How to Remove Surface Rust From Polished Stainless Steel

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Avoid surface rust on polished stainless steel by regularly checking and cleaning.
Avoid surface rust on polished stainless steel by regularly checking and cleaning. (Image: stainless steel objects image by Avesun from Fotolia.com)

Removing surface rust from stainless steel is important to ensure that deep pitting and irreversible corrosion do not happen. Thankfully, it is relatively easy to remove surface rust if you catch it early on. Household appliances that routinely come into contact with water, such as kettles, juicers, percolators or food processors are more at risk of surface rust; outdoor items like barbecue grills are also susceptible and should be checked for rust development. Check polished stainless steel items regularly for rust to ensure you spot surface rust before it becomes a serious problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Glass cleaner
  • Non-abrasive scourer
  • Paper towel
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Stainless steel rust remover
  • Water

Spray glass cleaner onto the surface rust and work at the rust stain with the non-abrasive scourer. Always go with the grain of the polish, otherwise you will mar the surface of the stainless steel.

Wipe off with a dry paper towel and inspect the stain. If some still remains, mix a small amount of one part baking soda to two parts white vinegar and apply to the surface rust. Leave for five minutes then scrub with the non-abrasive scourer, with the grain of the polish. Wipe off excess with a paper towel and inspect the rust.

Apply stainless steel rust remover if the surface rust is still not dissipating. Do not use an all-purpose rust remover as these contain elements such as hydrochloric acid which damage the stainless steel. Use per the manufacturers instructions—these products are generally only needed on tougher rust stains, as other methods will remove light surface rusting.

Wash off with water. Spray on glass cleaner again and wash the entire polished stainless steel surface, removing any grease, grime or fingerprints. Polish dry with paper towel and leave in the open air. Leaving stainless steel in the air, free from grease and dirt helps it to redevelop its protective chromium oxide film which stops it developing rust in the first place.

Tips & Warnings

  • A routine check and clean of the stainless steel product is recommended to prevent rust reforming.
  • Do let chloride-containing products, such as chlorine bleach, most soaps and detergents reside on the surface of polished stainless steel as these will almost definitely cause surface rust to appear. Always rinse with water and buff dry with a clean paper towel or dish towel.

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