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How to Clean Stainless Steel Flatware

February 5, 2020

Have you ever opened your silverware drawer and discovered that your stainless steel silverware wasn’t so…. stain-less? You are not alone! Despite its name, stainless steel is still vulnerable to water and rust stains.

The quality and care of your stainless steel flatware plays a major part in how well it is protected against corrosion. While stainless steel is created to be stain resistant, it isn’t fully stain-proof. Luckily, there’s a way to fix it. Here’s how to clean stainless steel flatware:

What Is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is an iron alloy that is mixed with chromium, carbon, nickel, silicon, molybdenum, and aluminum. Chromium is the element that is added that makes the alloy rust-resistant when it is exposed to water. Problems arise when residual moisture or other materials block the layer of chrome oxide from regenerating.

The addition of nickel improves the durability of stainless steel. It also increases stainless steel’s corrosion resistance at high temperatures (think dishwashers).

How Does the Stainless Steel Grade Affect My Flatware?

how to clean stainless steel flatware - image 1We know what you’re thinking: “Thanks for the lesson in metal sciences, but what does that have to do with my rusty silverware?”

That is a fair question. The answer is that the exact blend of these elements is what determines the quality of the stainless steel and its susceptibility to rust. Understanding the grades of stainless steel will help you to choose the best silverware for your home or business. 

Webstaurant Store provides a great overview of the types and grades of stainless steel used in the food industry. It includes a section on flatware quality that is worth reading before you purchase your next set of silverware.

How to Clean Rust from Silverware

It’s likely that knives are your biggest challenge when it comes to corrosion. Knives are more prone to rust because they include less nickel and more carbon, which is what makes the blade harder and more durable. 

The tips and crevices of serrated edges are typically where you will see rust spots start because they are harder to coat. Be very careful when cleaning knives. This Kitchn article provides great tips for safely cleaning knives.

Bar Keepers Friend Powdered Cleanser and liquid Soft Cleanser are both excellent products to use to clean rust from silverware. The oxalic acid breaks down and removes rust stains.

Follow the directions below to remove rust from your flatware and get your silverware back to sparkling:

  1. Working over the sink, wet silverware where rust is present.
  2. Sprinkle or squirt Bar Keepers Friend cleanser onto a wet dishcloth or non-abrasive sponge. 
  3. Scrub rust stains to remove them. Do not leave BKF on silverware for longer than one minute.
  4. Rinse and repeat the application as necessary to remove rust.
  5. Once rust is gone, rinse silverware in warm water to fully remove BKF cleanser.
  6. Dry silverware immediately with a soft cloth or dish towel. Do not let silverware air dry.

What Causes Silverware to Rust?

Knowing what causes silverware to rust is half the battle in keeping corrosion in check. We have listed some things that cause rust on silverware. If you have other conditions for concern, let us know. We’d love to share them with our readers.

  • Leaving dried food on the surface of the silverware;
  • Letting water sit on the surface of silverware (dishwasher dry cycle or air drying);
  • Contact with other types of metal or steel;
  • Collisions with something hard;
  • Poor quality silverware;
  • Using cleaning products containing chloride (bleach);
  • Using dishwashing detergents that contain citrus or bleach;
  • Water or acid from wooden handles attached to the flatware leeching onto the stainless steel;
  • Using steel wool, wire brushes, or other abrasive cleaning products on the stainless steel surface;
  • Prolonged exposure to acidic foods (tomatoes or vinegar); and
  • Hard water; and
  • Soaking silverware in water.

Wanna know to how clean different stainless steel appliances? Download this helpful guide now!


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