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How To Clean Stainless Steel Sink Stains

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Imagine the irony – your stainless steel sink has stains. If your sink is made from stainless steel, it should mean it can’t corrode, rust, or, well, stain. But with improper care and overly aggressive cleaning products or steel wool, your sink can go from stainless steel to stained steel in a blink of an eye.

Wash the sink thoroughly with dishwashing soap and hot water to clean stainless steel sink stains. After a good wash, treat the stubborn stains with a baking soda and dishwashing soap mix. In the end, add a few drops of essential oil or olive oil to a soft cloth and wipe down the sink to return it to full shine.

Tips how to clean a stainless steel kitchen sink.

Sometimes, hard water stains can leave water spots and calcium deposits that need extra attention but can be easily removed from a stainless sink with regular cleaning.

Using rubber mats in stainless steel sinks is not a good idea as they can lead to rust or scratching.

In this article, I’ll give a step-by-step guide to cleaning your stainless steel sink and removing stubborn stains that refuse to budge. This cleaning process will apply to many other stainless steel appliances.

Get more cleaning tips for the home here.

Thoroughly Wash the Sink With Hot Water and Dish Soap

Before addressing the stains on your stainless steel sink, remove all the cooking and eating utensils and wash the kitchen sink. Be sure to remove any stuck-on food from the sink’s surface.

The best way to do this is to use dishwashing soap, warm water, and a soft microfiber cloth. I recommend this MR.SIGA Microfiber Cleaning Cloth from Amazon. 

This 85% polyester and 15% nylon ultra-soft and scratch-free cloth are highly absorbent and non-abrasive. It can clean with or without water and take care of dust, fingerprint stains, and grease. It is versatile and long-lasting and comes in a pack of twelve.

A paper towel is tempting, but it could scratch stainless steel kitchen sinks. Other options for best results are a soft sponge (non-abrasive sponge) or clean cloth (lint-free cloth is best).

Scrubbing the entire surface of the sink well with dishwashing soap and rinsing it with hot water will take care of the accumulated grease and food residues in it.

Ensure the soap doesn’t contain chlorine since chlorine can damage the stainless steel surface

Never use steel wool because the leftover steel particles can lead to corrosion and rust stains when combined with water from the sink.

Clean the Stains With the Mix of Dish Soap and Baking Soda

Don’t fret over the stains that the soapy water mixture, dishwashing liquid, and hot water couldn’t remove. 

Although you can buy specialized products for removing stains from stainless steel, like this Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner – plant-based stainless steel stain cleaner and polish from Amazon, perhaps you just prefer to try home remedies with natural ingredients and a bit of elbow grease. 

Try this DIY simple and cheap stain-removing mix – half a cup of baking soda with a few tablespoons of chlorine-free dishwashing liquid. Use a microfiber cloth or old toothbrush to rub the mixture on the stain. 

A sprinkle of a thin layer of baking soda can be very effective! Once the stain is gone, rinse the stainless steel sink thoroughly and dry it off.

Baking soda paste used to clean stainless steel kitchen sink.

You can also steam out the stain – boil some water, place a cloth over it, and pour hot water. Let the cloth sit for a few minutes for the steam to do its thing. Then remove the cloth and wipe the sink down for extra shine.

  1. Clean the Limescale Stains With Vinegar

If there are still stains remaining, they are probably limescale stains. The best product for removing limescale is something you already have in your home – the king of cleaning – vinegar

Vinegar is the perfect choice for removing limescale because the acid breaks down the calcium carbonate molecules, thus removing it entirely.

Boil some white vinegar, pour the undiluted vinegar on the stain and let it sit a while. Then rinse the sink and wipe it dry. If the stains are on your sink faucet, use this trick: soak a cloth in vinegar and wrap it around the faucet. Leave it for a few hours and wipe the surface after removing it.

You can also do the same using a plastic bag and vinegar, and here is a video from YouTube that shows you how:

This technique will also remove any limescale buildup inside your faucet and the aerator. 

Keep a bottle of vinegar and water spray handy to clean any minor water spots.

Always Clean Along the Grain

Did you know that stainless steel has grain, much like wood? 

To ensure all the micro dirt is removed, always rub along the grain when removing stains or grease. If you don’t, you will have difficulty removing the stains and dirt from your stainless steel sink, and you can even scratch it. 

Scratches on stainless steel sink from scrubbing against the grain with abrasive cleaners.

Determine the direction of the grain by rubbing a cloth in a vertical and horizontal direction. If the cloth glides effortlessly, you are rubbing along the direction of the stainless steel grain. 

If you feel some resistance, you are rubbing against the grain.

RELATED: How to Clean Granite Countertops

Buff Sink With Olive Oil To Make Your Sink Shiny Again

After you have cleaned the stains from your stainless steel sink, it’s time to give it some TLC. 

Shine your sink with a few drops of essential oil (the lemon oil you use to polish wood and surface clean around the house will work best) and a soft microfiber cloth. If you don’t have essential oils, use a few drops of olive oil – the effect will be the same – rub along the grain and wipe off excess oil when finished.

To remove the ugly fingerprints left from using the sink or to prevent them from forming in the future, use a kit like this Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner Kit from Amazon.

It will shine your sink, remove any leftover fingerprints, and creates a barrier resistant to fingerprints, dust, dirt, and smudges. 

Or use rubbing alcohol to remove the oily deposit created by your fingers touching the sink.

Remember to wipe the sink drain, stopper, and around the garbage disposal, too.

Other Effective Cleaning Agents for Stainless Steel

If you are looking for additional natural cleaning agents for your sink, give these a try:

  • Club soda is effective in adding a nice sparkle to a sink
  • Lemon juice can help freshen the sink
  • One cup of vinegar mixed with 1/4 cup of cream of tartar can make a good cleaning paste for stainless steel sinks

Things to Avoid

Avoid cleaning your sink with chlorine bleach, steel wool pads, oven cleaner, or abrasive brushes.

Do not leave a cast iron skillet in a sink to dry as moisture in the sink could lead to surface rust.

Avoid keeping dish mats and wet sponges in the sink.


Removing stains from your stainless steel sink starts with a thorough wash, including removing any food particles. 

When removing stains from the surface of your sink, it is essential to determine what caused them – for grease stains, dishwashing detergent is best, for limescale stains, vinegar, and for all others, baking soda and dishwashing detergent mix.

After removing the stains, polish your stainless steel – a few drops of oil will bring back the sparkle it had when you bought it.

However, the best way to keep the surface of the stainless steel sink in good shape is to clean it after using it: wipe the sink down after every use, and you won’t have to battle stains, do some regular maintenance every week.

The good news is daily cleaning of the kitchen sink only takes a few minutes to stay in top shape.

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