based on an acid and cleans strongly contaminated stainless steel (with air rust) well. Available in small and large packages. Lubricate with a brush, keep wet and wait for the rust to disappear; rinse with abundantly demineralized water. Is environmentally friendly, but it does affect stone. So avoid contact with granite, marble or hard stone.

Make sure you spare your texts engraved with Ranex! Lasered and etched texts can become less readable.

4 Cleaning heavily contaminated stainless steel

Stainless steel that has not been maintained for a long time can use a refurbishment. You can recognize poorly maintained stainless steel by green, brownish-yellow and/or dark spots. To clean this, we also use Rustbuster. There are also plenty of other cleaners that we have no experience with ourselves.

Make sure you spare your texts engraved with Ranex! Lasered and etched texts can become less readable.

5 Remove scratches on sanded or matt stainless steel

If superficial scratches have arisen over time, you will usually hardly see them with brushed or scrawny stainless steel. If it is disturbing, the stainless steel in which the scratches are located will have to be sanded again. Often sanding with ScotchBrite is sufficient.

6 In the right direction

Please note: if you are going to sand, do so with the grinding direction and not at right angles to it. If you did, you’d get dull places that you can hardly get rid of. Again, never use steel wool on stainless steel, nor do you use scratches.

Deep scratches must be mechanically eliminated. This is rather specialist work and you’d better leave it to the professional.

7 Remove scratches on polished stainless steel (mirror)

On polished stainless steel, almost all scratches are extra visible, and almost always disturbing. Getting rid of it must be done mechanically with polishing paste. Leave it to the professional!

List of chemicals that stainless steel 316 really can’t stand

  • Aluminium fluoride – aqueous solution
  • Aniline hydrochloride – aqueous solution (* acid-resistant FKM compound)
  • Antimony chloride – aqueous solution (* acid-resistant FKM compound)
  • Borofluoric acid
  • Bromine hydrogen – water
  • Caro’s acid – aqueous solution
  • Chlorine (gas) – Wet (chlorinated water)
  • Chloric acid – aqueous solution
  • Ferrous / iron chloride – aqueous solution
  • Hydrochloric acid (borofluoric acid)
  • Chlorinated water (chlorine gas – wet)
  • King’s water
  • Copper chloride – aqueous solution
  • Trichloroacetic acid – aqueous solution
  • Hydrogen peroxide 30% (* acid-resistant FKM compound)
  • Hydrochloric acid – aqueous solution

Jeroen Stok

Jeroen Stok is a stainless steel artist and makes special and unique stainless steel works of art on commission

Non-binding advice

We are happy to advise you on a personal work of art or sculpture. Feel free to contact us for an introduction.

Jeroen Stok
Moselle Street 72
8226LB Lelystad
06-49 351 338