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How to Clean Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a staple material in commercial kitchens, and for good reason. Its durability, resistance to corrosion, and sleek appearance make it a popular choice for countertops, appliances, utensils, and cookware. In fact, stainless steel is everywhere in commercial kitchens - from prep tables to sinks to shelving units.

What Is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is an alloy of iron, carbon, and a minimum of 10.5% chromium, which forms a thin layer of chromium oxide on the surface that protects the metal from rust and corrosion. If stainless steel is so durable, why does it require special cleaning? Even though stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion, the protective coating can become damaged. That's why it's important to clean stainless steel correctly and avoid certain cleaners. We'll explain proper cleaning in more detail below.

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Types of Stainless Steel

The most common types of stainless steel used in foodservice equipment and appliances are 304 and 316. Type 304 stainless steel is suitable for most foodservice applications, offering good resistance to corrosion and staining. Type 316 stainless steel is even more corrosion resistant and is ideal for environments with high chloride exposure, such as near the coast or in areas with harsh cleaning chemicals. Both types of stainless steel are easy to clean and maintain, making them essential materials for commercial kitchens.

Best Way to Clean Stainless Steel

Whether you're working with cookware or a prep table, the best way to keep stainless steel clean is to avoid damaging the protective layer. Keep these three things in mind when you are cleaning your stainless steel tables, equipment, and cookware:

  • Avoid Mechanical Abrasion: Avoid using any cleaning tools that can scratch the steel's surface including steel wool, wire brushes, and scrapers.
  • Remove Deposits and Water: Hard water and food deposits left sitting on the surface will leave water spots and can break down the layer of protection.
  • Don't Use Cleaners with Chlorides: When choosing cleaning chemicals for stainless steel, avoid solutions that contain chlorides. These cleaners can lead to pitting and staining on the stainless steel, compromising its durability and appearance. It is recommended to use non-chloride cleaners specifically designed for stainless steel to maintain its longevity and shine.

Proper cleaning of stainless steel equipment can prolong its lifespan, saving you money in the long run. You'll prevent the risk of corrosion and staining, preserving the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen equipment. Maintaining a clean and hygienic kitchen is also essential for food safety and customer satisfaction.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Tables and Equipment

Knowing how to clean stainless steel effectively not only ensures a safe and sanitary kitchen environment but also helps you protect your investment in high-quality equipment. We'll outline some tips and tricks for keeping your stainless steel shining bright and germ-free.

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  1. Gather Your Supplies: Before starting the cleaning process, make sure you have all the necessary supplies on hand. You will need a mild detergent or stainless steel cleaner, microfiber cloths, a soft-bristled brush, and warm water.
  2. Remove Food Residue: Start by removing any food residue or debris from the surfaces of the equipment. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub away any stuck-on food particles.
  3. Clean with Detergent: Mix a small amount of mild chloride-free detergent with warm water to create a cleaning solution. Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution and wipe down the stainless steel surfaces of the equipment.
  4. Always Wipe with the Polish Lines: Stainless steel has a "grain" that runs in one direction. If you can see the lines, it's always best to scrub or wipe with the grain.
  5. Rinse Thoroughly: After cleaning, rinse the equipment thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue. This step is crucial to prevent streaking and ensure a clean finish.
  6. Dry the Surface: Use a dry microfiber cloth to dry the surfaces of the equipment completely. Never let water stand on your stainless steel surfaces for extended periods. This will prevent water spots and hard water deposits.
  7. Sanitize: After the surface has been cleaned, you can apply a food-safe sanitizer. Opt for a sanitizer that is specifically formulated for stainless steel to avoid any potential damage or discoloration. Apply the sanitizer to the entire surface and allow to air dry. Do not rinse or wipe the sanitizer off of the cleaned surface.

How to Remove Rust from Stainless Steel Equipment

Even with the proper cleaning and care, rust spots can occur over long periods. Follow the steps below to help restore your stainless steel products.

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  1. Determine the Cause: Rust can be caused by mechanical abrasions, food deposits, water, or chlorides/chemicals. If you know the cause, you can train your staff to prevent the issue in the future.
  2. Use a Scratchless Pad: Gently brush away the rust with a scratchless pad. Don't apply any moisture or chemicals to the pad - just use the pad on the metal and rub with the grain. If you're afraid of scratching the surface, test the pad in a small, hidden spot on the table or equipment.
  3. Apply a Cleaning Paste: Use a powder like Bar Keepers Friend and apply it with a soft cloth or microfiber towel to the affected area. Dampen a separate area of the towel and remove any excess paste or powder.
  4. Rinse Thoroughly: Once you have removed the rust, rinse the stainless steel surface thoroughly with clean water.
  5. Dry Completely: After rinsing, dry the stainless steel equipment or table completely with a clean, dry cloth. This will help prevent water spots and maintain the appearance of the stainless steel.
  6. Apply a Protective Coating: To eliminate the risk of future rust, consider applying a protective coating or stainless steel polish to the equipment or table. This will help to maintain the stainless steel's shine and protect it from rust in the future.

By following these steps, you can effectively remove rust from stainless steel equipment or tables and keep them looking clean and well-maintained.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Cookware

Stainless steel cookware is a popular choice in commercial kitchens due to its durability, non-reactive surface, and sleek appearance. To maintains its shine and functionality, regular cleaning is essential. We recommend cleaning stainless steel pots and pans in a three-compartment sink instead of a commercial dishwasher. Follow these steps to effectively clean your stainless steel cookware:

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  1. Preparation: Before starting the cleaning process, make sure the cookware is cool to the touch. Remove any food remnants or residue using a soft-bristled brush or a non-abrasive scrubbing pad.
  2. Hand Wash with Warm Soapy Water: Fill the sink or a large basin with warm water and add a mild dish soap. Submerge the stainless steel cookware in the soapy water and use a soft sponge or cloth to gently scrub the surface. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or steel wool, as they can scratch the stainless steel.
  3. Rinse Thoroughly: Once you have removed all the food particles and grease, rinse the cookware thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue.
  4. Dry Immediately: After rinsing, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe the cookware dry. Leaving stainless steel cookware to air dry can cause water spots and streaks to form on the surface.
  5. Removing Stubborn Stains: For tough stains or burnt-on food, create a paste using baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the stained areas and let it sit for a few minutes before gently scrubbing with a soft sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry as usual.
  6. Polishing: To restore the shine of your stainless steel cookware, you can use a stainless steel cleaner or polish. Apply a small amount of the cleaner to a soft cloth and buff the surface in circular motions until the cookware shines.
  7. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: To maintain the integrity of your stainless steel cookware, avoid using harsh chemicals, bleach, or abrasive cleaners that can damage the surface. Stick to mild dish soap and non-abrasive cleaning tools.
  8. Storage: After cleaning and drying your stainless steel cookware, store it in a dry and well-ventilated area to prevent moisture buildup and tarnishing.

By following these steps and maintaining a regular cleaning routine, you can keep your stainless steel cookware looking like new and ensure its longevity in your commercial kitchen.

Maintaining clean stainless steel surfaces in a commercial kitchen is crucial for several reasons. Proper cleaning helps prevent the buildup of bacteria and other harmful pathogens, ensuring food safety and compliance with health regulations. Regular cleaning protects stainless steel from corrosion, staining, and pitting, prolonging its lifespan and preserving its aesthetic appeal. By implementing the correct cleaning procedures, commercial kitchens can create a hygienic environment and extend the durability of their stainless steel equipment.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please refer to our Content Policy for more details.

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