There are more than a dozen ways to polish a stainless steel sink and scores of products you can use for the desired finish. However, any specific solution may or may not work for your sink based on its current condition. So, how should you polish a stainless steel sink?
In this article, we’ll take a look at 8 possible solutions. Choose the one that’s suitable for your stainless steel sink and its current condition, such as stains, scratches, discoloration, acid marks, rust, and even spots of dried paint or cement. If you aren’t sure, keep reading as I discuss the effective solutions to polish a stainless steel sink covering all typical conditions.
1. Use Regular Dishwashing Soap or Detergent
Regular dishwashing soaps or detergents aren’t a polishing agent, but you have to prep a stainless steel sink before using other solutions for the desired finish. Also, you can remove some rigid stains using regular soap and water with a sustained and effective scrubbing method.
Use a more abrasive cleaning agent than the one you may have right now. Or, switch to a coarser scrubbing or scouring pad. You may use the coarser part of a double sided sponge. Another option is steel wool, but not the finest grade if you use only regular soap.
The coarseness or grit of any scouring pad, scrubber, and similar essentials should be inversely proportional to the abrasiveness of the polishing agent. Thus, 000-grade steel wool works well for a metal polisher on a stainless steel sink but is ineffective on rigid stains with regular soap.
The other crucial factor is how you scrub the stainless steel sink. Polishing a stainless steel sink is a tedious process unless you use a powered rotary tool, like a dual action polisher, or buffing drill. Hence, you must scrub hard for several minutes to remove rigid stains with regular soap.
You can polish a relatively new stainless steel sink that isn’t extremely dirty and stained using a coarse scrubbing pad and soap water to attain a certain degree of sheen or finish. Even if you don’t get a noticeable polish, your sink is now ready for the necessary buffing and finishing.
2. Apply a Limescale Remover for Hard Water Stains
All stainless steel sinks have limescale buildup when exposed to hard water. Also, such rigid buildups often facilitate rust. Thus, you have to deal with two difficult problems. However, there are easy remedies such as the Lime-A-Way Limescale Remover (Amazon.com).
This inexpensive limescale remover pack of two is easy to use, courtesy of the trigger spray. The liquid solution’s foaming action enables you to just spray it on the stainless steel sink, wait for a while, and then wash thoroughly. You don’t need to scrub the sink, but rinse it well.
Also, you can remove limescale from stainless steel faucets and other hard fixtures in your kitchen and bathroom. Furthermore, the Lime-A-Way remover gets rid of rust. In effect, you can get rid of both limescale or calcium carbonate and rust using the same solution at one go.
3. Try Any Non-Chlorine Bleach Cleaner
Bleach is highly effective on rigid stains, including those coffee spots in your stainless steel sink. The only problem is that chlorine-based bleach isn’t ideal for stainless steel, certainly not if you use it regularly. Many people use baking soda, vinegar, and a few other homemade remedies.
Vinegar isn’t very effective on hardened and dry spots. Also, don’t allow a vinegar solution to pool in your stainless steel sink, or it’ll stain the surface. If you use baking soda, always scrub along the grain of the stainless steel sink because it can leave streaks against the finish.
Cleaners with a bleaching effect work better on apparently unremovable stains. Hence, you may consider Lysol Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Spray or Clorox Clean-Up with Bleach (available on Amazon). Lysol is a non-bleach solution using hydrogen peroxide and is thus safer than chlorine-based products.
Clorox uses sodium hypochlorite, but its concentration isn’t worrisome for stainless steel sinks, especially if you use it rarely. You wouldn’t polish a sink every now and then, so you can use this effective cleaner spray to remove rigid stains and spots. Also, Clorox is effective on countertops.
4. Use a Buffing or Rubbing Compound
One or all of the first three solutions relevant to your needs will clean and prep your stainless steel sink for a pleasant polish. Now, you can use a buffing or rubbing compound. Consider something such as the Turtle Wax Premium Rubbing Compound.
A rubbing compound is effective on various kinds of stains and buildup you may have in a sink. Take a slop sink, for example. You may have dirt, mud, paint, acid marks, scratches, residual stains from scrub water, and even chemicals if you have been using a few for your DIY projects.
Rubbing compounds of Turtle Wax and similar products can get rid of cement spots, too. All you need is a fine grade steel wool, say 000, and persistent effort. Use a coarser grit steel wool with such compounds if the stainless steel sink’s condition needs more abrasion.
Shake the premium rubbing compound well before use, apply it on the sink or steel wool, and scrub thoroughly. Always use broad strokes or long sweeping motions while scrubbing, whether straight or circular, depending on the part you’re working on to ensure a uniform application.
You need to scrub for at least two to three minutes, if not longer, depending on the mess your sink is in. Then, you can remove the compound using a cloth rag or paper towel. Finally, wash the sink with regular dishwashing soap and water, rinse well, and wipe it dry using a clean cloth.
Generally, buffing or rubbing compounds aren’t the most abrasive, but they work on residential kitchen sinks. Also, you’ll get a matt finish with such products unless you use a chrome or metal polish. Besides, steel wool and abrasive pads don’t produce a glossy finish. Cloth and plush microfiber towels are better if you want stainless steel sinks to have a reflective glow.
5. Use Chrome Polish and Rust Remover
It’s futile to use a metal or chrome polish on a stainless steel sink that’s not spotlessly clean. A polishing and finishing product for any material isn’t meant to cleanse the surface to the extent an abrasive agent can. Thus, you need the relevant solutions cited in this guide before this step.
Now, you can use Turtle Wax Chrome Polish & Rust Remover or similar products for a stainless steel sink. The Turtle Wax polish & rust remover isn’t as abrasive as the buffing or rubbing compound. However, it works on rusty and discolored stainless steel and restores a sink.
Take a bit of the polish on a clean cloth rag and apply it to the entire sink. Don’t use abrasive steel wool or scrubbing pads as the aim is to attain the desired polish or finish. You can use foam pads or microfiber towels, but the latter should be plush, not with abrasive or coarse grit.
You get a glossy finish with Turtle Wax, and it leaves a protective coating to prevent rust, which is also why you must begin with a clean sink. Exercise caution to not apply this type of polish on the countertop. Otherwise, you’ll have one more stain to worry about beyond the sink.
6. Try Metal Polish and Standard Glass Cleaner
An efficient and effective way to polish a stainless steel sink, if not the ultimate solution, is products such as the Autosol Metal Polish. The Autosol product is an affordable and phenomenally reliable polish for stainless steel, aluminum, copper, and brass.
You can get a truly reflective or glossy polish and splendorous finish on your stainless steel sink with Autosol. However, the process can get tedious if you want to do everything manually. Use a polisher, if available. Or, you can convert a rotary tool or drill with an adapter for the same.
Watch this YouTube video to use Autosol to polish a stainless steel sink:
Don’t worry about polishing through a superficial level of your sink, as long as you have a sink with 16, 18, or 20 gauge stainless steel. Use less Autosol and go slow with the application if you have a stainless steel sink thinner than 22 gauge, like a 24, which isn’t a widespread grade.
For quick reference, 16 gauge is 1.59 mm (0.06 in), 18 gauge is 1.27 mm (0.05 in), and 20 gauge is 0.95 mm (0.04 in). The sink in the video above has 20 gauge stainless steel, and you can see how effective Autosol is at bringing about a glossy or reflective polish.
Using any metal polish necessitates a finish with a glass cleaner or similar products. All polishes have a waxy or oily composition serving as the causal agent to attain the desired appearance. So, use a standard glass cleaner after Autosol to get a flawless finish, perhaps a masterpiece.
7. Use a Cleaner/Polisher With Sanding/Finishing Pads
Not all sinks are necessarily dirty with rigid residual and chemical stains after a thorough clean. However, you may still notice a few smudges of your fingerprints, grease marks, scratches, and streaks. Even a polisher or your scrubbing action may leave behind some debris.
A practical solution to scratches, unsightly spots, and other marks is the Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish. This non-toxic cleaner removes all fingerprints and grease marks from stainless steel sinks and other appliances or fixtures, such as fridges, dishwashers, and grills.
You’ll need two essentials with the Weiman cleaner to efficiently and effectively polish a sink, 3M Sanding Sponge and 3M Finishing Pads. This sanding sponge is fine grit. 3M has an extra-fine grit sponge, but don’t opt for that as it won’t work against scratches and rigid stains.
Also, the 3M finishing pads are for between coats, so use them before you go for the final wash using soap or glass cleaner. The Weiman and 3M combo may not get you the glossy, reflective, or mirror finish like a few other options, but you can polish a stainless steel sink and restore it.
Watch this YouTube video using the Weiman and 3M combo:
The combo may or may not work on lime, calcium, and rust-laden stainless steel sinks, subject to the buildup’s enormity. A finishing pad or sanding sponge isn’t always effective on all kinds of stain buildup without an abrasive cleaning agent. Thus, use this guide’s solutions progressively.
8. Use an Abrasive Polish and Finishing Compound
Finally, you can use a specialty finishing polish for reflective or glossy aesthetics. Consider the Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound. This solution gets rid of scratches, acid stains, any streaks you may have on the sink, sanding marks, greasy and rusty spots, and much more.
Choose the Ultra-Cut Compound linked here, not Ultra-Pro or other finishing products of Meguiar’s, as those don’t have the micro-abrasive effects. You can use the Ultra-Cut with a dual action polisher, rotary buffer, or manually, albeit the latter is a tedious process and takes a while.
After you’re done with the polish, use Windex Glass Cleaner for a spotlessly flawless finish. This bundle has a spray and a refill pack. You can use both the Meguiar’s and Windex products on other stainless steel appliances or fixtures, from faucets to dishwashers and refrigerators.
Use a moderately coarse grit steel wool or microfiber towel for nonabrasive cleaners, such as regular soap. Switch to finer steel wool or plush microfiber for rubbing compound and polish. A clean cotton cloth or rag works best with a finishing product for a glossy or reflective shine.
Here are the products you can use to polish a stainless steel sink:
- Lime-A-Way Remover
- Lysol Cleaner Spray or Clorox
- Turtle Wax Rubbing Compound
- Turtle Wax Chrome Polish & Rust Remover
- Autosol Metal Polish
- Weiman Cleaner & Polish
- 3M Sanding Sponge
- 3M Finishing Pads
- Meguiar’s Ultra-Cut Compound
- Windex Glass Cleaner