Bring Back The Shine: How To Clean A Stainless Steel Sink

The kitchen sink is something we use every day. We’re either washing dishes or our hands, rinsing out vases, filling a pot or just getting ourselves a drink. The tasks we do with it are endless.

Since we’re looking at it all the time, day in and day out, it’s easy to miss the fact that things are getting a little dark and dingy.

Look closer at the drain rim, see some darkening stains? Eyeball the sides a little more carefully, you’ll likely notice some dingy buildup.

Here’s how to bring back that shine…it’s easier than you think and no special tools required!

For General Care:

First put in the plug and fill it with hot soapy water, drain. Next choose one of the following methods…

  • Use a soft cloth soaked in some white vinegar and scrub the surface…or…
  • Sprinkle bicarb all over then gently scrub it with a damp sponge

For tougher jobs:

  • Linda Cobb suggests mixing 3 parts cream of tartar with 1 part hydrogen peroxide and then taking a damp cloth, massage the mix into the surface. Let dry then wipe with a cloth.
  • 1 part vinegar, 1 part hot water, 1/2 part baking soda. Scrub mixture into surface with a damp sponge or rag. Rinse well then dry with a rag.
  • I’ve also been told a tip to spray a layer of hot water over the basin to cover, then spray a layer of household ammonia. Cover with a plastic bag (stretched across the top with ends taped down on counter top) and leave overnight. Rinse the ammonia off in the morning then wash with soapy water and dry with a rag.

To make it sparkle:

  • Wash well then rub in baby oil, or olive oil, or windex and buff dry with a soft rag

Good scrubbers:

  • Soft nylon bristle scrubbers or nylon pot scrubbers. Don’t use anything too abrasive that will scratch the stainless steel.

Now that you have it sparkling fresh again, you’ll really notice how it brings the sink area back to life. It looks so much nicer, and Bonus! you didn’t have to buy any new equipment to make it happen :).

The ingredients listed above are all gentle and not too abrasive so they shouldn’t scratch the stainless at all…just don’t overdo the muscle action. Use some pressure, but let the powder/mix do the work for you.

Depending on how much action the basin gets, I would advise adding this to your monthly To-Do list. Why wait until things start looking nasty? Just sprinkle some baking soda around, wipe it down well with a sponge and things are in good shape for another month.

What I also try to do on a regular basis is to pour boiling hot water down the drain (both if you have a duo-sink setup). This will flush out food bits that are still hanging around and if you add some household vinegar and bicarb, it will also freshen up the pipes. If you notice any nasty smells but fluids are emptying just fine, this trick will help with that.

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    • Julia

    after cleaning stainless sink, spray with WD40 and massage it in with paper towel. In addition to a great shine, this makes your next clean up easier too.

      • gef

      great if you want your kitchen to smell like an auto repair shop

        • Sherri

        Instead of wd40, I used furniture polish. The water is beading off. 🙂

    • dave rider

    Would this effect the septic system?

    • Sabrina

    The baking soda, vinegar, water worked awesome and then olive oil for a shine! Thanks 🙂

    • Agnes

    You can get the stainless steel sinks REALLY clean with the “Magic Sponge” by Mr. Clean–the white sponge–dampened with water. My sinks have a “grain” to them, and if you wipe with the grain, then rinse with warm water, then dry with a towel/paper towel—-presto, clean and shiny sinks!!

      • Marlo

      use those sponges for many cleaning jobs. On my stainless sinks since the sponges first came on the market.

    • Barbara

    Just finished cleaning the outside of my stainless steel kettle. After many years of not cleaning the kettle came up beautiful. It was not hard todo either only took me half an hour to do while I was waiting to go out. Now I can see myself in it. Lovely Thank you. I will be using more of your tips for cleaning

    • Dorothy

    First I used the vinegar and baking soda on a sink that had not been cleaned for years (bachelor tenant). All the stains disappeared. So, to get it even more clean, I tried the peroxide and cream of tartar. It wiped off even more grime and left it looking almost new. Tonight, I’m going to use the hot water and ammonia covered with plastic, just to see if it gets even better. Thanks so much for the tips. Now we will not have to replace the sink.

    • Lisa

    I tried the cream of tartar & peroxide on one area of my sink and it seemed to oxidize the finish, a lot of black came off on my rag. It left it looking shiny but every little scratch seemed to be highlighted. So then I tried the baking soda & vinegar and also the magic sponge. Either of these methods would work great except for they do not take off the hard water deposits. I’m going to try something else to take those off and then one of these methods should work for keeping it shiny. Thanks!

      • Jessica

      Hard water deposits: Try soaking a cloth in vinegar and leave sitting on the hard water deposits for an hour or so (overnight if they are super tough). I did this and it worked wonderfully!

        • Kathy

        use The Works toilet bowl cleaner for the hard water deposits, I know it’s sounds crazy but I’ve used it and it does wonders. Just make sure to use gloves when cleaning with it.

    • Kay

    I want to get rid of bacteria and brown discoloration. Not worried about shine.

    • Carole

    have used vinegar for years, awesome for buildup. My Daughter just bought an older house that had lots of build up on faucets and windows so after reading an article to heat up the vinegar I placed a cloth over the faucet and damped it a few times over a l/2 hr period and bingo all of the build up is gone, Much faster. love, love the fact that I am not using chemicals and can’t beat the budget……..

    • Barb

    Need help with tiny brown spots that appear to be rust (brand new sink, just moved in about two weeks ago). Tried windex and magic eraser, but they don’t come out. What next?

    Also, is it best to use those sink liners to keep from getting scratches in the sink? I’ve never had a stainless steel sink before and I’m not sure what I did wrong already.

      • Am

      Cerama bryte for stains
      Lysol toilet bowl cleaner for hard water buildup

        • Betty

        DO NOT use Lysol toilet bowl cleaner on your stainless steel sink! I tried it in skepticism (original blue) and it streaked my sink permanently!

    • Arnie

    Can I use bleach to clean a s/s sink

      • Vickie

      No, don ‘t use bleach. My brother is a welder and he said stainless steel has a type of “finish” on it. It’s not a finish that is applied. It occurs naturally during the process of making stainless steel. He said that over time bleach will remove the finish. Once that finish is gone it can’t be brought back and eventually rust will appear. So,…no bleach on stainless steel.

    • david

    i have a sink and was wondering if damage could be done to finish with bleach on stainless steel.

    • Karen

    I have a SS sink that looks like someone spilled something in it, and it actually made the sink almost a black color. Help!!

    • Irma

    How can I remove stripes of a SS?

    • marlene

    information on the ss sink I have says not to use bleach it will harm the finish

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