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How To Repair Stainless Steel Etched by Acid Cleaners


Stainless SteelAnyone who's cleaned tile, grout, or stone floors using an acid base cleaner has learned to be extremely careful when using these products in the vicinity of stainless steel and aluminum surfaces.

First and foremost is to protect surrounding surfaces that you're not cleaning! This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Plastic sheeting secured with painters tape is a good way to cover many surfaces. Drop cloths incorporating an absorbent top surface backed by plastic are another option.

Mix and pour your cleaning product outside the area and then put it in a sprayer. This reduces possible damage caused by splashing chemicals.


Move Quickly When a Splash or Spill Occurs

If an acid solution does get splashed onto a sensitive metal surface, what should you do?


As quickly as possible wipe it off, rinse with water or an alkaline solution, for example Simple Blue will help neutralize the acid. Quick action can often prevent an etch that could be permanent. Although less likely, very caustic (high pH) cleaners can also damage metal. In that situation, rinse with plenty of water and a mild acid, similar to Lav Glo, most phosphoric acid cleaners will NOT attack stainless steel.

Although acids can corrode many metals, stainless steel seems to be the most problematic. Why is this? Corrosion is very visible on highly polished stainless steel surfaces. There is a great deal of stainless steel present in commercial and residential kitchens.

There are over 200 grades of stainless steel. Only a few are used for residential appliances and there will be variations in how the surface reacts to acid base cleaners.

Most stainless steel used for kitchen appliances is grade 304. This means that in addition to low carbon steel, there is 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Stainless steel with less chromium or nickel will corrode even quicker resulting in greater damage from acidic cleaning solutions.

Correcting Damage If the surface has been damaged, there are several options to correct it. A very simple solution may sometimes work. Grab a white utility pad (similar to a Scotch Brite pad) or similar. Work with the grain, never against it.

More often than not you'll need to be more aggressive. The next step up is Tango Paste, this is a thick, viscous paste with a mild abrasive. Follow the directions on the container.

Scratch-B-Gone is a stainless steel polishing product sold online and at some appliance stores. A home-owner kit and a professional kit are available. The home-owner kit will do the job unless you anticipate repairing stainless frequently. The process is not complicated, but you may feel more comfortable with a little training and practice before you use it on your client’s appliances. However, the results on heavy damage can be a life-saver.

The Best Insurance Available

Want to save yourself from the potential cost and aggravation of damaged appliances? Enzi Brite Tile & Grout Cleaner contains NO acid. This enzyme base cleaner is one of the safest products available and it WORKS. It will not typically etch or corrode most metal surfaces, including stainless steel. It is still wise to mask off all surfaces which could inadvertently come in contact with the cleaner, especially metal and baseboards. Enzi Brite is non-fuming—a real benefit over acid cleaners, especially when cleaning in enclosed areas.