How to clean a stainless steel sink – remove stains and make it look like new

There's nothing more satisfying than a shiny sink, and with many harbouring more germs than a toilet, it's an area worth sanitising properly

illustration of house keys on a yellow background
(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd / Lizzie Orme)

Want to know how to clean a stainless steel sink properly? Perhaps you've just got a new sink and have vowed to keep it looking its shiny best, or you might just want to find easy ways to get rid of stubborn marks. 

Whether you've just updated your kitchen sink ideas or are working with a tired, watermarked sink in a rented flat, our guide full of expert tips will help you get yours gleaming.

How to clean a stainless steel sink

Cleaning a stainless steel sink is a little different to knowing how to clean a granite sink, or other materials. Cleaning experts at Ecozone (opens in new tab) explain that the main culprits of dull sinks are limescale build-up and watermarks. Not only do they make your sink look grubby, but they also make stain-inducing substances (tea, coffee, grease, and spices like turmeric) cling to the sink's surfaces. Which leads us nicely onto our first tip: giving your sink a daily wipedown.

modern black kitchen with white tiles and surfaces and stainless steel sink

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd / Lizzie Orme)

1. Remove all bits of food

Research has shown our kitchen sinks can often contain more germs than our toilets, and according to cleaning service Blanco (opens in new tab), any stainless steel surface is best cleaned immediately after use to prevent limescale. So, first, remove dishes and any bits of food from the plughole, as leaving food to fester may attract fruit flies, the last thing you want buzzing around your lovely kitchen island sink ideas.

2. Wipe with the soft side of your sponge

Squeeze some washing up liquid onto the soft side of a damp sponge, and clean the entire sink, draining board, plughole and taps. A Dishmatic makes life easier and helps with awkward spots, but make sure you use a non scratch refill sponge, at Amazon (opens in new tab) rather than the standard green one. You could also try a Scrub Mommy (available at Amazon) (opens in new tab), which is favoured by Mrs Hinch and has a soft side to avoid scratches. 

'Stainless steel actually has a grain (similar to wood) and needs to be wiped in a linear motion to get it looking its best,' says Laura Marsden from Marigold.

stainless steel kitchen sink in kitchen window with kitchenaid and eucalyptus

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd / David Parmiter)

3. Rinse with warm water

After wiping the sink down in the direction of the grain (if you can see it), rinse it thoroughly with warm water. Get rid of as many suds as possible and dry with a cloth.

4. Buff the surfaces

For a streak free finish get the stainless steel sink completely dry with an extra absorbent microfibre cloth, like a Marigold Squeaky Clean Microfibre cloth (opens in new tab). We recommend finishing things off by spraying a glass cleaner onto the steel and wiping it with a thin tea towel or J cloth to help it shine.

Clean a stainless steel sink naturally

Lemon and baking soda

For cutting through grease and grime, Laura Harnett from green cleaning retailer Seep (opens in new tab) says an acid like white vinegar or lemon juice will work best. You can cut a lemon in half, sprinkle on baking soda and scrub to clean, leaving the sink smelling fresh using natural products.

Lemon with wooden cutting board salt and brush

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Ash

For stubborn dirt stuck onto stainless steel, Laura says you can actually use leftover ash from your fireplace or woodburning stove to form a paste (or lye) to remove it. 'Believe it or not, the combination of ash and water is a natural disinfectant and is perfect for soaking stainless steel in to remove dirt and pathogens as well as naturally polishing your stainless steel,' Laura explains.

When you’re done, you can even use the ash as a natural fertiliser in your garden. If you don’t have a fireplace or any ash, then you can buff with natural oils, Laura says she finds olive oil works best. Other cleaning enthusiasts recommend baby oil, too.

modern kitchen with stainless steel sink

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd / Colin Poole)

Mistakes to avoid when cleaning a stainless steel sink

Cleanfluencer Rebecca, @home_at_number_15 (opens in new tab) warns against using steel wool pads on stainless steel. 'Scrubbing away can leave iron particles behind, which causes rust and corrosion,' she says. 

Don't use anything abrasive as it could leave permanent scratches, ruining your stainless steel sink over time. Avoid using bleach as this can discolour stainless steel.

How to remove odours from a sink

Jennifer Sharpe from Fabulosa suggests using a sink and drain freshener every now and then to get rid of odours. Fabulosa's Foamo (opens in new tab) will sanitise your drains, killing 99.9% of bacteria. Alternatively, you can use a capful of an concentrated disinfectant such as Zoflora.

monochrome kitchen with black cabinets, white tiles and stainless steel sink

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd / Lizzie Orme)

What cleans stainless steel kitchens the best?

In our round up of the best cleaning products to have under the kitchen sink, we recommend the Viakal limescale remover spray (opens in new tab). We can vouch for its ability to battle limescale in hardwater areas like London. Otherwise, cleaning little and often will be the most effective.

How can you clean stainless steel to make it shine?

Rebecca recommends using an undiluted cleaner down the plug hole to keep a stainless steel sink smelling fresh, as well as reigniting its shine. 'You need to find a multi-surface cleaner that can tackle stubborn stains or grime, leaving your stainless-steel sink looking and smelling like sunshine – I’ve fallen in love with method’s new Concentrates range (opens in new tab), using it neat does the job nicely!'

Our kitchen sinks go through a lot – anyone who's had to wash up and make cups of tea in the bathroom while renovating will have felt a newfound appreciation for this hugely practical part of the kitchen. So it's worth add this job to your cleaning calendar and keeping on top of it. 

A bit of TLC and you'll be surprised just how well it scrubs up.

Millie Hurst
Millie Hurst

Millie Hurst is Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She first joined the team at the start of 2021. Previously, she worked in women’s lifestyle and homes news, writing about everything from budget kitchen makeovers and gardening tips to homeware dupes and cleaning hacks. Millie can often be found looking up trending terms, spotting news stories our readers need to know about and finding ways to decorate her rented flat.