How to Acid Clean Stainless Steel

Acid will cause severe damage to the eyes if not flushed immediately.
Acid will cause severe damage to the eyes if not flushed immediately. (Image: tinted black swimming goggles image by Steve Johnson from <a href=''></a>)

Powerful nitric and hydrofluoric acids work in combination to strip away residue from a stainless steel surface. Corrosion, oxidization, residual grease buildup and heat scale discoloration from welding ruins the look of stainless steel. Harsh acids must be handled, applied and disposed of carefully to avoid injury or damage to nearby equipment. Restore the look of a well-used stainless steel surface by letting the acids do all the hard work in about an hour.

Things You'll Need

  • Eye protection
  • Rubber gloves
  • Pickling paste (nitric and hydrofluoric acid)
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Acid neutralizing paste
  • pH test strips

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Protect your eyes and hands by putting on goggles and thick rubber gloves.

Spread a thin layer of the pickling paste onto the surface of the stainless steel with a damp sponge and allow it to rest for an hour.

Wipe the surface of the stainless steel clean with the damp sponge. Rinse the sponge in a bucket of water to quarantine the strong acid.

Coat the cleaned stainless steel with acid neutralizing paste and add some to the bucket of water until it tests at around 7 or 8 pH.

Rinse the sponge in the neutralized water and clean away the acid neutralizing paste from the stainless steel surface. Dump the bucket of water down the drain and rinse the bucket thoroughly.


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