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Thread: Stainless Steel Care 101

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2009

    Stainless Steel Care 101

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    There have been a few posts on the forum about caring for and revitalising stained/marked stainless steel. This is not going to be a technical extravaganza but rather a practical guide on how to best keep your shiny stainless machines looking spiffy. There will be a little bit of science to help the background but Iíll keep it light. Ive been meaning to do this for a while, I hope it helps. :)

    Stainless steel is regular carbon steel that has chrome added. There are many grades of stainless steel but only two that we need to know for our coffee machines, these are 304L and 316L. These are the two food grade rated stainless steels. Both have chrome in them, about 10%, but the 316L also has a few percent of cobalt and molybdenum, these are expensive and make 316L more expensive than 304L but it is considerably more stain/mark resistant.

    The chrome gives the steel a its ďstainless" finish because of its reactivity. This sounds back-to-front but let me explain. Chrome is very reactive but it reacts quickly to give chrome oxide (Cr2O3) which is very stable. The chrome on the surface of stainless steel reacts to form a protective coating of chrome oxide, like a very thin coat of paint. If this coating is removed by scratches or sanding, the freshly exposed chrome simply reacts to form a fresh coating so itís self preserving. This protective coating is known as a passive layer.

    Despite the protective ability of the passive layer it can still be breached. Chlorides and the phosphates (found in most strong cleaning agents) are very good at digging holes through the passive layer, especially on 304L which doesnít have the exotic metals, that 316L does, helping to stabilise it. What this means for us household users is that you will never see rust spots appear on 316L but you will on 304L unless you stay on top of your cleaning.

    Fortunately staying on top of things is very simple. The nasties can only do their work in the presence of water. Cleaning is simply a matter of
    1) wiping stains/grime off with a sponge and detergent, if necessary.
    2) wiping with a damp sponge (water only).
    3) towel dry.
    If you follow these steps everytime you use your stainless steel machine, it will gleam like new until you drop.

    If you are unfortunate enough to already have stains/rust spots on your gear, removing them is simple but requires a bit of elbow grease. Light marks can be polished out with a soft cloth and Silvo, Staino, toothpaste (yes, itís an abrasive) or any other good metal polish. Heavy stains may need a light buff with a very fine abrasive paper. Use 1200 grit wet and dry or finer (higher number means finer particles), USE WATER throughout the process. Sand lightly - Be warned, this will leave a patch with a different lustre. It will require a follow up polish requiring a significant amount of time and effort to blend back to the original finish.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2010

    Re: Stainless Steel Care 101

    thanks for that very concise and easy to understand guide Brewman :)
    Im sure it will help alot of people around here.
    takes me back to my days of studying materials as part of some engineering stuff i did :-/ *scratches head* its sorta coming back.

  3. #3
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Warwick, QLD

    Re: Stainless Steel Care 101

    Excellent stuff "brewman".... [smiley=thumbsup.gif]

    Have made sticky so other CSers can find it easily.

    Good one mate 8-)

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2009

    Re: Stainless Steel Care 101

    Thanks Mal.
    Ive got plenty out of this forum so it was nice to be able to give something back :)

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Re: Stainless Steel Care 101

    If stainless steel panels are scuffed and stained enough that a polish wont renovate them well enough, the next step is linishing - basically using a machine that looks like an angle grinder that uses a flapper wheel composed of segments of special sandpaper or scouring pads (they come in a variety of grades).

    Linishing is like polishing, but the desired result is not a high polish, rather an evenly grained surface that looks a bit more modern than a polished finish and tends to hide any future marks or stains better than a polished finish. After cleaning a good stainless steel oil is the best way to finish the job - spray on a little and buff off.

    Weve renovated a number of La Marzocco Lineas that have had a hard life in various cafes, and while the innards were rebuilt 100% the outsides looked average. When we got the linisher and got to work, we got the machines looking possibly better than brand new.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Re: Stainless Steel Care 101

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Yikes. I generally keep it clean similar to in the OP, but I wipe down with vinegar every once in a while on all exterior panels, then wipe with a dry cloth. Keeps it gleaming :)

    I also soak my steam wand in vinegar if it gets a bit gunked up.

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