How to remove acid stains from stainless steel

Stainless steel has a variety of household and industrial uses. It is produced by melting chromium and steel to produce an alloy or combination of two metals. This combination produces a rust-resistant, sturdy metal with an attractive shine. Although it is durable, there are instances where you end up with acid stains on stainless steel. Read further to learn techniques on how to remove acid stains from stainless steel. 

Steps on how to remove acid stains from stainless steel

Acidic chemicals tend to react to metal and trigger the formation of acid stains. While chemical leaks are likely to occur in industrial situations, there are acid-based household items such as citrus extracts, vinegar, and metal polishes and strippers. Although these are mild than the laboratory chemicals, damage can still occur. Let us take a look at the steps on how to effectively deal with acid stains on stainless steel.

  • Wear protective gloves to avoid skin irritation from the cleaners or chemicals. In case the acid stain is due to a chemical, use a mask. If a food that is acidic is responsible for the stain, a mask is no longer needed.
  • Rinse the site of the acid stain with water. In case the stain is on a vertical surface, a spray bottle is recommended. If the stain is on a flat surface without borders, utilize towels to prevent soiling the floor. 
  • Mix equal amounts of water and baking soda to create a paste. If the stains involve crevices, simply add more water to dilute the paste into a liquid consistency.
  • In case baking soda is not effective or not on hand, soak the site of the stain with ammonia. 
  • Thoroughly flush the stain to remove the cleaner. Wipe with a clean towel or cloth if the surface is vertical. 
  • Allow the clean surface to dry by using a soft cloth to prevent any scratches. 
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How stainless steel resists corrosion

Although the various type of stainless steel grades might vary in terms of metallurgic composition and manufacturing, one trait that is common to them all is the passivation layer. This coating of chromium oxide is formed once the surface comes in contact with  oxygen.

The layer allows the finished texture of the stainless steel to show through as well as providing a variety of aesthetic options from matte to a high gloss. The passivation layer is considered impermeable to water, self-generating and protects the metal. Although it might stain under extreme temperature changes, it continues to endure. Nevertheless, stainless steel can still be vulnerable to corrosion under the suitable circumstances.


Does acid damage stainless steel?

While stainless steel is an alloy of iron and chromium which helps it fight stains, it remains susceptible to staining from some acid-based household cleaners.

Once the acid is spilled on the stainless steel appliance or sink, it is vital to rinse it off right away. When the acid comes in direct contact with stainless steel, a chemical reaction is triggered. The ensuing damage and potential corrosion if left on for some time brought about by this chemical reaction is irreversible. 

At this point, there might already be damage but the acid stains left behind can still be treated and removed. 

How do you fix discolored stainless steel?

Stainless steel is a durable and dependable material that is widely used in appliances, kitchen sinks, and cookware. It is low maintenance but unappealing discoloration can develop occasionally. Several spots can be washed away using mild detergent but some can be stubborn. If these areas of discoloration are scrubbed with an abrasive cleaner or scouring pads, it can result in permanent scratches. Luckily, there are safe methods that you can try if there are signs of discoloration.

  • Add club soda onto a terry cloth and brush the site of the discoloration.
  • Clean the site with a terry cloth that has been saturated in white vinegar. 
  • On a cloth or towel, pour a bleach-free powder cleanser and polisher. Scrub over any stubborn discolored spots until removed. Make sure that you will use a cleaner that is bleach-free since this might cause permanent damage to stainless steel finishes. 
  • Rinse the cleaner away with dishwashing detergent and warm water. 
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Will vinegar corrode stainless steel?

Although most believe that stainless steel can endure long periods without cleaning, the metal requires a regular cleaning regimen. Stainless steel has a higher degree of resistance to exposure than other metals but it can become discolored and even corroded over time, usually once the passivity layer has been compromised. 

It is not advisable to leave stainless steel soaked in solutions that contain vinegar, chlorine or table salt since prolonged exposure can lead to damage to the metal.

Final thoughts

Stainless steel has been a preferred choice due to its wide use in the kitchen and bathroom. Although it is highly durable and can last for a long time, it requires regular care. When it comes to discoloration and acid stains, the techniques discussed on how to remove acid stains from stainless steel will effectively deal with the issue as well as keep the metal clean.

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