How to clean a stainless steel sink properly without damaging it

It's important to make sure you know the best way to clean it to avoid scratching it

stainless steel sink
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to clean a stainless steel sink is important for maintaining cleanliness in your kitchen.

Stainless steel sinks are a popular choice when it comes to decking out our kitchens; generally, you can find one for every budget, they're incredibly durable and long-lasting and are normally very easy and low-maintenance to take care of (unlike ceramic sinks, for example, which are much more high-maintenance care-wise).

However, if you don't clean yours correctly, you run the risk of scratching it. Cleaning it properly will also guarantee it comes up sparkling and shining, just as all stainless steel sinks should. If you don't clean it properly, yours will likely look a little dull and might lack that gleaming look everyone wants from their stainless steel sink.

When it comes to cleaning a kitchen, we're all pretty clear on how to do the daily essentials: washing the dishes, wiping down the surfaces, and taking the bins out.

But we'll admit - there are things that we're less clear on how to do properly - such as how to descale a kettle, how to clean a dishwasher, and how to clean a washing machine. And the proper way to clean a stainless steel sink is one of them.

If you have a stainless steel sink, it's likely that you're probably just cleaning it with a disinfectant every day. But did you know that there's a proper way to do it, to make sure your sink stays gleaming and sparkling? 

How to clean a stainless steel sink properly

Knowing how to clean a stainless steel sink the right way just means knowing what tools and cleaning products to use - and which ones not to use. To find out, w&h has spoken to cleaning experts to get their take on the right way to clean yours - and luckily, it'll take you no more than 10 minutes!

1. Make sure to get rid of all food and rinse

We've all had those moments at the end of a day of cooking - your sink is full of little leftover bits of food from breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While it's tempting to leave these and sort them out the next day, it's important to get rid of any leftover food, as these crumbs can easily cause bacteria to multiply and can attract nasty things like fruit flies. So the first step to take when cleaning your stainless steel sink is to take all of your kitchen essentials out of the sink and get rid of the excess food. 

Use a kitchen towel to scrape any bits out of the plughole, and wipe around the sink to get off any excess scraps.

Chris Wootton, MD at Poppies (opens in new tab), a UK-wide domestic cleaning company, explains why this step is so important to avoid damaging your sink. "Always rinse grit and dirt away before cleaning – you can inadvertently leave deep scratches in your stainless by rubbing/cleaning with debris on your cloth," he said. 

Once you're done with that, splash the sink with water quickly to dislodge any smaller bits of debris that might be left behind.

2. Use a scouring pad to clean your sink

Victoria Gregory, who runs Pocket Rockets Housekeeping Rescue Services, explained to w&h, "My favorite trick for cleaning a stainless steel sink is to give a good scrub with an anti-scratch scouring pad. If you use, say, a wire wool or hard scouring pad, they can scratch the steel." For this reason, avoid wire scouring pads, and search for one that specifies that it is for use on delicate surfaces for a gentle clean.

Put some good anti-grease cleaner, washing up liquid or kitchen cleaner on top of it, and simply scrub away, Victoria suggests, working gently but firmly, and getting in all the nooks and crannies of your sink - including taps and plug holes.

Then, she says, "Simply rinse away with water."

Chris also advises leaving the product on there for some time to work its magic before you get (gently) scrubbing if you have time to do so. He said, "Spray your kitchen cleaner and then wait - the professional secret is dwell time – you must allow the product time to work."

stainless steel sink

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Buff your sink with glass cleaner

Then, Victoria suggests using a "strong kitchen towel and glass cleaner to buff up."

We all want that sparkling, shining sink—and this step is vital for achieving that.

"Spray the sink, taps, and draining board and using the kitchen towel clean it the same way you’d clean a window," Victoria explains.

"If you wanted to make your own natural glass cleaner, then good old-fashioned white vinegar and lemon juice work great, but any shop-bought glass cleaner will do. 

"The reason I use the glass cleaner and kitchen roll is to get a really nice shine. The shine will be fantastic."

And there you have it—a shining, sparkling sink that takes less than 10 minutes to achieve!

Tips for keeping your stainless steel sink in tip-top shape

While this big clean of your sink might be something you do weekly, there are ways you can maintain the shine and cleanliness of your sink throughout the week. And luckily, they're all simple and easy to do. Chris has shared some of his top tips for keeping your sink hygienic in between cleans.

stainless steel sink

(Image credit: Getty Images/Image Source)
  • Quickly rinse the sink around every time you use it
  • Spritz with a kitchen cleaner and wipe daily
  • In a hard water area, give it particular attention every few days for removing any limescale build-up. 
  • Never use bleach, particularly on stainless steel—the chlorine and stainless steel can react, leaving staining.

How to remove stains from a stainless steel sink

You can remove any lingering stains on your sink by using a combination of washing up liquid and baking soda—simply mix these together and rub it gently into the stain with a cloth before rinsing. Baking soda is a great ingredient for natural cleaning—it can even help you to clean an oven, for example. 

Chris also advised on the best way to tackle any limescale in your sink, which may be particularly prevalent in hard-water areas. He said, "Dripping taps or puddles in your drainer can create a build-up of limescale. 

"Keep on top of this using a natural and mild acid such as vinegar or lemon juice. Do this as soon as you notice the build-up. A thicker build-up of limescale needs a stronger chemical to remove, and that’s when you risk having problems."

Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on