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If you’re here, then at this point, it’s safe to say that stainless steel is not actually ‘stain-less’. 

Stainless steel is a staple in any home — from stainless steel sinks to stainless steel appliances and stainless steel utensils; it’s everywhere. It’s because it’s relatively easy to clean, durable, and can remain shiny despite long-lasting wear. Stainless steel is highly resistant to stains, rust, and corrosion. But not even the best kitchen faucet for hard water is 100% invincible; that’s where learning how to clean hard water stains from stainless steel sink come in.

Despite this, stainless steel surfaces can sometimes look dull, grimy, or have unsightly blemishes. These spots from stainless steel are called water stains.

Water stains – Why do they form?

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Water stains, or hard water stains, are caused by minerals and impurities in the water, particularly hard mineral-rich water. Hard water contains high levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which can leave behind deposits on your sink. Over time, these deposits can build up and create stubborn water stains that are tough to remove.

Hard water spots can also be caused by using the wrong cleaning agent, particularly abrasive ones. Chemicals, especially from unnatural cleaning agents, can damage the finish on stainless steel, scratching at its chromium white film layer; thus, making it more prone to water spots and rusting.

How to clean hard water stains from stainless steel sink

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The good news is that it’s not impossible to remove stubborn stains from a stainless steel sink. In this article, we will walk you through quick and easy tips on how to clean hard water stains from your stainless steel sinks.

Use kitchen staples to clean your sink

First is to use kitchen staples or natural cleaning agents that are readily accessible to you. The most common would be baking soda and white distilled vinegar. This combination is an effective all-purpose cleaner, not just for water stains, but also for dirt and grime.

  1. The first step is to clean and rinse the sink. Be sure to clean around the outer sides as well as the handles
  2. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle then spray it all over the sink. Let it rest for about five minutes.
  3. Next, sprinkle baking soda all over the sink. It may fizzle due to baking soda mixing with water, creating a weak alkaline solution. Let it rest for about ten minutes.
  4. Start removing the water spots by scrubbing the sink with a non-abrasive sponge or damp cloth. Make sure it is a clean cloth. Do not use an old toothbrush or settle for a mild abrasive sponge.
  5. Repeat the process as needed until you’ve removed all the water spots. It may take repeating the process to remove tough stains.

Other Cleaning Agents

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Aside from vinegar or baking soda, there are a few ways that you can also try to remove water spots.

Lemon Juice

The citric acid in lemon juice breaks down mineral deposits and dissolves tough stains caused by hard water. Similar to using vinegar, mix equal parts lemon juice and warm water in a bowl. Dip a soft cloth into the mixture and scrub the surface of the sink. Afterward, rinse it well with water and use a clean cloth to dry it.

Club Soda

Club soda can be poured directly into the stainless steel sink surface while you scrub it with a non-abrasive sponge or clean cloth. The carbonation present in club soda breaks down mineral deposits and dissolves tough stains.

Removing hard water stains from stainless steel appliances

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Now that you know how to clean water stains from the kitchen sink, how about stainless steel appliances? Well, you will still need vinegar, water, and baking soda but rubbing alcohol and olive oil can also come in handy, especially with appliances that require more care.

  1. Using a wet microfiber cloth, wipe down the stainless steel appliance. 
  2. If any fingerprints are sticking to your appliance, spray rubbing alcohol onto the area and wipe it.
  3. If you find the stainless steel appliance a little too grimy, use little dish soap and water to dampen the microfiber cloth and scrub the grimy areas.
  4. Dip a clean cloth onto a white vinegar and water mixture and wipe the stainless steel surface.
  5. Some hard water stains will be extremely hard to remove. Boil your equal parts vinegar and water mixture and afterward dip a paper towel into it. After such, stick the paper towel in the hard water stains that are difficult to remove.
  6. Wipe your appliance with a clean cloth and a bit of olive oil to add shine to your stainless steel.


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Learning how to clean hard water stains from stainless steel sink is simple, you just need the right materials. But you may have some follow-up questions in mind. Here are some related questions you may be thinking about before cleaning hard water spots on your stainless steel sink.

Will vinegar damage a stainless steel sink?

Although vinegar is a very effective cleaner for stainless steel, some people worry that it will damage the surface of the sink. The good news is that vinegar is a natural cleaner that is safe and won’t harm your sink when used correctly. 

However, it’s important to avoid using abrasive materials like steel wool or stiff bristle brushes, as they can scratch your sink’s surface. Also, be sure to rinse your sink thoroughly with water after using vinegar to avoid leaving any residue.

Does hard water damage stainless steel?

While hard water stains are not harmful to humans, they can still cause permanent damage to stainless steel. Alongside calcium and magnesium, hard water can also contain iron. When it’s left on your stainless steel sinks, it can cause oxidation which can then lead to rust. Severe rusting compromises the integrity of your stainless steel sink or faucet, which can leak, and surely you wouldn’t want that.

Will baking soda and vinegar remove hard water stains?

Yes. Baking soda and vinegar are effective cleaning agents against stubborn hard water stains. It can be used separately with water or combined against tougher stains.


Hard water stains on stainless steel can be a frustrating problem for any home but hard water stains are not impossible to clean. But now that you know how to clean hard water stains from stainless steel sink, you can use vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and even club soda. It is best to start with gentle cleaning methods, such as vinegar or baking soda, before moving on to stronger chemical cleaners.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to rinse the sink thoroughly afterward to remove all the residue. If your stainless steel sink is still stained after trying these methods, you may need to call a professional for help.

Depending on the build-up, it is relatively easy to remove water spots and there are multiple ways to do so. But you can also prevent them by using a water softener and treating them against mineral deposits.

With proper care, you can keep a shiny and clean stainless steel sink for years to come!