Handle Maintenance

Stainless Steel Handles Maintenance Schedule

 The term Stainless steel means exactly that, “Stain Less”, rather than, “ No Stain Steel”.

The attractive and hygienic surface appearance of stainless steel products cannot be regarded as completely maintenance free. All grades and finishes of stainless steel may in fact stain, discolour or attain an adhering layer of grime in normal service.    To achieve maximum corrosion resistance the surface of the stainless steel must be kept clean. Provided the grade, condition and surface finish were correctly selected for the particular service environment, fabrication and installation procedures were correct and that cleaning schedules are carried out regularly, good performance and long life will be achieved.   Frequency and cost of cleaning of stainless steel is lower than for many other materials and this will often out-weigh higher acquisition cost.

Why Maintenance is Necessary.

Surface contamination and the formation of deposits are critical factors which may lead to drastically reduce life. These contaminants may be minute particles of iron oxide or rust from other non-stainless steel in the atmosphere. Industrial, commercial and even domestic and naturally occurring atmospheric conditions can result in deposits which can be quite corrosive. An example is salt deposits from marine conditions. Working environments can also create more aggressive conditions, such as the warm, high humidity atmosphere above indoor swimming pools.

Aggressive operating environments can increase the speed of corrosion and therefore require more frequent maintenance. Modern processes use many cleaners, sterilisers and bleaches for hygienic purposes. These proprietary solutions, if appropriate for use with stainless steel and when used in accordance with their makers instructions are safe, but if used incorrectly (e.g. warm or concentrated) can cause discolouration and corrosion on the surface of stainless steels.

Maintenance During Installation

Strong acid solutions (e.g. hydrochloric acid or “spirits of salts”) are sometimes used to clean masonry and tiling during building construction but they should never be permitted to come in contact with metals, including stainless steel. If this should happen the acid solution must be removed immediately by copious water flushing, but even if promptly removed the appearance of the steel may be unacceptably changed.

On-Going Maintenance

Advice is often sought concerning the frequency of cleaning of products made of stainless steel, and the answer is quite simply “clean the metal when it is dirty in order to restore it’s original appearance”. A rule of thumb for many exterior building installations is to clean the stainless steel when ever the nearby glass needs cleaning. This is usually six times a year for external applications or it may be once a day for an item in hygienic or aggressive situations.

A visual inspection should be conducted monthly and cleaning schedule modified by experience.


Acids: should only be handled using personal protective equipment as detailed in relevant MSDS and other product specific information. Care must be taken that acids are not spilt over adjacent areas. All residues must be flushed to a treated water stream. (refer to local water authorities for regulations and assistance ). Always dilute by adding acid to water, not water to acid. Use acid resistant containers, such as glass or plastic. If no dulling of the surface can be tolerated a trial treatment should be carried out; all treatments must be followed by thorough rinsing.

Solvents: should not be used in confined spaces. Smoking avoided when using solvents.

Chlorides: are present in many cleaning agents. This entails risk of pitting corrosion of stainless steel. If a cleaner containing chlorine, chlorides, bleaches or hypochlorites if used it must be afterwards promptly and thoroughly cleaned off.

Cleaning Tip

Do Not Go Against The grain!

Always rub stainless steel in the same direction as the grain. Rubbing against the grain will spoil the finish and stainless and will lose its shine. Worse still, rubbing against the grain can damage the surface by creating microscopic crevices where dirt can collect. This can lead to corrosion spots.

Fortunately, it’s usually to tell which the right direction is.


Problem Cleaning Agent Comments
Routine Cleaning All Finishes Soap or mild detergent and water. (Preferably Warm) Sponge, rinse with clean water, wipe dry if necessary. Follow polish lines.
Fingerprints. All Finishes Soap and warm water or organic solvent (e.g. acetone, alcohol, methylated spirits) Rinse with clean water and wipe dry. Follow polish lines.
Stubborn stains and discolouration Mild cleaning solutions. Ensure any proprietary cleaners state compatibility with stainless steel. Phosphoric acid cleaners may also be affective. Use rag, sponge or fibre brush (soft nylon or natural bristle. An old toothbrush can be useful). Rinse well with clean water and wipe dry. Follow polish lines.
Lime deposits from hard water Solution of one part vinegar to three parts water Soak in solution then brush to loosen. Rinse well with clean water
Oil or grease marks. All Finishes Organic solvents (e.g. acetone, alcohol, methylated spirits, proprietary “ safety solvents”). Baked-on grease can be softened beforehand with ammonia. Clean after with soap and water, rinse with clean water and dry. Follow polish lines.
Rust and other corrosion. Embedded or adhering “ free iron” Very light rust stains can be removed by 10% nitric acid Wear PPE as appropriate. Afterwards rinse well with clean water. Mix in acid proof container, and be very careful with the acid. ( See Precautions for acid cleaners)
Scratches on polished (satin or brushed) finish. Slight scratches – use impregnated nylon pads. Polish with polishing wheel dressed with iron-free abrasives for deeper scratches. Follow polish lines. Then clean with soap or detergent as for routine cleaning Do not use ordinary steel wool – iron particles can become embedded in stainless steel and cause further surface problems. Stainless steel and “Scotchbrite” scouring pads are satisfactory.