While primarily made of iron, stainless steel objects resist rusting and discoloration because they contain 12 to 20 percent chromium. In addition, most stainless steel contains 10 percent or more nickel, although you can get nickel-free stainless steel. When first produced, stainless steel objects are naturally a dull grey color. Polishing them produces a more eye-pleasing shine. Polishing stainless steel requires a two-step process using two different polishing cloths and both an abrasive emery buffing compound and a green jeweler's rouge.
Things You'll Need
Buffing wheel or brush
Sisal buffing cloth
Black emery buffing compound
Tightly sewn buffing cloth
Sand any clearcoat or paint finish off the part with a sander. First remove as much material as possible by washing or other non-abrasive methods such as cleaning in solvent. Use a criss-cross sanding method to reduce visible scratching. Rinse any abrasive materials away after sanding and dry the part.
Place the sisal cloth on the buffing wheel and run the wheel dry for one minute. Once the wheel stops moving, cut away any unruly fibers with scissors.
Turn the buffing wheel on and apply a small amount of black emery buffing compound directly to the wheel. Press the stainless steel object into the buffing wheel, holding firmly. Use moderate pressure with the sisal wheel because it will scratch the surface.
Turn off the wheel and change to the tightly sewn buffing cloth. Apply a small amount of green jeweler's rouge to the buffing wheel.
Continue to approach the wheel in the direction that it is spinning, but move the object against the direction of the wheel movement once the stainless steel part is in contact with the buffing wheel to smooth down any scratches. Start with the largest areas of the object, then move to the smaller detail areas.
Change the direction you move the stainless steel object to move with the wheel's spin, once you smooth the scratches out, to produce a high gloss. Continue to add small amounts of green rouge, as needed, while you buff.
Pre-heating the parts to 150 degrees F will reduce the amount of buffing compound that ends up on the part.
Wear eye protection when using electric tools. Use cotton gloves, dust masks and aprons while grinding. Secure loose hair and clothing when using grinders. Always press the object into the wheel in the same direction that the wheel is turning, not against the spin.