March 21

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink – Rust and All

Written by: Nadia El-Yaouti


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Of the many material options you can select when shopping for a kitchen sink, a stainless steel sink is one of the most modern and popular options to go with.

They add an air of modernity and sleekness to any kitchen and unlike other materials like enamel, marble, and composite, stainless steel sinks are the perfect combination of quality and affordability. But what exactly is stainless steel and more importantly, how do you keep it clean?

In our guide, we’ll cover some simple cleaning methods that work very effectively at cleaning your stainless steel sink. Don't worry about buying cleaning products, you'll find most of these natural cleaning agents in your pantry. 

What Is a Stainless Steel? 


Before we talk about how to clean your stainless steel sink, let’s take a look at what this material is.

Stainless steel is an alloy meaning it's a combination of materials including iron, carbon, nickel, chromium, manganese, silicon, phosphorus, sulfur, and nitrogen.

While the term stainless steel gives the false illusion that the metal is indestructible, if you don't take care of a stainless steel sink, it can quickly collect rust stains causing it to lose its shine over time. 

The key is preventative maintenance! But for those who are past that point, here are the 2 best methods for cleaning your stainless steal sink. 

Clean your Stainless Steel Sink with Bar Keepers Friend

You can use Bar Keepers Friend as a cleaning compound for your entire sink or use it to spot clean stains that may develop over time. Here's how to clean your stainless steel sink with Bar Keepers Friend:

  1.  Start by covering your sink including the faucet (If you plan to clean it too) with warm water.
  2. Next, sprinkle on Bar Keepers Friend onto your sponge or cleaning rag. Rub the powder into your sink while following the direction of the metal’s grain.
  3. After you have scrubbed for about a minute, wash away the solution using warm water.
  4. If you are using Bar Keepers Friend to clean a stain or to remove residue, you'll need to use a little bit of elbow grease to lift up the grime.  

Clean Your Stainless Steel Sink With Baking Soda and Vinegar

When used together, baking soda and vinegar can be a powerful cleaning agent. Baking soda is mildly abrasive, soft enough that it won't scratch your sink’s surface, and strong enough to help lift away mineral deposits without damaging your stainless sink’s protective layer.

Here's how to clean your sink with baking soda and vinegar:

  1.  Start by spraying water in your sink’s basin, around the faucet, and on all other parts of your stainless steel sink. If there are areas where food or other residue is stuck on, you can use a little bit of dish soap to help work it out beforehand.
  2.  Next, sprinkle baking soda all over your sink. You can sprinkle a bit into your sink’s disposal to help lift away any odors as well.
  3.  Using a soft brush or sponge, rub the baking soda into your sink’s surface. As you rub, go in the direction of the metal’s grain. Rubbing the baking soda will help to fade away any hairline scratches on the surface.
  4.  When rubbing in the baking soda, make sure you do not use abrasive scrubbers like steel wool or steel brushes. If there are hard to reach crevices such as around the faucet and handles, you can use a soft toothbrush to help lift up the grime.
  5.  Once you have done a thorough cleaning of your stainless steel sink with the baking soda, spray over a generous layer of vinegar. The vinegar and baking soda will start to fizz once they come in contact. The fizzing is another layer of cleaning that will help to dissolve away hard water spots, calcium deposits, and limescale build up.
  6. Let the baking soda and vinegar mixture sit for about 15 minutes. If there are stubborn stains, you can make a paste out of the baking soda and vinegar and gently scrub at the stain with your paste.
  7.  After you have let the baking soda and vinegar mixture do it's magic, you can rinse your sink with water.
  8.  Dry your sink using a microfiber rag to get rid of any water spots. For an added boost of shine, you can rub in some olive oil once your sink has completely dried.

How to Remove Rust from Your Stainless Steel Sink

Rust stains can be a nuance on any stainless steel sinks and the best way to deal with rust on your sink is to try and prevent it in the first place. Rust stains occur when there is dissolved iron in a water source.

As the water evaporates, the iron oxidizes and leaves behind this unsightly stain. If you need to remove rust on your stainless steel sink, the quicker you act the better so that you can lift the stain away. Here’s what you do: 

  1.  Make a paste of one part water and one part baking soda.
  2.  Apply the paste onto the rust stain and using a soft brush, work in the direction of the metal’s grain to remove the stain.
  3.  Wash the area with warm water to remove the paste.
  4. If the stain is still there, let the baking soda paste sit for at least thirty minutes before you scrub at it with a soft brush.

Use Club Soda for a Brilliant Sparkle

Club soda works as a great finish for any stainless steel appliance including your stainless steel sink. You can use club soda to polish your sink for a brilliant sparkle. Here’s how to polish your sink using club soda:

  1.  Spray a fair amount of club soda onto your sink
  2.  Use a soft cloth and gently rub the club soda into your sink.
  3.  Follow up by rinsing your sink with warm water and use a soft cloth to dry up the basin.

Prevention is Key

The best way to give your stainless steel a long-lasting life is by routinely giving it a deep cleaning. Light daily maintenance will also protect against unsightly buildup that could lead to damage.

Plus routine cleaning will keep you from needing to use harsh cleaning agents. It’s best to get in the habit of cleaning out your sink at the end of every day so that you don’t have dishes with trapped water lingering in your basin.

Water left in your sink overnight along with dishes and metal pots and pans can result in water rings and rust stains in the morning. 

Nightly cleaning is as simple as using soapy warm water along with a soft pad to clean off the days' collected grime. Once you have cleaned off all the food residue, make sure to rinse your sink and dry it off using a lint free dish rash. Keeping your garbage disposal clean is also a key factor in preventing any unwanted smells. 

Drying your sink will remove any hard water spots. 

Do This to Your Stainless Steel Sink

The best way to keep your stainless steel sink sparkling is by cleaning it routinely. You should always clean and wipe down your sink at the end of every day.

Letting moisture collect and sit with pots and pans made of other metals can create unsightly stains. You should do a deep clean of your sink one every two weeks at the least. Here are some other tips to keep your stainless steel shining:

  • Clean your sink regularly to avoid grime buildup. Be sure to pay attention to crevices around your drain opening, faucet, and handles. 
  • Use soft brushes and cleaning rags when scrubbing your sink.
  • Avoid abrasive chemicals that contain chlorine or chloride as they can corrode the passive layer of your stainless steel sink.
  • Don't forget to always keep your garbage disposal clean for an overall happy sink. 

Avoid DoingThis to Your Stainless Steel Sink

Stainless steel sinks are known for their strength, resiliency, and painless cleaning. Even though they're incredibly versatile and rather easy to maintain, there are still some hard “don'ts” that you should adhere to when trying to maintain your stainless steel. Here is what you should avoid when cleaning a stainless steel sink:

  • Do not use harsh cleaners that contain chloride (including chlorine, fluorine, iodine, etc). These cleaners can strip the protective layer of your stainless steel sink. 
  • Stainless steel scratches up very easily. Because of this, you should absolutely avoid abrasive scrubbers such as steel wool and rough bristle brushes.
  • Do not leave cookware including metal and cast iron cookware in your stink for long periods of time. Doing so will cause rust to accumulate on your sink’s surface. 
  • Leaving other items including rubber dish mats in your sink can cause water to get trapped and cause discoloration. 
  • Do not leave sponges and other cleaning materials to dry in your sink.


There's nothing quite like freshly cleaned stainless steel. Thankfully, with the right preventative maintenance, you can keep it looking sleek all year round.

Leave a note below if you have any questions or comments!




About the author

Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate at James Madison University where she studied English and Education. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and three kids. When she's not exploring new and improved ways of cleaning and organizing the kitchen on a budget, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.

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