Few things accentuate beauty and class in a bathroom, like stainless steel accents. The allure of the gleam of an attractive silver patina and the promise of stainless material is hard to resist. But it may get you thinking; can steel completely survive one of the more intensively messy rooms in the house? Or will even stainless steel bathroom cabinets fall to rust? Well, we've done our research on the subject down below for you.
Unfortunately, yes, stainless steel can potentially rust. Stainless is a misnomer when applied completely, even to something as strong as steel. It is, however, resistant to corrosion and rust that frequently plague bathroom fixtures. Other metals are mixed in with steel to create stainless steel properties, giving it this resistance. But the bottom line is, stainless steel fixtures, including cabinets, require maintenance.
So now that you know a little about how stainless steel does and does not work, the question quickly becomes how to protect best and clean your steel fixtures so that rust and corrosion don't become an issue. There are also ways to treat rust should it already be happening. Either way, stainless steel will need certain steps to maintain, and you'll likely have further questions. Read on to learn more about cleaning your steel cabinets, faucets, and whatever else you might need.
Does stainless steel rust in the bathroom?
As previously mentioned, stainless steel is an unfortunate misnomer. The steel is not completely immune from the ravages of bathroom grime and moisture. A good way to see why stainless steel resists corrosion and rust where cheaper common steel variants do not is to learn what is happening at a molecular level.
What we know as rust is metal molecules, in this case, our steel, chemically reacting to the oxygen molecules found in water to form an unstable iron oxide film. This film only continues to grow with further exposure to water and air. As this film grows thicker, it becomes visibly observable, forming rust on our cabinets and fixtures.
The elements found in stainless steel create a very different film due to different chemical reactions being present. Whereas the film found in regular steel is unstable and combines to form quickly, this film is more stable and thin. The makeup of this film makes it much harder to see for a much longer period of time, causing stainless steel cabinets to appear rustproof over time. This much longer shelf life is what justifies stainless steel's greater price tag.
However, even this film will eventually build up, and your cabinets will need maintenance. Keeping your bathroom clean is always a necessary task around the house, especially when you have beauty in mind along with function.
What grade of stainless steel will not rust?
So now we know all grades of stainless steel do eventually succumb to some level of rusting over time. You might be wondering what the difference between the kinds of stainless steel even is. You'll likely hear the numbers 304 and 316 about grades of stainless steel and not know quite what that means. Made even more confusing is the fact that they are near visibly identical. However, the two grades and the many other over 100 grades of stainless steel offer different benefits and functions.
Stainless steel 316 is specifically desired for its high resistance to corrosion by salinity. It enjoys high use in outdoor settings or cooking with specific salty requirements. Stainless steel 304, by comparison, is highly rust and corrosion-resistant as well but susceptible to salinity. Grade 316 fills the niche that 304 suffers from, but salinity should not be an issue when it comes to bathroom interiors.
How do you keep bathroom stainless steel from rusting?
Knowing why your stainless steel bathroom cabinets resist but aren't immune from rusting, you can move on towards successful cleaning and protection methods. A higher price tag does mean wanting to keep those cabinets and steel fixtures sparkling. The biggest culprit when it comes to rust production is, without a doubt, water. Removing standing water from anywhere in your bathroom, including on the steel, reduces humidity.
The best way to keep your stainless steel in your bathroom from rusting, however, is regular cleaning. If you keep your cabinets from sustaining physical damage from humidity, such as pitting and other markings, you'll allow it to maintain its barrier between the stainless steel and the oxidization process. Supporting it with regular cleaning will only help, so long as you take good care.
Prevention and protection are always better solutions to a rust problem than letting it get to a point where it becomes a problem. Keep that in mind, no matter how tiresome bathroom cleaning can get. Don't drive yourself mad over this; however, you did spend the money on stainless steel for a reason. Being sensible is all that's really required.
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How do you clean stainless steel bathroom cabinets?
For daily minimal upkeep, warm water and a gentle detergent will help keep oils and fingerprints off your cabinets. Just remember to dry your steel fixtures after cleaning to keep oxidization at bay for as long as possible. When cleaning your stainless steel, clean with the grain and not against it. This will prevent you from adding scratches to your exteriors. It's also unnecessary to use harsh methods such as steel wool to remove rust.
Chemical methods such as baking soda solutions and simple bristle brushes remove rust without risking scratches or damage and do the trick on a molecular level. If you've come to notice some spots popping up in your bathroom, there might be some scrubbing in your future. The mild abrasiveness of baking soda will do wonders for removing rust from your steel fixtures, with a little elbow grease added in, of course.
If you find the rust a bit too strong for simple baking soda to take on, look into purchasing a cleaner with oxalic acid. Oxalic acid dissolves rust and stains without damaging your steel fixtures underneath it. You'll likely need to get in there a bit once again, but the results will be well worth the effort. Or you can look on towards our next suggestion.
Does WD-40 protect stainless steel?
Another simple and cost-effective way of protecting and treating your stainless steel appliances is with a healthy application of WD-40. A quick spray and wipe down of your fixtures is all that's required to remove smudges and unsightly marks. It will even dissolve stains into a quickly removable state. WD-40 even comes in a low odor variant for indoor use, given it's a smell you likely won't want lingering in your bathroom.
WD-40 also helps by forming a protective barrier over your steel that will reduce the speed at which further markings occur. It's been established that protective barriers slow down the rusting process by making it harder for oxygen molecules to adhere. So the benefits to an occasional wipedown with WD-40 are several.
Just remember to clean up thoroughly after using WD-40 as it's not a product you'll want accidentally being ingested or inhaled in any amount. This can occur in rooms like your kitchen or bathroom, so always clean up properly. You'll have to use it multiple times, but the aforementioned barrier it provides will mean a longer time between cleanings. This will come in especially handy in messy rooms like the bathroom with lots of hands everywhere.
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Both stainless steel fixtures and making your bathroom look beautiful are major investments in the home. Combining those two things means you're going to want to put the time and effort into keeping everything looking great. Your cabinets are a major part of any bathroom decor, and we hope you've learned a lot about how to maintain and keep them safe for years to come.