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How to clean tarnished stainless steel

Updated February 21, 2017

Despite the name, stainless steel is actually a rust-resistant alloy of iron, chromium and nickel. Stainless steel is prized for its durability, shine and strength. However, if it is exposed to corrosive or oxidising elements for an extended period of time, stainless steel will become discoloured and tarnished, or even rust eventually. While periodic cleaning using a simple glass cleaner is enough to prevent most discolouration, stainless steel that is already rusted or tarnished can be cleaned using a few simple household supplies.

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  1. Wet the cleaning pad, and apply some of the bathroom cleanser to it, then rub vigorously at the site of the rust or tarnish.

  2. Rinse the just-cleaned area with clean water.

  3. Spray the area with the glass cleanser to remove any smaller particles left behind.

  4. Rinse again with water.

  5. Completely dry the surface with a clean cloth.

  6. Apply the metal polish to the surface according to the manufacturer's instructions, for any remaining stains, tarnish or rust.

  7. Rinse and dry completely.

  8. Warning

    Do not use steel wool or metal cleaning pads to scrub stainless steel; it will damage the surface and promote further rust. Do not use any cleaning products with bleach or chlorine on stainless steel; they will damage the surface.

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Things You'll Need

  • Abrasive dish cleaning pad (not steel wool)
  • Powdered bathroom cleanser
  • Commercial spray surface cleanser (glass cleanser)
  • Towel or drying cloth
  • Metal polishing paste

About the Author

After working as an editorial assistant for the University of Chicago Press, Dario Saandvik began writing in 2009. He specializes in gardening, home maintenance and computer software. Saandvik has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Chicago and is in the graduate program for English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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