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Stainless Steel Maintenance

Article ID: 16
Last updated: 18 May, 2012
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Stain -"less" Steel Materials

The attractive surface appearance of stainless steel products cannot be regarded as completely maintenance free.
All grades and finishes of stainless steel may in fact stain or discolor in normal service if not properly maintained. To achieve maximum stain (corrosion) resistance the surface of the stainless steel must be kept clean and in some cases requires protection. If proper installation and cleaning procedures are used and cleaning schedules are carried out regularly, good performance and long life will be achieved. The best detergent to use on your stainless steel is liquid car wash and warm water, followed by a thorough rinse. For best results a marine polish should be applied after the rail dries, we recommend Flitz, but there are several acceptable alternatives. Only soft cloths such as chamois or clean cotton rags should be used to clean stainless steel.

Why is Stainless Steel maintenance necessary?

Working environments will usually create aggressive conditions, and proper cleaning must therefore be done immediately after installation of stainless steel product in a working environment. Long exposure to working environments can increase the potential for corrosion and therefore require more frequent maintenance especially when work is being conducted in surrounding areas. Modern construction processes use more cleaners and potentially harmful materials so care must be taken to avoid contact of such materials with the stainless steel. Most simple cleaning solutions, when used in accordance with their makers' instructions are safe, but if used incorrectly they can cause discoloration and corrosion on the surface of stainless steel by affecting the protective elements within. Strong acid and chemical solutions (e.g. hydrochloric acid, muratic acid, methylethylkeytone or "spirits of salts") are sometimes used to clean masonry, tiling and heavy paint on buildings but they should never be permitted to come into contact with stainless steel. It is safe to assume that anything you would not clean the aesthetic surfaces of a fine automobile with should not come in contact with stainless steel. If incidental contact with a questionable chemical should happen the chemical must be removed immediately by copious water flushing and cleaning with a mild automobile detergent (car wash). Anything containing a harsh acid or chemical coming in contact with stainless steel will potentially cause harm. You should never under any circumstances us any abrasive compounds or abrasive pads to clean stainless steel.

In salt water environments, for additional corrosion resistance, we recommend electro-polishing your components at an additional charge.

Maintenance Step 1) Initial Cleaning; Clean thoroughly after initial installation with warm water and household soap (dish soap works well) or automobile cleaner (mild car wash). Rinse thoroughly with fresh water. Follow with a protective cleaner and polish such a Flitz marine polish. Other similar polished may be used. But you should not use anything that will scratch or damage the surface.

If you are on the ocean front please consider the Electro Polish process.

Maintenance Step 2) If additional work is taking place in close proximity to the stainless steel, take care not to use any cleaners on work areas that may damage and rinse with fresh water often to maintain a clean surface. If potentially damaging cleaners are splashed on the stainless steel, you must completely repeat step one. Acids are very damaging to stainless steel surfaces, with the exception of Citric Acid in the form of passivation fluid. If you know acids or strong chemical have come in contact with the stainless steel,  you must treat them with Citric Acid passivation fluid and repeat cleaning steps.

Maintenance Step 3) Continuous maintenance; Advice is often sought concerning the frequency of cleaning, and the answer is quite simply "clean the metal when it is dirty in order to restore its original appearance". As a rule of thumb it is always good to rinse with clean water whenever you are cleaning other adjacent surfaces such as a deck or furniture. Clean with a polish as needed to maintain the desired luster; again we recommend a marine polish such as Flitz. In salt water environments we encourage customers to simply hose off the stainless steel as often as necessary to prevent salt build-up.

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