Stainless steel is found everywhere. At a commercial, industrial and domestic level. Kitchen implements, room decorations, bathroom accessories and railings are examples of products made with this material. But while it is true that it is a very attractive and corrosion-resistant metal (due to its shiny surface, durability, etc.), regular cleaning is essential for the shine to be maintained and the material to have a longer useful life.
One of the most common mistakes that many people make with this material is to skip any cleaning activity because the name says that it is stainless. It is an understandable mistake, since from the outset they associate this characteristic with a perfect resistance to corrosion. But starting today, you’ll put that idea aside and learn everything you need to know to clean and lengthen the overall strength of this material.
In this post, we are going to explain to you how to carry out the task of maintaining and cleaning stainless steel correctly and without errors. Now, before we get started, let’s talk a bit about stainless steel:
Stainless steel is a type of metallic material that is obtained from the combination of steel with materials such as chrome, nickel or zinc, among others. If you want to know more about stainless steel, in this post we break down the characteristics and properties of this material in greater detail. For the moment, let’s focus on how its corrosion resistance works.
Due to the chemical composition that characterizes them, a thin, stable and resistant protection film is generated on the surface of stainless steels. This layer of chromium oxide appears as a consequence of the reaction of ambient oxygen with the chromium of the metal alloy. This passive surface, although resistant to corrosion generated by the environment, can be affected by the conditions it faces.
It is common for stainless steel to suffer from contact with some acids that generate oxidation by intergranular mechanisms or general pitting. It is for these reasons that it’s necessary to carry out actions for the correct cleaning of stainless steel.
As the stainless steel surface is damaged, the chromium oxide film repairs itself by the reaction mentioned above. For this reason, it doesn’t need any type of extra coating or protection against corrosion, but it does need certain cleaning and care actions. Next, we are going to break down the necessary actions to apply a correct maintenance work:
The first thing you should keep in mind is that, except in cases where stainless steel is subjected to extreme environments, generally the only thing you will notice on it is the loss of shine. We say this because your products may only require a small cleaning task to recover their shine and you don’t need to do intensive maintenance.
In case you already have stainless steel products that have lost their shine due to lack of maintenance, we recommend you first: do not waste any more time and clean them. Once clean, make sure to take care of them and write down the date for periodic maintenance. We repeat, if your products are not subjected to extreme environments, you can do an annual stainless steel cleaning and you will have no problem.
Now, before getting into the matter and talking about tips for cleaning stainless steel, if you have stainless steel products and haven’t installed them yet, we advise you to take care of them in the following way:
Follow these tips for the care of your stainless steel products and you will not have any problem with their aesthetics at the time of installation:
– Keep stainless steel in its packaging until use. Remember that leaving stainless steel exposed in construction environments or remodeling areas increases the chances for the shiny surfaces to be affected.
– Store stainless steel indoors and in dry places. In the event that they contain protective film; do not expose them to direct sunlight.
– Avoid contact of stainless steel with carbon steel elements. There are big differences between these two types of steel on a chemical level. But what makes their being together problematic is that carbon steels corrode more easily in the presence of oxygen. This corrosion, in contact with the protective layer of stainless steel, serves as an accelerator for its wear.
– Reduce exposure to dust and chemical fumes. This in case you work with stainless steel at a commercial or product manufacturing level.
– Limit contact with construction materials, such as cement, glue, paint, among others. If you work installing stainless steel products, avoid delivering your products with stains or patches of dirt that diminish their shine.
– Cover the work table with felt, paper, plastic, playwood, or other. This is essential to avoid contact of stainless steel with any material that could scratch its surface or stain it.
– Always wear gloves for use and handling. You must pay attention to the type of gloves, to avoid handling stainless steel with abrasive fabrics or fibers that scratch the shiny surface.
Now, since you already know how to take care and protect your stainless steel products, let’s see the tips for the maintenance and cleaning of stainless steel:
Stainless steel surfaces require regular maintenance like all surfaces of materials used in products of any kind. The classic formula for cleaning stainless steel and just about any material had to top our list of tips. The mixture of warm water and detergent soap is the ideal option and is available in any house. Use mild and neutral detergents.
You may be wondering, why warm water? Well, that has an explanation that we give you here. Warm water and even hot water below 100°c is ideal for all types of surface cleaning. This is because at that temperature, bacteria and germs do not survive. Besides, when we use detergent soaps, they dissolve faster and the mixture is more homogeneous. Of course, hot water represents a risk for the skin of the person who cleans, that is why with warm water a better cleaning task is guaranteed without risk of burns of any kind.
It is important to use neutral soap. The cleaning of stainless steel has a limitation: Removing surface dirt without affecting the protective layer of the material. For this reason, you should avoid using strong or alkaline detergents, which can compromise the surface integrity that gives stainless steel its corrosion resistance.
The variety of products that can affect the protective layer of stainless steel is extensive. Before giving you a list of products YOU SHOULD NOT USE, we prefer to save you some time and give you the list of products you can use (apart from neutral soaps). Stainless steel cleaners containing phosphoric acid, ammonia-based strippers diluted in warm water applied with a soft (non-abrasive) cloth or sponge are also recommended. It is recommended to rinse with plenty of water and dry well with a soft cloth to avoid stains.
An important point during drying is the type of cloth or cloth you use for this task. Be very careful with cloths or rags that act as surface roughing elements. We recommend microfiber cloths. This type of product is ideal for absorbing dirt and leaving the surface shiny and intact.
Choosing the weather and the day for cleaning stainless steel is super important and we are going to explain why.
When it is very hot and there are no clouds in the sky, the evaporation of water speeds up. This affects even soapy mixtures. Therefore, cleaning just when it is sunny is inconvenient because you will have to be super fast in your task. If you’re not careful, evaporation will carry away the water and leave soap stains on the surface of the stainless steel.
Otherwise, when it rains, the precipitation from the sky is responsible for rinsing the soapy water and spoiling the cleaning task. Whether it is heavy or light rain, it interferes and we waste time and the soap used.
For these reasons, we recommend cleaning stainless steel on cloudy days, where the water will not evaporate quickly and the rain will not rinse away the soapy mixture ahead of time.
In works where you have stainless steel products installed nearby and you are working with elements such as gypsum, cement, stucco, iron, paint, among others, you must take all the necessary measures and precautions during the cleaning of stainless steel. In case the stainless steel gets dirty with these elements, you can clean the cement or mortar splashes without problems. You can remove these stains with solutions containing phosphoric acid, and then clean with plenty of deionized water and dry with a soft cloth. You should never use mortar remover, diluted hydrochloric or muriatic acid near stainless steel.
ProtectaClear is a solvent-based protectant that protects metals within 3-4 years in any environment. It is a thin protective layer that contains resins that are highly resistant to salts and chlorides. This allows the reduction of maintenance and cleaning time, repels dirt, water, mold, algae and therefore reduces rust stains. Additionally, it reduces fingerprints and stains on brightly polished metals, does not crack, crack or flake when properly applied, does not discolor or stain due to exposure to the elements. It is a suitable product for the maintenance of stainless steel.
Here we explain how to prepare the surfaces in case you decide to use ProtectaClear for cleaning stainless steel:
Before applying ProtectaClear for the maintenance and cleaning of stainless steel, you must clean the surfaces very well. If it is an old material with rust, the substrate must be completely clean and free of rust, wax, silicones, grease, etc., to then polish the surfaces.
InoxClean rust cleaner is recommended to remove rust stains and passivate the surface. Acids should then be neutralized with baking soda or calcium carbonate diluted in water (1 large cup mixed in 1 gallon of water) and thoroughly cleaned of residue, rinsed with water, and dried.
After cleaning, apply a layer of xylene or denatured alcohol on the surface and with a cloth ensure that the surface is clean and free of grease, silicone or oils, ready for coating. Do not use thinner, lacquer, or isopropyl alcohol or glass cleaners, as they leave a film of impurities that will prevent the coating from adhering properly.
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