How Vinegar Damages Stainless Steel

The pantry staple vinegar is a reliable, non-toxic way to clean many items around the house. It’s inexpensive, too. However, cleaning with vinegar can be dangerous to some surfaces and appliances if used incorrectly.

For instance, it’s important to know how vinegar can damage stainless steel, particularly if you use it too often. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which can break down the structure of certain oils, films and stains on surfaces. It can also etch some types of stainless steel.

It’s best to use distilled water when cleaning stainless steel. Distilled water is gentler than tap water, so it won’t etch or wear down the surface of your appliances. It’s also less likely to leave mineral deposits, which can discolor or dull the finish of your appliances.

Regular vinegar can remove superficial rust marks from most stainless steel. It works by a combination of displacement and redox reactions. The iron oxide molecules are displaced by the acetic acid in vinegar, which helps wash away the rust. Then, the aluminum foil in food-wrapping aluminum foil reacts with the iron oxide in vinegar to dissolve it.

But it’s not as effective at removing tougher stains, such as those caused by grease or burns. In these cases, baking soda or a mild dishwashing soap is a better option. It’s also important to note that diluted vinegar is safe for most stainless steel. In fact, most commercial cleaners contain a blend of diluted vinegar and water or baking soda to make them more friendly to the surface of stainless steel.

You can use a mixture of vinegar and water to clean grates on your stainless steel grill. Put equal parts of the solution in a spray bottle, and apply it to the grill grates. Let it soak for a few minutes, then scrub the grates with a wire brush and rinse them thoroughly with hot water.

Another great use for vinegar is to degrease your kitchen equipment. It can be applied with a cloth or paper towel, and then wiped off the appliance to remove oil and grease buildup. However, it’s important to use the right kind of cloth to avoid scratching the surface of your appliances. Paper towels and rags can scratch or erode the luster of stainless steel. Using a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth is best.

If you are using a natural degreaser on your stainless steel appliances, it’s a good idea to buff them with an oil afterward. This will help maintain the lustrous appearance of your appliances, and keep them shiny and stain-resistant.

It’s also a good idea to avoid harsh chemical cleaners and steel wool when cleaning your stainless steel appliances. Harsh chemical cleaners can damage or scratch the surface of your appliances, and steel wool will leave small bits of steel behind on the surface of your stainless steel that can oxidize and discolor it over time.