How to Deal With Iron Staining on Stainless Steel Surfaces

Posted on: 1 May 2017

Stainless steel surfaces can develop rust spots if the stainless steel is exposed to harsh environments, such as saltwater, for extended durations. Those rust spots (iron stains) can cause the stainless steel to pit or have scour marks. This article discusses some of the solutions that you can try in order to remove those rust stains so that the stainless steel regains its attractive appearance.

Use Cleaning Creams

You can remove minor iron stains on stainless steel surfaces by applying a domestic cleaning cream on the affected area. These creams are readily available at convenience stores. The cream will dissolve the iron particles that had penetrated the stainless steel surface. You can then use a clean cloth to remove the cleaning cream from the stainless steel.

Use Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is a good option to use in case the stainless steel surface has just been contaminated by dust or grit from iron or steel tools that were used in the vicinity of the stainless steel. Dip a swab of cotton wool in the oxalic acid solution and use that swab to wet the entire stainless steel surface that was contaminated. Let the oxalic solution stand for several minutes. Don't try to rub it into the stainless steel. The acid will etch all the iron particles out without having any adverse effect on the stainless steel surface.

Use Phosphoric Acid

Check the cleaning product section of the convenience store near you and select a cleaner that contains phosphoric acid. Follow the instructions, such as how long to let the cleaner stand, so that you don't cause the stainless steel to pit. Great care must be taken when mixing this solution because it has the potential to etch the stainless steel if you deviate from the given instructions in any way.

Mechanical Grinding

The final resort option involves using a grinder to level out the stainless steel surface that has been damaged by severe iron contamination. You should avoid using a grinding tool that contains iron or ordinary steel. Such tools can cause additional contamination in the stainless steel. The surface may need to be restored by a professional once you have finished grinding it.

Stainless steel can degrade rapidly if prompt action is not taken to remove any contaminants that have become embedded in its surface. You should therefore remember to implement adequate measures to prevent future contamination once you have used one of the techniques above to get rid of the rust staining that you observed. The preventive measures may include avoiding machining other metals in the vicinity of stainless steel surfaces.