How to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink

Stainless steel sink with cleaning materials on kitchen counter

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Stainless steel sinks are the most popular type of sink thanks to its affordability and durability. Long used in commercial kitchens for sinks and countertops, the steel contains chromium that provides the corrosion-resistance and nickel that adds the brightness pure steel lacks.

Residential stainless steel sinks are offered in a variety of styles and the lightweight quality of the material makes deeper, larger bowls easier to manage than ceramic or cast iron sinks. The material also has a bit of "give" and absorbs shock to prevent chipping of glass and dinnerware when hand washing. Stainless steel sinks are unaffected by most household chemicals, will not rust, and can be recycled into other metal items.

Stainless steel sinks have many qualities that make it a good sink option, but the minerals from hard water and improper cleaning can leave the sink with spots and streaks. Luckily, just a few items from your pantry and a little time can leave your sink with the same shine you want on your stainless steel appliances.

How Often to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink

Kitchen sinks should be cleaned after each time they are used for food preparation to remove any bacteria and food particles that may linger on the surface. With regular daily cleaning, a deeper clean should only be needed about once a week. Laundry room and outdoor sinks should also be cleaned regularly.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Non-abrasive sponge
  • 1 Soft-bristled scrub brush
  • 2 Microfiber cloths
  • 1 Spray bottle

Materials

  • 1 Dishwashing liquid
  • 1 Baking soda
  • 1 Distilled white vinegar
  • 1 Cream of tartar
  • 1 Olive oil

Instructions

Materials and tools to clean a stainless steel sink

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Daily Cleaning

  1. Rinse Well

    After preparing food, rinsing, or washing dishes, rinse down the sink well with hot water. Use the faucet's spray attachment or fill a cup with hot water to move all the food bits and dishwashing residue to the sink drain.

    If you have an in-sink garbage disposal, turn it on during the rinsing process to make sure that the drain does not become clogged.

    Kitchen sink running water over stainless steel sink

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  2. Do a Quick Clean

    Place a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid on a damp non-abrasive sponge or dishcloth. Use the soapy sponge to clean away stubborn bits of stuck-on food. If the sink is an under-the-counter installation, be sure to wipe under the rim of the counter to remove splattered bits. Rinse the sink surfaces one more time.

    Dishwashing liquid and white sponge quickly cleaning stainless steel sink

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  3. Dry With a Microfiber Cloth

    One way to keep the sink looking shiny and to prevent water spots from minerals is to dry the sink thoroughly after each cleaning. Use a microfiber cloth because it is lint-free, absorbs water well, and dries quickly.

    Yellow microfiber cloth drying off stainless steel sink

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Weekly Deeper Cleaning

  1. Rinse Well

    Using the faucet's spray arm or a cup and hot water, start at the top of the sink and rinse away any residue on the sides and bottom of the sink. To clean the faucet, dampen the fixture with a cloth.

    Kitchen sink running water over stainless steel sink

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  2. Coat With Baking Soda

    Sprinkle dry baking soda on every surface including the faucet area. It should stick easily to damp surfaces. Baking soda is a gentle abrasive that will help remove stuck-on food and cut through greasy residue. It also acts as an odor remover to freshen the sink's drain.

    Baking soda coating stainless steel sink to remove stuck food

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

    Tip

    Use a flour shaker or empty grated cheese container to make distributing the baking soda easier.

  3. Scrub the Sink

    Use a non-abrasive sponge or soft-bristled scrub brush to clean the sink in the direction of the metal grain. Brushed stainless steel sinks have faint lines or "grain" due to the manufacturing process. Always follow those lines to prevent additional scratches.

    An old toothbrush works great for areas around the faucet or the sink's edges. Don't forget to clean in the drain opening. Do not rinse just yet!

    Soft-bristled brush scrubbing stainless steel sink with baking soda

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

    Warning

    Never use wire-bristled brushes, steel wool, or any type of abrasive scrubbing pad. The metal utensils can leave particles behind that can rust.

  4. Spray With Vinegar and Rinse

    After scrubbing with baking soda, spray the sink with distilled white vinegar (apple cider vinegar can also be used). You'll begin to see some foaming action as the baking soda and vinegar react, so don't worry. The acidity of the vinegar will help cut through mineral deposits that cause spots and streaks.

    When the fizzing stops, rinse the sink and faucet area well with warm or hot water.

    Distilled white vinegar sprayed on stainless steel sink to but through mineral deposits

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  5. Dry and Check for Stains

    Use a microfiber cloth to completely dry the sink and faucet. If stubborn stains remain like discoloration from water or food or rust from a utensil, they should be treated immediately.

    Yellow microfiber cloth drying stainless steel sink

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  6. Treat Tough Stains

    To remove rust and other stains, create a paste of one-fourth cup cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) and one cup of distilled white vinegar. Cream of tartar can be found in the baking section of the market and is used as a leavening agent and stabilizer. Cover the stained area with the paste and rub it in with a sponge. Allow the paste to work for at least five minutes and then rinse it away. Repeat if needed.

    Cream of tartar and white distilled vinegar poured in scooping bowl to mix

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  7. Buff to a Shine

    Once the sink is clean and dry, put a few drops of olive or coconut oil on a microfiber cloth and buff the sink and fixtures. The oil will make the stainless steel shine!

    Yellow microfiber cloth buffing sink faucet with coconut oil

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman