Can Stainless Steel Rust? Expert Advice on Avoiding Stainless Steel Sink Problems

John Oldach, Buffalo Plumbing Showroom’s representative for Elkay sinks, has a favorite phone call that he regularly receives. It starts out,”My Elkay sink is rusting. I need a replacement.” When he responds that stainless steel sinks do not “rust”, the usual rejoinder is,”Well, if you don’t believe me, come out and inspect it. Then give me a new sink.”

The stainless steel that Elkay sinks are made from is known as Type 304, or 18-8. It is distinguished from other types by the percentage of chromium (18%) and nickel (8%) that is added to the other metals and elements that go into the product.

Type 304, or any other type employed in the manufacture of sinks will not stain, but it will corrode when it comes in contact with certain chemicals. Most common is pitting that results from bleach. Occasionally chemicals used on a construction site, like hydrochloric acid or calcium chloride, can ruin stainless steel. One substance that can cause rust-like eruptions if left in contact for an extended period of time is Triclosan. Triclosan is an organic chemical made up of three chlorine molecules that is used in most anti-bacterial soaps, such as Dial. The fact that it can corrode stainless stainless steel may be of concern not just for your sink, considering it is regularly used on your skin!

Actually, something as simple as table salt or garlic salt can also cause corrosion, if left on the surface for a few days. The key to keeping your sink like new is to wash it regularly. Stainless steel resists most adverse chemical reactions because it develops an inert surface layer that protects it from the environment. Regular washings remove contaminants, and allow the natural passive layer to renew itself.

The best news is that once these rust-like eruptions occur, they are easily removed with a maroon Scotch-Brite pad and a cleanser such as Barkeeper’s Friend or Bon Ami, available at most large grocery or home improvement stores. For severe cases, Elkay makes a cleaning kit (#LK34) that can be ordered –  the consultants at Buffalo Plumbing Showroom can have it sent directly to your home at your request.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I”m not sure the exact type of stainless steel sink we have but it has lasted over 40 years without one bit of rust! It’s still looking good as new with just a little scrubbing every day or so. This supports your maintenance advice.

    I did not know that fact about Tirclosan but I did hear about it not being good for everyday hand washing. Thanks for sharing that tid bit! I will definitly cut down my use of anti-bacterial soaps now.

  2. The stainless steel that Elkay sinks are made from is known as Type 304, or 18-8. It is distinguished from other types by the percentage of chromium (18%) and nickel (8%) that is added to the other metals and elements that go into the product.

    Type 304, or any other type employed in the manufacture of sinks will not stain, but it will corrode when it comes in contact with certain chemicals. Most common is pitting that results from bleach. Occasionally chemicals used on a construction site, like hydrochloric acid or calcium chloride, can ruin stainless steel. One substance that can cause rust-like eruptions if left in contact for an extended period of time is Triclosan. Triclosan is an organic chemical made up of three chlorine molecules that is used in most anti-bacterial soaps, such as Dial. The fact that it can corrode stainless stainless steel may be of concern not just for your sink, considering it is regularly used on your skin.

  3. Yes stainless can stay longer without getting corroded by using some elements or chemicals avoiding rust to metal or stainless.

  4. As an observation the worst enemy of steel is chlorine. Thanks for this very informative post. Thumbs up for this!

  5. Wow very informative article I got a new knowledge regarding stainless steel sink problem! thank you so much keep up the good work.

  6. Thank you for all the information about the stainless steel rust problems. I agree that, sinks will not stain, but it will corrode when it comes in contact with certain chemicals. Thanks for sharing..!!

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