We tried cleaning methods for stainless steel sinks – the best left mine gleaming

Stainless steel sinks are a popular choice for many kitchens due to their sleek, modern look, durability, and resistance to stains and corrosion. However, even the best stainless steel sinks can develop stubborn spots, streaks, and stains over time with regular use. Finding the right cleaning method to leave your stainless steel sink looking shiny and new can be a trial and error process. Here’s a detailed look at the cleaning methods I tried on my stainless steel sink, with pros, cons, and results of each method.

Why Choose Stainless Steel Sinks

Before diving into the various cleaning methods, let’s first look at why stainless steel makes for such a great sink material in the first place:

  • Durability: Stainless steel is highly durable and resistant to dents, cracks, and scratches compared to materials like ceramic or enamel. Quality stainless steel sinks can last for decades.
  • Stain Resistance: The smooth, non-porous surface of stainless steel prevents stains from setting in and makes cleaning much easier. Food and liquids won’t soak in like they would with more porous sink materials.
  • Heat Resistance: You don’t have to worry about hot pots and pans damaging a stainless steel sink. It can withstand high temperatures that would crack or discolor other sink types.
  • Noise Reduction: Stainless steel sinks are notably quieter than ceramic or enamel sinks, with less echo and clanging from dishes and utensils.
  • Hygienic: The non-porous surface leaves no grooves or cracks for germs and bacteria to hide. Stainless steel provides a hygienic, food-safe workspace.
  • Affordability: Stainless steel sinks are available at many price points to suit any kitchen remodeling budget, from value-priced designs to high-end styles.
  • Variety of Styles: You can find stainless steel kitchen sinks in almost any size, shape, depth, and configuration to match your exact needs.

With the right cleaning and care, a quality stainless steel sink should maintain its original shine and appearance for many years of reliable service.

Common Causes of Stains and Spots

Before we get to the best cleaning methods, it’s helpful to understand what causes stainless steel sinks to develop stains and spots in the first place. Here are some of the most common culprits:

  • Water Spots and Mineral Deposits: Due to minerals and impurities in water. As water evaporates, it leaves behind a trace of minerals that build up over time.
  • Oil and Grease Stains: Cooking oils and grease from food preparation can cling to the surface of stainless steel if not cleaned regularly.
  • Rust Stains: If the sink’s chrome finish gets scratched, iron particles can oxidize and leave behind rust spots and stains.
  • Food Stains: Spices, coffee, tea, vinegars, and other pigmented foods/drinks can stain the sink if left to sit.
  • Cleaning Chemical Stains: Harsh cleaners like bleach or drain cleaners can react with stainless steel, causing stains and corrosion.
  • Hard Water Stains: Water high in minerals like calcium and magnesium carbonate leaves white scale buildup on sinks.
  • Soap Scum: Soap and shampoo residues can form stubborn sticky films that attract dirt.

Regular cleaning and quickly rinsing food/liquid spills can help prevent many of these staining issues and keep your sink looking like new. But over time, some stains are inevitable. Let’s look at the cleaning methods that worked best to tackle them.

Cleaning Methods I Tried

I experimented with a wide variety of DIY cleaning solutions, commercial cleaners, tools, and techniques to compare their effectiveness on my stained stainless steel kitchen sink. Here’s an overview of the methods tested:

Baking Soda and Dish Soap Paste

  • Process: Mix baking soda and dish soap into a spreadable paste. Apply and scrub with a sponge or cloth. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Pros: Very effective at removing grease; gentle abrasion lifts stains
  • Cons: Can leave soapy residue; need to rinse very thoroughly

Vinegar and Dish Soap Solution

  • Process: Mix equal parts vinegar and dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray and let sit 5 minutes. Scrub and rinse.
  • Pros: Helpful for hard water spots; safe for septic systems
  • Cons: Strong vinegar odor; not as effective for oil/grease

Commercial Sink Cleaner Spray

  • Process: Spray cleaner directly onto sink according to label directions. Let soak then scrub and rinse.
  • Pros: Convenient; specifically designed for sink cleaning
  • Cons: Can be harsh on skin; must rinse thoroughly

Magic Eraser

  • Process: Dampen melamine foam pad. Rub directly onto stains with light pressure. Rinse.
  • Pros: Easy to target specific stains; no chemicals needed
  • Cons: Can leave melamine residue; wears out quickly

Baking Soda Sprinkle

  • Process: Sprinkle baking soda generously over sink. Scrub with damp sponge or cloth. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Pros: Non-abrasive; helps deodorize sink
  • Cons: Not as effective on tough stains; needs a lot of elbow grease

Lime Juice and Salt Paste

  • Process: Mix equal parts lime juice and salt into a paste. Apply, let sit 10 minutes, scrub and rinse.
  • Pros: Citric acid removes hard water deposits; salt is a gentle abrasive
  • Cons: Leaves salty residue; stains could return quickly

I tried each of these methods multiple times in different areas of my sink to gauge their stain-fighting powers. Next, I’ll share the results of my cleaning experiments and the winner that left my sink gleaming.

My Cleaning Results and Overall Winner

After plenty of scrubbing, soaking, spraying, and scouring, one cleaning method proved far superior on my stainless steel sink’s stains. Here’s how each method performed:

Baking Soda and Dish Soap Paste

This paste made quick work of baked-on oil and grease stains. The mild abrasion of the baking soda, plus the degreasing action of the dish soap, had my sink looking brand new after the first treatment. I was able to easily scrub off sticky residues that other cleaners struggled with.

For heavy oil and grease stains, the baking soda/dish soap paste is hands-down the winner. My only complaint is needing to rinse very thoroughly to eliminate soapy residue.

Vinegar and Dish Soap Solution

I had high hopes for this solution since vinegar can dissolve mineral deposits and dish soap helps cut grease. While it did an okay job minimizing water spots and surface grime, it didn’t fully remove set-in stains. The stains looked faded but still remained slightly visible.

Vinegar and dish soap makes an excellent maintenance cleaner for regular use, but it can’t tackle really stubborn stains on its own. The smell of vinegar also lingers quite a while after cleaning.

Commercial Sink Cleaner Spray

I tested a few name brand sink cleaning sprays designed specifically for stainless steel. They definitely helped reduce mineral spots and surface stains faster than other methods. However, they weren’t powerful enough to totally remove set-in stains without extensive scrubbing.

These cleaners are very convenient, but you have to use caution not to spray near food prep areas. The chemical fumes are unpleasant. For light surface cleaning, they get the job done quickly. But for deep stains, it takes a lot of effort.

Magic Eraser

This popular melamine foam worked well on very small surface stains. By rubbing lightly, I was able to lift residue from coffee drips and food grease splatters. But Magic Erasers weren’t durable enough to erase stains from the entire sink. The foam pads wore out fast.

Magic Erasers make an excellent touch-up tool for tiny spots. But for cleaning a heavily stained entire sink, they just aren’t practical. The eraser residue they leave behind is also a nuisance.

Baking Soda Sprinkle

This was by far the gentlest method, with zero harsh scrubbing or chemicals. However, baking soda alone could only lightly fade – not completely remove – the toughest stains. With lots of repeated applications, it may work over time. But it’s not ideal for fast stain removal.

If you want an eco-friendly, non-abrasive option, a baking soda sprinkle does minimize stains and odors a bit. But be prepared for plenty of elbow grease to finish the job. It takes multiple treatments.

Lime Juice and Salt Paste

I had high expectations for this paste, since lime juice contains citric acid that cuts through mineral deposits. While it did impressively dissolve and minimize water spots, it barely budged oil and grease stains. The salt provided only light scrubbing power.

If hard water stains are your main issue, definitely give lime juice and salt a try. But don’t expect miracles with greasy, sticky messes. Be sure to rinse very well to prevent salt residue.

And the Winner Is…

After all my sink cleaning trials, the baking soda and dish soap paste emerged as the undisputed champion on my stainless steel sink’s stains. While other methods had benefits, this combination delivered outstanding stain-fighting power with minimal effort. Just a quick scrub with the paste lifted even stubborn, baked-on grease and residues that I thought were permanent stains.

For super fast, effective stain removal on stainless steel sinks, a baking soda and dish soap paste is my new go-to cleaning method. I just have to be diligent about rinsing thoroughly afterwards. With this regular maintenance, my sink now stays shiny and like new.

Of course, results may vary depending on your sink material and type of stains present. But I highly recommend giving this simple paste a try after seeing how well it rejuvenated my stainless steel sink. A little baking soda and dish soap can work wonders!

Tips for Preventing Stains in Stainless Steel Sinks

Now that I’ve solved my staining issues, here are some handy tips I’ve picked up for preventing new stains from forming and keeping that gleaming look:

  • Rinse food and liquids off promptly after use. Don’t let anything sit.
  • Clean the sink regularly before stains have a chance to set in.
  • Use a soap-filled scouring pad to scrub daily. This prevents residue buildup.
  • Avoid harsh cleaners like bleach that can damage the protective finish.
  • Dry the sink fully with a soft cloth after each use to prevent water spots.
  • For hard water, consider installing a water softener to reduce mineral deposits.
  • Use a protective sink grid to cushion dishes and avoid scratches that could lead to rust.
  • Seal any scratches immediately with clear polish to prevent rust stains.
  • Install a sink filter to catch food particles and reduce stains over time.

With consistent care and the right cleaning process, your stainless steel sink can maintain its original beauty and last for many years of service. Avoid abrasives and follow these tips to prevent stains in the first place.

Commonly Asked Questions About Cleaning Stainless Steel Sinks

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about keeping stainless steel sinks sparkling clean:

What is the safest product for cleaning stainless steel sinks regularly?

For routine cleaning, a mix of dish soap and warm water is generally safest. Dish soap contains mild detergents that lift grease and bacteria. Just use a soft sponge or microfiber cloth when scrubbing to avoid scratches.

How can I remove rust stains from my stainless steel sink?

For superficial rust spots, use a rust removal solution made for stainless steel. For heavier rust stains, try gently scrubbing with a baking soda paste. Prevent future rust by immediately sealing any scratches with polish.

What should I avoid using to clean a stainless steel sink?

Avoid abrasive cleansers, steel wool pads, and chlorine bleach, which can damage the protective surface layer over time. Acidic products like vinegar should also be used sparingly, since prolonged use can corrode stainless steel.

How do I clean hard water stains from a stainless steel sink?

For hard water deposits, use a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. Let it soak for 15 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. A paste of lemon juice and baking soda also helps dissolve mineral buildup.

Why does my stainless steel sink get spotty and cloudy?

Spots and cloudiness are usually caused by hard water minerals and soap/grease residues. For occasional deep cleaning, use a stainless steel polish or a baking soda paste to remove buildup and restore shine.

How do I make stainless steel sinks shine?

For extra shine, dry the sink well after cleaning, then apply a thin coat of food-grade mineral oil (like butcher block oil) using a soft cloth. Buff to remove excess. The oil fills in micro-scratches and enhances luster.


If your stainless steel sink has seen better days, don’t despair. With the right cleaning solutions and techniques, that sink can look factory-fresh again in no time. For best results on stubborn stains, try making a simple paste with baking soda and dish soap. Maintain the gleam by promptly rinsing after use, avoiding abrasives, and sealing scratches early. With proper care, your stainless steel sink should withstand heavy use for many years while staying beautiful.