Stainless steel

Durable, inexpensive and nearly rustproof, stainless steel has been a standard material in kitchen sinks for decades. During the 1990s, panels made of this alloy began appearing on a number of major kitchen appliances as well.

In regions with hard water, stainless steel appliances tend to show streaks readily, and scale builds up in steel sinks. Minerals dissolved in hard water remain after the water evaporates, resulting in streaks and scale. Treating the surfaces with a mild acid — either white vinegar or one of the many commercial products sold as de-scaling agents — will dissolve the mineral deposits and leave a clean surface.

Soak paper towels in white vinegar and place them over scale deposits in the sink. Allow the vinegar to work for about 30 minutes, then remove the towels and scrub the spots with a white nylon dish pad. Flush with water and wipe dry. After the scale is gone, get into the habit of cleaning food residue from the sink surface daily, and then wiping the sink dry each time. Doing so will retard scale buildup and prevent pitting from acids and salts in foods.

Streaks on appliances won’t be as stubborn to remove as sink scale. Wipe diluted white vinegar on any streaks — equal parts water and vinegar will be sufficient — and then wipe the surface dry with a soft cloth.

If you choose a de-scaling product, read label instructions, cautions and warnings carefully before starting. Manufacturers of some commercial preparations urge users to protect skin. Put on latex or rubber gloves if advised to do so, since acids in de-scaling products may be strong enough to dry or burn skin.

Don’t scour stainless steel sink with abrasive pads or cleansers; doing so can scratch the surface permanently. Baking-soda-and-water pastes, or commercial preparations such as Soft Scrub or Bon Ami, are gentle enough for use on stainless steel sinks.

*UMass Lowell/TURI does not certify, endorse, recognize or recommend products.