How to prevent rust on stainless steel sinks (2023)

Stainless steel is nothing short of a magical product of modern technology, but most of us don't know what gives stainless steel its magic and why steel is "stainless". Unfortunately, this lack of knowledge leads us to make a wrong purchase and face the consequences.

Are you wondering what could be the possible consequences of a bad purchase or careless treatment of our stainless steel sinks?

The simple and easy answer to this is "rust".

Let's dig a little deeper to understand rust and how to avoid it.

The science behind the oxidation process?

To prevent oxidation, it is first important to understand the cause and chemical history of this process.

Simply put, rust is an oxidized layer or coating formed by a reaction between oxygen and moisture. Oxygen is a very active element that likes to chemically react with other parts. When the steam hits the surface of the steel, the oxygen in that moisture reacts with the steel, causing rust to form. This largely explains that oxidation is a natural process.

The main and most basic method of stopping this process is to avoid direct contact between the steel and the water. This can be done by galvanizing, painting or powder coating the surface of the metal. This prevents oxygen from sticking directly to the surface of the metal and bringing it into contact with the outer layer.

But wait, we're talking about stainless steel sinks here. You might be wondering how a stainless steel sink can rust when it's supposed to be stain resistant.

Why does stainless steel sink rust?

To get a clear answer to this, here is a brief introduction.

What is stainless steel?

Steel is a metal alloy whose main component is iron and other elements such as carbon, silicon, phosphorus, sulfur and oxygen complete the rest of its composition.

Ordinary steel is now much more susceptible to corrosion and other effects that can degrade the quality of the metal. To avoid this, metallurgists experimented and created that better, more innovative version of steel that we now know as stainless steel.

Difference between stainless steel sinks and common steel sinks:

The only component that differentiates stainless steel from average standard steel is chromium. Therefore, about 20-30 chromium is added to the metal alloy. Additionally, small amounts of nickel and manganese are added in some examples to increase the strength and durability of this metal alloy.

How does chrome work?

Chromium reacts with oxygen to form chromium oxide. Chromium oxide forms a layer on the steel surface and prevents direct contact with iron and water, preventing the formation of iron oxide, i.e. rust. Another magical property of the chromium oxide coating is that it regenerates automatically, so even if you somehow damage it, you don't have to worry.

Types of Rust on a Stainless Steel Sink?

Another important thing to know about stainless steel sink rust is the location of the rust spot. This is extremely important as the location can indicate the cause of the rust.

Let's take a closer look and understand what causes these two types of stainless steel sinks to rust.

Stainless steel grid inside:

The rust that occurs on the innermost parts of your stainless steel sink, such as cracks, crevices, etc., is due to the harsh chemicals you may be using to clean the surface of your stainless steel sink.

The common mistake people make is using the same cleaner for countertops and sinks. These cleaners often have bleach as the main ingredient, which can be very aggressive on the stainless steel surface.

We always advise against the use of cleaning products that contain bleach, even near the stainless steel sink, as these products will come into direct contact with the stainless steel. They can trigger oxidation. Instead, you can use the DIYs mentioned below to save your stainless steel sinks.

Rust at the bottom:

If you see rust on the underside of your stainless steel sink, it's time to check what's in the cabinet under your sink. People often use this cabinet to store many household chemicals, chemical containers or cleaning products, such as bleach, acid, salt, caustic, toilet bowl cleaner, drain cleaner or hard water stain remover. not only that, worse still, we sometimes store open containers in these cupboards.

Chemical fumes from these containers can destroy the protective coating on the sink surface. So to avoid those rust stains, you have to be careful what you keep in that closet.

How can rust damage stainless steel sinks?

Rust can sometimes be deadly for your stainless steel sink. This rust looks unsightly and destroys the visual aesthetic of your stainless steel sink, but it can also gradually weaken and corrode the sink surface.

Sometimes, if there is only rust on the surface, it can be easily washed off with a simple DIY. However, if you leave your sink unattended for months and don't use a rust treatment, you could see a worn, weak, unsightly sink in no time.

Regular maintenance is undoubtedly crucial for your sink.

How can I protect stainless steel sinks from rust stains?

Here are some tips to keep your stainless steel sinks from rusting.

Rust only occurs when a surface is exposed to moisture. Be sure to dry the sink with a clean cloth every time you use it.

Don't leave wet items, cast-iron cookware, and other items in the sink, including cans left hours after dinner or lunch. Cast iron pots and pans are your stainless steel sink's worst enemies.

Do not use steel wool, steel brushes, scouring pads or abrasive pads. Instead, use a soft-bristled brush, a damp paper towel, a nylon sponge, non-scratch cleaning pads, and a soft cloth to remove rust and clean a rusty sink. Abrasive pads have enough abrasive power to damage the surface of your stainless steel sink compared to soft bristle brushes and nail brushes.

If you have mild OCD and can't resist the harsh chemicals in your kitchen, we recommend using rubber dish pads. With its water and chemical resistant nature, rubber protects your stainless steel sink from rust. So leave the rubber mats in the sink and use whatever you like to clean your kitchen counters.

Methods to Remove Rust Stains?

Now the question remains, how to remove rust from stainless steel?

The simple answer to this question is to use traditional DIY methods to remove rust from stainless steel rather than modern cleaning methods.

What is the benefit of DIY rust stain removal methods?

Rust stains caused by chemicals, moisture and other wet objects can be removed quickly without removing metal particles from stainless steel fittings. It may help if the affected area covers a large part or only a small part of the stainless steel sink.

Here is a list of some ways to remove rust stains without using abrasive methods.

Baking Soda Paste:

The use of baking soda paste is not uncommon in our homes. With its ultra cleaning capabilities and very mild abrasive nature, you can rest assured and comfort that your sink is in good hands.

All you have to do is take a tablespoon of baking soda and mix it with two glasses of water. Mix well and apply the paste on the target area. Let it act for a while and then wash and dry with a paper towel. This handy baking soda paste is affordable, stainless steel compatible, and easy to use.

You can also remove rust by generously sprinkling baking soda onto the target surface. Could you let it rest and then clean it up?

Baking soda can work wonders when it comes to treating rust stains.

oxalic acid:

A good oxalic acid can save you if you've ever left cast iron pans in a wet sink and woke up to rust taking over your dishes as you walk over your once beautiful stainless steel sink.

All you have to do is use an oxalic acid cleanser. It could be the bartender's good old friend or potato skins. Yes! You understood us well. If you want a smoother, more organic alternative to bartenders' mate, here you go, use the pretty potato skins.

Potato skins are an excellent source of oxalic acid, rub a skin on the sink surface and scrub until the rust stain starts to disappear completely. Once you're done, rinse with warm water.


If you've tried all of the above methods and the stain persists, don't worry. We are protecting you. Take a soft cloth, soak it in warm water, pour in some white vinegar and gently rub the surface where the stain appears.

This is another effective and valid method to remove rust from stainless steel. This method is a little more concentrated but gentler than using Bar Keepers Friend. You can add a drop or two of lemon juice to the cloth for better results. This can be effective for removing thick liquids such as elbow grease and lighter liquids such as oil stains from the sink surface.

cream of tartar:

Cream of tartar is another less abrasive, acidic but gentle rust remover. Just take a tablespoon of cream of tartar, rub it well on the target area and leave it on for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse with warm water and dry the surface with a paper towel.

Final thoughts:

Stainless steel is a boon when it comes to materials used to make sinks. This material can add brightness to the corner of the kitchen where the sink is located, but only if it is properly cared for.

Left unattended and carelessly handled, the same beautiful sink can ruin the whole theme of your kitchen. So take some time and pay attention to those little details and necessities your kitchen sink is crying out for.

Trust us when we say that effort and care will pay off in the durable, glamorous sink you'll get over time.

Publication date: 06.04.2022
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