Do you have what it takes to deploy effective stainless steel hardware care? Cabinet hardware that consists of stainless steel will dazzle if you know how to maintain it properly. To fully understand stainless steel hardware care, let’s take a closer look at stainless steel and the importance of proper stainless steel kitchen cabinet hardware care and maintenance.
What Is Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is all around us and is used in a variety of appliances, hardware and tools. It includes a group of alloys that contain 10.5 percent chromium, which helps the material fight off oxidization. Unlike iron and other alloys, stainless steel boasts a passive layer on its surface that provides added protection against corrosion. Thus, stainless steel represents an exceedingly versatile and popular option in kitchens of all shapes and sizes.
There are small amounts of carbon, manganese and silicon in stainless steel. Other elements, such as nickel and molybdenum, may be incorporated into different types of stainless steel, as these elements can provide stainless steel with improved corrosion resistance and formability.
Stainless steel commonly is all around us in our kitchens, too. You may notice it as part of your blender, coffeemaker or refrigerator, along with your kitchen cabinets and drawers.
Recent data indicates the demand for stainless steel kitchens is increasing.
Houzz’s 2016 U.S. Kitchen Trends Study revealed the majority of today’s homeowners deploy stainless steel appliances in their kitchens. These appliances will maintain their appearance for an extended period of time and are designed to complement the décor in a traditional or modern kitchen. Therefore, the demand for stainless steel appliances continues to increase, and this trend may continue into the foreseeable future.
As the demand for stainless steel in kitchens rises, it is becoming more important for homeowners to understand how to maintain the appearance of stainless steel.
For homeowners, ensuring stainless steel hardware looks great day after day may help improve the value of a house and reduce the need for replacement hardware at a later date. Homeowners who spend time cleaning and maintaining stainless steel hardware may be able to save both time and money down the line. Thankfully, the process of keeping stainless steel hardware looking shiny and bright can be simple, especially if you understand what can damage its appearance.
What Causes Stainless Steel to Corrode?
On ordinary metals, corrosion may result in rust and long-lasting damage that is impossible to repair. Stainless steel delivers immense strength and versatility, but it can corrode if you fail to care for and maintain it properly.
Unfortunately, like all materials, stainless steel is not immune to corrosion. And if you’re not careful and diligent with your stainless steel kitchen hardware, you may notice corrosion happens sooner rather than later.
One of the most common causes of stainless steel corrosion is “pitting,” which occurs if an environment overwhelms stainless steel’s passive layer. When pitting happens, you may start to notice dark brown pits on the surface. These pits usually are tough to eliminate as well.
Furthermore, there are three common kinds of corrosion you may notice with stainless steel:
- Atmospheric — If stainless steel kitchen hardware is exposed to harmful airborne liquids, solids or gases, atmospheric corrosion may occur. Atmospheric corrosion frequently impacts stainless steel that is located outdoors, particularly in a marine setting.
- Chemical — A material that includes a high chloride concentration or corrosive solution may damage the appearance of stainless steel. Also, chemical corrosion can become more severe based on the chloride concentration level of a material, how frequently stainless steel has been washed, and how long the dangerous chemical has been in contact with stainless steel.
- Contact — Even a small piece of carbon steel, copper or scale can negatively impact the appearance of stainless steel. Contact corrosion results in the destruction of stainless steel’s passive layer, increasing the likelihood that the material’s appearance could be damaged.
If you understand the importance of cleaning stainless steel hardware in your kitchen, then you should have no trouble keeping this hardware looking great.
How Can You Maintain the Appearance of Stainless Steel Hardware?
To clean stainless steel hardware effectively, you’ll first need to be able to identify and address common stainless steel surface contaminants.
The Specialty Steel Industry of North America, or SSINA, notes the most common stainless steel surface contaminants include:
Even the most diligent housekeeper may encounter dirt in the kitchen, and this dirt may damage the appearance of stainless steel if it remains unaddressed. Dirt can contain contaminates that may affect stainless steel in a variety of ways. Although some of these contaminates may be simple to wipe off and remove instantly, others may require you to pick up various household cleaners for proper removal.
In many cases, you many need to test different household cleaners and evaluate their effectiveness in removing dirt from stainless steel hardware. You also may be able to use a combination of warm water with a gentle detergent, which could allow you to break up dirt and eliminate it entirely. Also keep in mind:
- There are many mild, non-scratching abrasive powders that may provide value as well, and these items can be used in conjunction with warm water, clean cloths and sponges for effective dirt removal.
- SSINA recommends adding a small amount of vinegar to a scouring powder for additional support with dirt removal from stainless steel.
- The use of carbon steel brushes should be avoided, as this may result in rusting if these brushes leave particles embedded in the surface of stainless steel hardware.
Of course, don’t forget to rinse any cleaning areas in hot water to finish your dirt clean-up efforts. By doing so, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of water spots on stainless steel surfaces.
- Fingerprints and Stains
If you have stainless steel doorknobs and drawer handles, it makes sense that fingerprints and stains may become noticeable after prolonged use. Fortunately, those who are prepared to deal with fingerprints and stains can dedicate the necessary time and resources to eliminate these eyesores from stainless steel hardware immediately.
Usually, fingerprints and stains are easy to remove. They rarely affect the corrosion resistance of stainless steel and can be minimized with a traditional glass cleaner. Or you can remove fingerprints and stains by utilizing sodium carbonate and water that are applied together with a soft rag. And, as always, you’ll want to finish up your cleaning efforts by rinsing any cleaning areas in hot water.
- Grease and Shop Oil
If you’ve been working on your car and decide to enter your kitchen to grab a break-time snack, you may notice grease and shop oil all over your stainless steel hardware. They can be messy, and you’ll want to clean them up immediately or risk suffering the consequences.
Oftentimes, grease and shop oil can soil the surface of stainless steel hardware and affect surfaces you use to prepare foods, so you’ll want to minimize grease and shop oil marks and stains without delay.
To do so, you can start your cleaning with a combination of detergent and water. If that doesn’t work, however, you’ll need to deploy chemical solvents that are specifically designed for grease and shop oil removal.
The use of non-halgenated solvents may deliver immediate results for grease and shop oil removal, and some of the most common non-halgenated solvents you can deploy include:
- Ethyl Alcohol
- Isopropyl Alcohol
Keep in mind that many solvents are sold as individual cleaners and blended or compound cleaners. Each cleaner is different, and you should read the label carefully to ensure any cleaner you purchase is safe for use with cleaning stainless steel hardware. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to contact the manufacturer for more information.
What Are the Most Common Types of Cleaners and Methods for Stainless Steel Hardware Care?
When it comes to cleaning stainless steel hardware, you’ll want to do everything possible to avoid scratches and post-cleaning corrosion. Scratches may occur if you use abrasive cleaners. On the other hand, if you utilize a soft abrasive cleaner, such as a pumice stone, you may be able to avoid scratches that otherwise could permanently damage your stainless steel hardware.
In the event scratches do happen, you may be able to eliminate them or reduce their appearance by using whitening toothpaste or another light abrasive cleaner. This tactic is ideal to minimize the appearance of light scratches.
A piece of fine-grit sandpaper may serve you well if you need to remove scratches from stainless steel hardware. If you use sandpaper, be sure not to push too hard, as this may do more harm than good and actually cause scratches rather than eliminate them.
For effective stainless steel hardware care, frequent cleaning is a great idea. Using a simple combination of a soft cloth and warm water empowers you to break up dirt and debris on your stainless steel surfaces. And when you’re done, be sure to rinse each stainless steel surface with clean water and dry it with a clean cloth to maximize your results.
Organic Solvents and Common Household Cleaners
Organic solvents also may prove to be valuable options for those who require deep cleaning of stainless steel hardware. You’ll need to apply the solvent on an affected stainless steel surface, i.e., a surface that is dirty and cannot be cleaned using a soft cloth and warm water. Then you’ll need to wipe surface with a clean cloth, which may leave a streaked surface.
Using household cleaners such as detergents and abrasive cleaners remains an option for the care of stainless steel hardware. Both detergents and abrasive cleaners may deliver results, but you’ll need to pay extra attention if you decide to utilize abrasive cleaners.
As SSINA points out about abrasive cleaners, the abrasiveness of a cleaner will vary depending on the product. This means you’ll need to check the acidity and chloride levels of any abrasive cleaner that you use. And even if you utilize a product that states “for stainless steel,” there are no guarantees this product is safe for use on your particular kitchen’s stainless steel hardware.
Lastly, there are numerous commercial cleaners that are formed from alkalis, phosphates and synthetic detergents. Like abrasive cleaners, the performance of a commercial cleaner may vary depending on the cleaner’s strengths. To find out whether a particular cleaner is right for your kitchen’s stainless steel hardware, you can contact the manufacturer for recommendations and instructions.
What Are the Best Ways to Take Care of Stainless Steel Hardware?
Maintaining the appearance of your kitchen’s stainless steel hardware may seem like a time-consuming, costly chore. But if you spend a few minutes each day keeping your stainless steel hardware clean, you may be able to avoid long-lasting damage.
To take care of it, here are five tips that you need to know:
- Use Clean Cloths Without Exception. If you use a greasy or oily rag as part of your stainless steel hardware cleaning efforts, you may find the appearance of your stainless steel hardware will worsen dramatically in a short period of time. Instead, utilize a clean cloth at all times, without exception.
- Avoid Chloride-Containing Detergents. If you use chloride-containing detergents, the risk increases that there may be long-term damage to the stainless steel surfaces in your kitchen. Comparatively, you can eliminate this problem if you avoid chloride-containing detergents.
- Wear Cleaning Gloves. Want to reduce the chance of fingerprints or stains from appearing on your kitchen’s stainless steel surfaces? Pick up a pair of cleaning gloves, and you’ll be able to clean to your heart’s delight without having to worry about adding fingerprints or stains on your stainless steel hardware.
- Perform Routine Cleaning. The 2015 National Association of Home Builder’s Remodeling Market Index (RMI) survey ranked kitchen remodeling (79 percent) second among the most common remodeling jobs done in 2015. For those who perform standard cleaning of stainless steel hardware in the kitchen, however, there may be no need to remodel. Performing routine cleaning ensures your stainless steel hardware will dazzle consistently, and it may even reduce the need for an expensive kitchen remodeling project down the line.
- Rinse Thoroughly With Water After Cleaning. What good is cleaning your kitchen’s stainless steel hardware if you don’t rinse it down with water afterward? Be sure to rinse your stainless steel surfaces thoroughly with water after cleaning, and you’ll be able to keep these surfaces looking great for years to come.
Let Cliffside Help You Keep Your Insurance Shiny and Looking Good
With the right amount of time and resources, you’ll be able to improve the appearance of your kitchen’s stainless steel hardware. And if you ever need extra support along the way, you can always rely on the team at Cliffside Industries for guidance.
At Cliffside, we have a simple mission — to serve the hardware needs of consumers through our business customers in the kitchen and bath industry with excellent service and ageless, elegant products crafted from high-quality materials. As part of this mission, we supply a wide range of top-notch cabinet hardware in many finishes and styles.
Take another step toward transforming your kitchen into a warm, inviting setting. Contact us today to learn how we can help you personalize your kitchen.