Learning About and Caring for Stainless Steel

What are the advantages of stainless steel? How can I keep it looking great for years to come?: Read on for everything you've always wanted to know about stainless steel.

Cleaning and Maintenance

While stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion, it is not completely impervious. Therefore, regular cleaning is required to preserve the appearance and integrity of its surface. In fact, stainless steel actually thrives with frequent cleaning, and, unlike some other materials, it is impossible to "wear out" stainless steel by excessive cleaning. The effect of surface/pattern roughness, grain/pattern orientation, and designs that allow for maximum rain cleaning (exterior applications) should be taken into consideration.

The simple frequency rule for cleaning:
Regular cleaning: clean the metal when it is dirty; don't wait until it requires aggressive cleaning in order to restore it to its original appearance.

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Stainless Steel is a Snap to Clean

Regular cleaning with soap or a mild detergent and warm water followed by a clear hot water rinse is usually adequate for household equipment. Water with a high mineral content tends to leave water spots; in this case, it is recommended you wipe the surface completely dry with a clean, dry cloth.

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Basic Cleaning Tips

The Do's

To avoid water marks, use clean rinse water (ordinary tap water should do). Water spots may be avoided by using an air blower or wiping dry with clean disposable wipes.

Nylon abrasive pads should be adequate for dealing with most deposits. If more severe treatment is needed to mask scratches or other surface damage, use the finest abrasive possible when removing damage marks. With directional brushed and polished finishes, try to align and blend the new "scratch pattern" with the original finish, to achieve the most aesthetic result possible.

If wire brushes are used, they should be made of a similar or higher-grade stainless steel. Ensure that all abrasives used are free from contamination especially iron and chloride.

When cleaning a surface with any chemical preparation or abrasive, a test should first be done on a small, unobtrusive or non-critical surface area in order to verify whether the resulting finish will match the original.

Under normal use, heavy heat tinting (oxidation) of stainless steel surfaces is unlikely to be encountered. Repeated cleaning with non-abrasive cream cleaners will usually remove burn marks from stainless steel cookware.

If all of the above suggestions fail, remember that stainless steel can be mechanically polished or electro-polished by specialists onsite. Stainless steel is homogeneous and does not rely on surface plating for its corrosion-resistant properties.

The Don'ts

Do not use bleach.

AVOID ALL CONTACT WITH PRODUCTS CONTAINING HYDROCHLORIC ACID SUCH AS BLEACH, as they can stain and damage the surface of stainless steel appliances.

Do not leave stainless steel objects to soak for long periods in chlorine solutions (e.g. overnight). Long-term exposure to table salt and salt and vinegar mixes can damage stainless steel. We recommend washing stainless surfaces after preparing and cooking foods.

Avoid the use of metal scourers and coarse abrasives or abrasive powders, unless absolutely necessary. The fine particles present in steel wool can get lodged in the surface and will eventually rust, giving the appearance that the stainless steel, itself, is rusting.

Do not use metal scourers or brushes with metal bristles.
Do not allow the following food items to remain on stainless steel surfaces for hours (can cause staning): ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, or salad dressing. You can actually rub out this "whitened" area with a very fine Scotchbrite pad. Make sure to scrub with the grain and not against it.

Do not allow ordinary steel to come into contact with stainless steel under damp conditions.

Avoid contact with aggressive chemicals. Of particular concern is exposure to chlorine, commonly used to sanitize equipment, as well as hydrochloric acid, used in certain cleaning agents and process liquids.

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Household Cleaners

Household cleaners fall into two main categories: detergents (non-abrasive) and abrasive cleaners. Both are effective for most mild dirt, stain and soil deposits, as well as fingerprints. Abrasive cleaners are more effective but may scratch the surface. However, the degree of abrasiveness varies greatly from product to product, and certain brands will produce noticeable scratching on only the most highly polished and some colored surfaces. The level of acidity of all these cleaners varies widely as does the level of chloride, and, therefore, it is a good idea to always thoroughly rinse the surface after cleaning. Even if a label states for stainless steel, this is no guarantee that the product is non-abrasive, non-acidic, or low in chloride. These cleaners are generally applied to the stainless surface, followed by wiping dry with a clean cloth or wiping directly with a cleaner-impregnated soft cloth. In all cases, the newly cleaned surface should be thoroughly rinsed with clean water, then wiped dry with a soft cloth if water streaks are a problem.

The use of Lysol is absolutely not recommended as it can damage stainless steel.

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Commercial Cleaners

Many commercial cleaners containing phosphates, synthetic detergents, and alkalis are available for severely soiled or tarnished stainless steel surfaces. These cleaners provide safe, effective cleaning. Whenever using commercial cleaners, manufacturers' instructions should be consulted and followed. The general precautions stated earlier also pertain to these cleaners.

Commercial cleaner labels stating "Suitable For Stainless Steel" can and certainly should be used.

IMPORTANT: Cleaning agents should be approved for use in compliance with relevant national environmental regulations and should be prepared and used in accordance with manufacturers' or suppliers' health and safety instructions. Solvents should not be used in enclosed areas.

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How to Apply Cleaner

Apply with a soft cloth or sponge and then wipe dry with a soft, clean cloth or allow to air dry. Rub in the same direction as the grain finish.

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Corrosion Resistance

Ferritic alloys (less nickel and chromium), series 400 (430) resist corrosion in atmospheric and pure water environments, while austenitic alloys (more nickel and chromium) series 300 (304) resist corrosion from acids, alkaline solutions, and chlorine-bearing environments  commonly found in processing plants.

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Fire and Heat Resistance

Special high chromium and nickel alloy grades resist scaling
and retain strength at high temperatures.

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Hygiene and aesthetic

Stainless steel's easy cleaning maintenance makes it the first choice for strict hygiene conditions such as those found in hospitals, kitchens, abattoirs, and other food processing plants

Stainless steel's bright, easily maintained surface provides a modern look and attractive appearance.

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Easy to work with

Modern steel-making techniques mean that stainless steel can be cut, welded, form machined, and worked just as readily as traditional steels, but it demands a high level of know-how.

The austenitic microstructure of stainless steel provides a very high degree of toughness, making it able to withstand differences in temperature from very high to far below freezing. This makes it particularly well suited for household applications.

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Long-Term Value

When overall product life-cycle costs are factored in, stainless steel is often the least expensive material option.

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Environmental Considerations

The main source of raw material for stainless steel is recycled scrap metal. This fact has been established for many years and the economics of today's stainless steel-making industry depend on recycling. Over 90% of all new stainless steel is produced from recycled scrap.

The steel is melted electrically and, in most cases, refined using inert air-distilled gases such as argon. Great care is taken to minimize fume and dust emissions. Some plants are equipped to recycle dust during the steel-making process.

Most steel-processing consumable materials including cooling water, lubricating oil, pickling acid, and interleaving paper are recycled at the plant or by specialized contractors. Stainless steel manufacturers and processors recycle their scrap and in-process consumables, including caked pickling acid residue for recycling.

Since stainless steel is composed of corrosion resistant alloys, it has a relatively long life expectancy. Because stainless steel requires only minimum maintenance, while more expensive initially, it offers more attractive "life-cycle cost" benefits over other alternatives such as carbon steel.

Because stainless steel is so easy to maintain, it is an obvious choice for food and beverage manufacturing industries and for catering equipment. Plus, there are no proven health risks from the normal use of stainless steel. Nevertheless, any possible risks from alloy elements such as nickel and chromium are under constant review by experts.

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Stainless Steel: A Green Product!

Julien stainless steel is one of the greenest products currently available on the residential, commercial, and industrial markets. Julien stainless steel is 100% recyclable and maintains very good value on the used steel market.

Products such as kitchen equipment and sinks, and auto exhaust systems can be completely recycled after a long and useful life. The second life is comparable to, if not better than, the first one. The quality of the "new" stainless steel recycled product is the same as the initial product. Julien stainless steel undergoes no degradation during the recycling process.

The stainless steel used by Julien is also an extremely stable metal alloy known for its resistance to corrosion, which means there is no risk of lead, copper, or solvent leaking out during use in components exposed to water or inclement weather.

Lastly, since Julien stainless steel is naturally resistant to corrosion, it does not react to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Protective paint is therefore unnecessary, limiting the emission of volatile organic compounds often present in paints.

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Stainless Steel

The corrosion resistance of stainless steel is due to a passive, chromium-rich, oxide film that forms naturally on its surface. Although extremely thin, this protective film is strongly adherent and chemically stable (e.g. passive) under conditions that provide sufficient oxygen to the surface.

The key to the durability of the corrosion resistance of stainless steel is that if the film becomes damaged, it will normally repair itself, provided sufficient oxygen is available. In contrast to other types of steel that suffer from "general" corrosion with large surface areas being affected, stainless steel in the "passive state" is normally resistant to this kind of attack.

However, stainless steel cannot be considered "indestructible." Its passive state can be broken down under certain conditions, with corrosion resulting. This is why it is important to carefully select the appropriate grade for each particular application.

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