How to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink Without Scratching It

Learn how to clean a stainless steel sink from hard water and all other stains. Three effective methods for making your stainless steel sink look new again.

Stainless steel sinks are popular, and rightfully so — they are durable, aesthetically appealing, and easy to maintain. However, over time, they can develop hard water stains, mineral deposits, and other types of grime that diminish their appearance.

To keep it looking like new, it’s important to know how to clean your stainless steel sink without scratching it. 

In this article, we explore three different cost-effective methods to clean a stainless steel sink and keep it looking its best. Gather your supplies, and let’s get to it!

What you’ll need

  • White vinegar
  • Hot or warm water
  • Baking soda
  • Soft-bristled brush or soft sponge
  • Clean cloth
  • Olive oil (optional)

How to clean a stainless steel sink (hard water stains and more)

One of the best ways to clean a stainless steel sink is with baking soda and vinegar. First, rinse the sink with hot water to remove any dirt. Sprinkle baking soda on the sink, then pour vinegar on it. Scrub gently with a brush, rinse, and dry with a clean cloth. Polish with olive oil for added shine.

Below, we give detailed instructions for this method, plus two other Homeaglow-cleaner approved methods. 

Method 1: Baking soda and vinegar

Follow these steps to clean your stainless steel sink with baking soda and vinegar. 

Remove debris and rinse the sink

Start by removing any food particles or debris in your sink and give it a thorough rinse with hot water. This will help to loosen up any dirt or grime, making the cleaning process more effective.

Sprinkle baking soda on the sink

Grab some baking soda and sprinkle it liberally over the surface of your sink. Baking soda works wonders as a gentle abrasive that can effectively remove any type of stain and grime without scratching your sink surface. Plus, it's a natural deodorizer that helps eliminate any unwanted odors.

Add vinegar

Pour vinegar over the baking soda to create a fizzy reaction that helps to loosen up dirt and grime, making it easier to clean.

Scrub with a soft-bristled brush

Use a soft-bristled brush or sponge to scrub the sink thoroughly. Pay extra attention to areas with hard water stains or other types of stains, and be sure to scrub in circular motions to avoid creating scratches on the sink surface.

Rinse and dry the sink

Rinse your sink thoroughly with hot water to remove any leftover baking soda and vinegar residue. This will prevent any discoloration or staining. Then grab a clean, dry cloth and wipe down your sink to remove any excess water and prevent water spots and streaks from the surface of your sink.

Buff the sink with olive oil (optional)

Put a few drops of olive oil on a clean, dry cloth and gently buff the sink in a circular motion. This will restore the shine and help protect it from future stains and scratches by creating a barrier that repels water and grime.


Method 2: Lemon or lime, plus salt

Here’s how to clean your stainless steel sink with lemon or lime. The natural acidity of the citrus fruit will help to dissolve stains and mineral deposits, while the salt acts as an abrasive to remove stains and grime. 

  • Gather supplies: You will need one or two fresh lemons or limes, a soft sponge or cloth, and table salt.
  • Rinse sink: Rinse the sink with warm water to remove any loose debris.
  • Sprinkle salt: Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the surface of the sink. 
  • Slice citrus: Slice your lemon or lime in half. 
  • Rub citrus on the sink: Take one-half of the lemon or lime and rub it all over the sink. 
  • Let sit: Leave the salt and citrus juice to sit for a few minutes so the acid can complete working its magic on any stubborn stains.
  • Rinse: Rinse the sink thoroughly with warm water to remove the citrus and salt residue. 
  • Dry with towel: Finally, dry the sink using a soft, clean towel to prevent water spots or streaks from forming.

Method 3: Cream of tartar 

You can also clean a stainless steel sink with cream of tartar. Here’s how it’s done. 

  • Make cream of tartar paste: Mix cream of tartar with enough water to create a paste. The ratio should be about 1T cream of tartar to 1/4 cup water.
  • Replace water with hydrogen peroxide (optional): For very stubborn stains, mix the cream of tartar with hydrogen peroxide instead of water for a stronger cleaning solution.
  • Apply paste: Using a soft cloth or sponge, apply the paste to the surface of your sink. 
  • Let sit: Let the paste sit on your sink for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Scrub sink: Next, use the same cloth or sponge to scrub your sink in circular motions, focusing on the stained areas. 
  • Rinse well: Rinse the sink thoroughly with warm water to remove the cream of tartar paste. 
  • Dry: Finally, use a soft, clean towel to dry the sink to prevent water spots from forming.

Tough stains primer

Stainless steel sinks aren’t the only household items that gather difficult stains. Check out the Homeaglow-cleaner approved methods for tackling other tough stains:

What is the best thing to clean a stainless steel sink with?

White vinegar and water is the best solution for cleaning a stainless steel sink as it dissolves any stain and mineral deposits without damaging the stainless steel surface. To use, mix equal parts vinegar and water, spray onto the sink, and scrub with a soft sponge. 

How can I make my stainless steel sink look new again?

To make your stainless steel sink look new again, buff it with olive oil after cleaning. Scrub the sink gently with a mixture of white vinegar and water, rinse thoroughly, then dry with a clean towel. Finish by polishing the sink with a few drops of olive oil, buffing in circular motions for a shiny, protected surface.

What is the best way to clean a stainless steel kitchen sink?

There are various ways to clean a stainless steel kitchen sink, but some of the best methods include using baking soda and vinegar, lime and salt, or a paste of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide. Apply any of the cleaning solutions, scrub gently with a soft sponge, then rinse with warm water and dry.

What should you not use on stainless steel?

Avoid using any of these items on stainless steel:

  • Steel wool or metal brushes
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Abrasive cleaners
  • Hard water
  • Rough scrubbing pads
  • Dirty or gritty cloths
  • Strong acids or alkalis

These materials and chemicals can damage the stainless steel surface, causing scratches or discoloration.

What is the best home remedy to clean stainless steel?

The best home remedy to clean stainless steel is a mixture of white vinegar and water. It's effective due to vinegar's natural acidity, which dissolves stains and mineral deposits. Plus, it’s eco-friendly, gentle on surfaces, safe to use, and cost-effective, making it an ideal choice for stainless steel.

Clean your stainless steel without fear

Hard water stains and other types of grime can build up on the surface of a sink and faucet head over time, but it's easy to remove them using baking soda and vinegar, lemon or lime, or cream of tartar. Simply follow the steps we’ve provided for each method in this article, and you'll have a clean and shiny sink in no time. 

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