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How to Get Rust Off Stainless Steel (and Stop it From Coming Back!)

Stainless steel kitchenware and home appliances such as knives, pans, and refrigerators give your home a very good look. However, the term “stainless steel” isn’t exactly the most succinct of descriptions for these appliances.

Stainless steel is predominantly steel, and steel does rust if not properly taken care of in the long run. Have you ever wondered how to get the rust off stainless steel? Read on for practical tips as well as how to keep rust from coming back to your beloved appliances.

Why Does Rust Occur?

The simple explanation is that when the chromium in stainless steel is exposed to oxygen found in the atmosphere, it forms a very thin layer of chromium oxide. It is this invisible layer, which covers the entire surface of the stainless steel appliance, which gives it its ability to resist rust and stains.

However, should this layer get damaged, as it so often does due to poor cleaning methods, then rust will form at the point of the damage. The best news is that, with just a little care, the chromium oxide can heal itself and make your appliance rust-resistant again.

How to Remove Rust from Stainless Steel

There are several methods through which you can effectively remove rust from your stainless steel appliances and utensil. Here are a few practical options:

Method 1: Use Baking Soda

For this method, you are going to need:

Here is what you do:

  • Rinse the surface area of the appliance or utensil: Use the soft cloth to thoroughly rinse the entire surface of the particular utensil or appliance in question. The idea here is to dampen the entire area that is showing rust. As soon as it is damp enough, sprinkle a layer of your baking soda over its entirety. Be sure to have a healthy coat on the entire rusted area.
  • Let it sit: Once you have covered the entire area, let the baking soda sit on the surface for at least an hour.
  • Scrub with your soft bristle brush: After the hour (or more) has elapsed, it’s time to start scrubbing using the soft bristle brush. If you don’t have a brush handy, you can simply use an old toothbrush. Scrub the entire surface thoroughly.
  • Rinse with clean water: Once you have ensured that the entire surface has been thoroughly scrubbed, rinse it off with clean water to see how well you have done and dry it off with paper towels.

This method almost always works, but it might not prove as effective when it comes to rustier appliances and utensils. In that case, you need to use something a little bit stronger.

Method 2: Use Vinegar to Remove Rust on Stainless Steel

For this method, you are going to need:

This is one of the most effective methods to remove stainless steel:

  • Rinse the surface with water: Spray the infected surface with clean water and make sure to wipe it clean with a cloth.
  • Mix white distilled vinegar with water: Using a ratio of 1:1, mix the white distilled vinegar with water and spray that mixture all over the rust infected surface.
  • Let the mixture sit: Once you have sprayed the sticky vinegar mixture all over the infected surface, let it sit for a few minutes (5-10 minutes), so it properly soaks into the metal.
  • Use the scouring pad to scrub the surface: With the scouring pad, lightly scrub the surface of the utensil or appliance along the grain to remove the rust without creating any more scratches. 

Once all the rust is gone, wash the surface with soap and water then completely dry with paper towels.

Worst Rust Removal Practices

There is a very good reason why both these rust removal methods include the use of soft bristle brushes, soft clothes, and paper towels. That is because certain practices won’t work when it comes to learning how to remove rust from stainless steel. One of those includes the use of steel wool and steel brushes.

You also want to stay away from cleaners that have chlorine, bromine, fluorine, or iodine in them. Anything that falls under the chloride family is not good for rust removal. This is because all these items tend to be abrasive and will work towards further scratching and marring the “stainless” surface, thus making the utensils and appliances even more susceptible to rust corrosion.

How to Keep Stainless Steel from Rusting

While these cleaning methods are effective enough, it is often best to prevent the rust from occurring in the first place as opposed to trying to get it off once it has formed. Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to keep stainless steel from rusting:

  • Don’t wash using abrasive materials: One of the reasons why rust forms on stainless steel is because the thin layer of chromium chloride that is supposed to protect the utensil or appliance from rusting is scratched. Washing your stainless steel cookware with abrasive materials such as steel wool or cleaners that fall under the chloride family will further exacerbate this situation. The best approach is to use mild soap and soft bristle brushes or clothes.
  • Don’t let them air dry: For the most part, people tend to let their utensils air dry as a way to save themselves the extra work that comes with drying them using a cloth or paper towel. The prolonged exposure to water droplets encourages the formation of rust on your utensils. The best approach here is to use a paper towel or a soft cloth to dry off your utensils immediately after washing them and before putting them away.

All you have to do is a little maintenance to ensure that your stainless steel utensils and appliances don’t form rust. However, if they do, the above-outlaid methods will help you learn how to get the rust off stainless steel as well as how to keep it off!

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