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The RV Stainless Steel Sink: How to Clean It & Remove Scratches

The RV Stainless Steel Sink: How to Clean It & Remove Scratches

If your RV stainless steel sink could use a little help in the “bright & shiny” department, then this is the post for you.

Over time and use, RV sinks can start to look stained, dull, old, and may even be scratched. Some RV owners choose to replace their sinks, and that’s certainly an option. But before you go to the expense and the trouble of getting a brand new sink for your RV, give these ideas a shot. You just may find that your current one just needs a little TLC!

What Are RV Kitchen Sinks Made Of?

The four main types of RV sinks that are commonly available on the market are stainless steel sinks, acrylic sinks, plastic sinks, and sinks made of Corian which is a well-known brand of solid surface, non-porous material made from a mixture of 1/3 acrylic polymer and 2/3 natural minerals. (You may have seen our post entitled “How Do You Clean a Badly Stained Corian Sink?“)

Plastic sinks are the most common in RVs and they’re also the least expensive sink option when replacing a sink in your RV.

Is It Normal for Stainless Steel Sinks to Scratch?

The good thing about stainless steel sinks is that they’re unlikely to chip or crack. They are, however, vulnerable to scratches and water spots just from everyday use.

So yes, it’s somewhat normal for stainless steel sinks to scratch and become dull, but with a bit of regular care and maintenance, “normal” becomes far less likely.

Can Scratches Be Removed From Stainless Steel Sinks?

It’s possible to bring the luster back to stainless steel sinks and yes, it’s even possible to remove scratches or treat them so that they’re less noticeable.

Deep scratches or gouges are more challenging, of course, but there are actually a few things you can try to make this type of damage less obvious as well.

What Should I Use to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink?

There are a few different ways to clean a stainless steel sink. Depending on what materials you have on hand, here are some of the most-recommended cleaning methods that tend to work best.

We’ll start with the method that uses items you’re likely to have in your kitchen cabinet:

Rinse the Sink with Water

RV stainless steel sink being rinsed with water

Before attempting to remove scratches and stains, be sure to rinse the sink well to remove all food particles, oils, etc.

First, rinse your sink well and be sure to thoroughly remove any food particles and general grime that may have built up in the basin.

Use some dish soap and then thoroughly rinse the entire sink with hot water.

Coat the Sink With Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda generously throughout the sink, coating the entire basin with a light covering.

Baking soda works very well on hard water deposits, water spots, and grease. The other great thing about baking soda is that, unlike some chemical cleaners, it does its job without leaving any potentially harmful chemical residue behind.

Scrub in the Direction of the Grain of the Stainless Steel

Use a soft nylon brush, soft sponge, or even just a paper towel, to rub the baking soda in the direction of the grain of the metal.

Woman using a soft sponge to scrub stainless steel sink

Use a soft brush, sponge, or even a paper towel to scrub the baking soda into the sink’s surface, making sure to scrub in the direction of the grain of the stainless steel.

Important note: Don’t use steel brushes, abrasive pads, or steel wool for this job as these can further scratch the stainless steel.

If you have an extra toothbrush handy, they work well in tight spaces and around the drain and fixtures as well as around the edges of the sink where it meets the countertop.

You may notice that as you scrub with the baking soda (in the direction of the grain!), smaller scratches seem to melt away while more significant scratches become less noticeable.

Spray Undiluted Vinegar Onto the Sink and Wait

Before rinsing away the baking soda, spray white vinegar throughout the sink. (Don’t dilute the vinegar with water – use it straight.)

You’ll notice the vinegar and baking soda bubbling or frothing a bit – this is a reaction that will further serve to brighten your old stainless steel sink. In addition, the acidic nature of vinegar helps to dissolve calcium deposits from hard water, thus removing water spots. It’s also a fantastic disinfectant.

Wait for 5-10 minutes and then thoroughly rinse and dry the sink.

Create a Paste of Vinegar & Cream of Tartar

If you find that stains were left behind once the steps above were completed, mix a cup of white vinegar and ¼ cup of cream of tartar to create a paste that will serve as a homemade stain remover.

Put some of the paste directly on the stain and rub gently using a cloth or a paper towel. Let the paste sit on the stain for a good 5-10 minutes.

Rinse with warm water and dry the sink.

Buff the Sink With Olive Oil

Once your sink is clean and dry, apply a few drops of olive oil to a cloth and buff the sink almost as though you’re waxing a car after washing it. Buffing the sink and fixtures with a light dose of oil should bring the sparkle back!

A sparkling clean stainless steel sink

Once fully cleaned and buffed with household products or a commercial product, buffing the sink with a bit of oil on a cloth can make it sparkle like new (or nearly new)!

If you don’t have the household products used in the steps above handy, or if you simply want to keep a single easy-to-use product on hand to maintain your sinks, showers, and tubs (regardless of what they’re made of), here are a couple of products that are favorites for cleaning and maintaining the shine of all types of sinks.

Bar Keeper’s Friend

Bar Keepers Friend Powdered Cleanser 12-Ounces (1-Unit)
  • NEW LOOK, SAME FORMULA. Cleans and Polish. As a bleach-free product, this cleanser is an ideal stainless steel cleaner and can easily remove rust,...

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, Extra Durable, Shoe, Bathroom, Shower, and Car Window and Windshield Cleaner, Cleaning Pads with Durafoam, 10 Count
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Durable scrubber is 4X Stronger* with DURAFOAM. *Cleaning performance vs. the leading all-purpose bleach spray
  • This cleaning scrubber is tough on dirt, all around the house! Surface cleaner, wall cleaner, bathtub cleaner, oven door cleaner, erases marks on...

How to Remove Stubborn Scratches from an RV Stainless Steel Sink

If you find that even after cleaning and attempting to treat fine scratches in your RV stainless steel sink, you’ve got some stubborn scratches remaining, here are a few tips to try.

Clean the Sink

Clean the sink very well using dish soap or, if you have some on hand, a strong powder-based cleaner like Bar Keeper’s Friend. Rinse the sink well and dry it completely.

Sand Lightly If Scratches Are Deep

If you’ve got some deep scratches to deal with, you may need to do some light sanding. You can use fine sandpaper (400 to 600 grit) and a sanding block, or use a rubbing compound or abrasive pad. There are also stainless steel repair kits on the market. Results vary.

Be sure to note the direction of the grain and sand only in that direction and only with very light pressure. Never work against the grain as you may ruin the finish of the sink causing damage that can’t be repaired. Again, use a light pressure working in the direction of the grain.

Once completed, clean the sink with a cleaner like Bar Keeper’s Friend or use baking soda and vinegar. Dry with a soft microfiber cloth.

Polish With a Stainless Steel Polish/Cleaner and a Microfiber Cloth

You can polish your stainless steel sinks (or stainless steel anything, as long as it’s not coated like many refrigerators are) with a good quality polish/cleaner and a microfiber cloth.

Here are a couple of high-quality products for cleaning and polishing stainless steel. Both products include a soft, microfiber cloth.

Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner Kit

Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner Kit - Removes Fingerprints, Residue, Water Marks, and Grease
  • #1 SELLING STAINLESS STEEL BRAND : Weiman makes the best selling and most trusted stainless steel cleaning products on the market
  • CLEAN & POLISH : A pH neutral formula quickly cleans, shines & protects any stainless steel surface. Does not remove scratches.

Bar Keeper’s Friend Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish

Bar Keepers Friend Stainless Steel Cleaner Spray (25.4 oz) + Microfiber Cloth - Removes Fingerprints and Grime Without Dulling
  • Stainless Steel Cleaning Kit: Includes Bar Keepers Friend Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish Spray and a microfiber cloth. The cleaner effectively...
  • Removes Fingerprints: This Cleaning Spray from Bar Keepers Friend is one of the household essentials specially formulated to remove oily fingerprints,...

RV Stainless Steel Sink Protectors

Once you have your stainless steel RV sink clean and scratch-free, one good way to keep from it all over again is to lay down some protection. There are various types of protectors available, so be sure to accurately measure your sink prior to ordering.

Camco 43720 RV & Marine Sink Mat , White
  • Cushion and protect glassware and dishes with Camco's RV & Marine Sink Mat. This Mat's small size is specifically engineered for RV & Marine sinks....
  • Small size vinyl mat is specifically engineered for RV and marine sinks
OXO Good Grips Small Sink Mat,Gray
  • Soft surface protects dishware and sinks from chipping and scratching
  • Rigid construction and non-slip feet stay in place, even in busy sinks

How Do You Care for Your RV Stainless Steel Sinks?

If you’ve had an RV stainless steel sink, let us know how you’ve kept yours from appearing dull, scratched, and stained over time.

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Monday 10th of July 2023

Do these hints work for the black as sinks also?


Tuesday 11th of July 2023

Hi Larry... black stainless steel sinks require additional care, since the "black" is usually a coating on top of the underlying stainless metal. So anything abrasive (including baking soda or Bar Keeper's Friend) could make things worse. We'd suggest checking with whoever made the sink to see what they recommend, as they'd be the experts on the finish and what will/won't hurt it.

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PLEASE NOTE: We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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