GE Appliance - How to Clean Rust on Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel is a slightly misleading name. A more accurate description would be "Harder to Stain" Steel. The largest single component of stainless steel is steel. Steel will rust. When exposed to oxygen in the atmosphere, the chromium in stainless steel forms a thin invisible layer called chromium oxide. This invisible layer covering the entire surface gives stainless steel its ability to resist stains and rust. If this layer is damaged, rust is formed on the surface at the point of that damage. The good news is that with a little cleaning and care the chromium oxide layer is self-healing.

 

Avoid damaging the chromium oxide layer by avoiding the use of cleaners that contain chlorides (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, etc.). Cleaners containing alcohol, ammonia or mineral spirits can also damage the protective layer. Do not use steel wool or steel brushes as minute particles of these carbon steel articles may adhere to the stainless and begin to rust. Avoid any caustic cleaners containing any of the above. If these compounds were to be used, extreme care must be used to remove any and all traces of the cleaner as these chemicals damage the chromium oxide layer.

 

Stainless steel and the chromium oxide layer actually thrive on proper cleaning. For everyday cleaning of non-oxidized soils, dust, dirt and fingerprints, a mild soap/detergent (dish detergent) and warm water solution should be used. Use the solution to remove the soil, rinse with fresh water and a clean cloth and dry completely. Another alternative is to clean with a recommended stainless steel cleaner such as Cerama Bryte Stainless Steel Cleaner.

 

Removal of oxidized stains and even “surface rust” can be done by using a paste made from baking soda and water or a cleaner that contains oxalic acid, such as Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser.

  • If using baking soda and water, use a cloth or soft bristle brush to rub the baking soda paste in the direction of the grain. This may take a little effort but this will remove these soils. When the surface is clean, rinse with clean water using a clean soft cloth. Next, apply a stainless steel cleaner such as Cerama Bryte Stainless Steel Cleaner (GE part number PM10X311) available through the GE Appliance Parts Center. If you would like to purchase a part, please contact our GE Appliance Parts Center at 1.800.626.2002 or purchase a GE part online.

  • If using Bar Keepers Friend, use only the liquid cleanser (free of grit) and be sure to rub in the direction of the metal grain lines with a damp soft sponge.