Stainless Steels are inherently corrosion resistant materials that do not need additional surface protection to enhance their appearance and durability. Some routine maintenance and cleaning is needed to keep stainless steel surfaces in good condition so that the aesthetic appearance and corrosion resistance are not compromised.
In this respect, stainless steels are no different to other construction materials such as glass, plastics or coated steels, which are never maintenance free throughout the life of a building. These guidelines are to give building owners, developers and facility managers advice on efficient, cost-effective cleaning that will allow them to take advantage of the corrosion resistant properties of stainless steel.
On external applications rainfall washes off accumulations of dirt and other deposits. This is dependant on the amount of exposure of the elevation.
Give special attention to sheltered areas during routine cleaning. Remove accumulations of airborne contaminants. This is particularly important in marine and industrial environments. Where build-up of airborne chlorides or SOx can result in localised corrosion.
On interior applications, finger marks can be an issue. There is a wide range of finishes available for stainless steel. Many are particularly suited for exposed high-traffic public areas. Reduce the effort and costs of cleaning during the service life of the building. Select finishes that are more resistant to fingerprint marking.
Brushed finishes may show finger marks in the period immediately after installation. The finger mark visibility becomes less evident after the first few cleaning operations.
A damp cloth or chamois leather is suitable for removing normal soiling and fingerprints.
For more stubborn dirt, use nylon pads such those known as “Scotch-Brite”. Do not use non-stainless steel based scouring pads, cleaning wool or wire brushes. These pads scratch the surface and can leave carbon steel deposits. These deposits develop into rust spots, if the surface becomes wet.
Use soft nylon brushes for cleaning stainless steel with patterned finishes. Do not use non-stainless steel wire brushes.On “grained” directional finishes, the cleaning strokes direction should be along the grain and not across it.
Wipe water from the surface to prevent watermarks, especially in hard water areas. The use of deionised water will prevent the formation of hard water staining.
Iron particles can cause cross-contamination. To avoid this, ensure that cleaning utensils have notbeen usedfor ordinary (carbon) steel.
Stainless steel cleaning tools should be reserved only for that purpose.
Soapy water or a mild detergent is safe to use when removing fingerprints from architectural finishes.
Proprietary spray cleaners combine ease of cleaning with a light film. This produces an even and smooth lustre. After applying the spray to the surface, polish with a dry cloth. This removes existing fingerprints and reduces the tendency for them to show again.
Clean mirror-polished stainless steel with chloride-free glass cleaner.
For more stubborn stains, mild household cream cleansers should be effective. This should also be suitable for cleaning off watermarks and light discolouration. After cleaning, remove the residue with water (deionised). (Available in supermarkets for steam irons). Then dry to avoid streaking and water marks. Scouring powders should notbe used. These products can leave scratches on stainless steel surfaces.
Remove severe oil and grease marks with alcohol based products. These include methylated spirits, isopropyl alcohol or other solvents such as acetone. These products are not a corrosion hazard to stainless steel. Take care with solvents to avoid spreading the staining on the stainless steel. This can then be difficult to remove. It is advisable to apply solvent several times with a clean, non-scratching cloth. Repeat until all traces of the dissolved oil or grease are removed.
Treat paint and graffiti can with proprietary alkaline or solvent-based paint strippers.Avoid the use of hard scrapers or knives, as the underlying stainless steel surface may become scratched.
For neglected surfaces use metal polishes. Like those used to clean chromium-plated items (such as automotive trim). Polishes used for refinishing car paint can also be effective.
Take care as polished surfaces may become scratched with these cleaners.Or, use a proprietary stainless steel cleaner containing phosphoric acid. Rinse with deionised water and dry. Treat the entire surface of the component to avoid a patchy appearance.
Before commencing any task, read the appropriate health and safety literature from the supplier. If in doubt, seek further advice.
Do not use these cleansers on stainless steel:
- Chloride-containing cleansers. Especially those containing hydrochloric acid.
- Hypochlorite bleaches. Rinse off immediately with liberal amounts of fresh water.