Anyone who has cleaned tile, grout or stone floors using an acid side cleaner has learned to be extra careful when using these products in the vicinity of surfaces they were not meant to be used. This is especially true of many metals including stainless steel appliances. As profitable as the job may be, there is likely not enough cushion to buy the client a new sub-zero refrigerator. So what should you do?
First and foremost is to protect surrounding surfaces that you are not cleaning! This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Plastic sheeting secured with Preservation Tape is a good way to cover many surfaces. Drop cloths featuring an absorbent top surface backed by plastic are another option.
Pour and mix your cleaning product outside the home and then carry in only your sprayer. This reduces possible damage caused by splashing chemicals.
Reacting to a Splash or Spill
If despite your best efforts, an acid solution does get splashed onto a sensitive metal surface, what should you do? As quickly as possible wipe it off, rinse with water or an alkaline solution, for example Spinergy Stoneperfect or Viper Venom to neutralize the acid. Quick action can often prevent an etch that could be permanent. Although less likely, very caustic (high pH) cleaners can also damage metal. In that situation, rinse with plenty of water and a mild acid. Maybe you have some End Zone in the van.
Although acids can corrode many metals, stainless steel seems to be the most problematic. Why is this? Corrosion is very visible on highly polished stainless steel surfaces. There is a great deal of stainless steel present in commercial kitchens and middle and upper income homes. Stainless steel appliances are very costly to replace.
There are over 150 different grades and varieties of stainless steel. Although only a few are used for residential appliances, there will still be variations in how the surface reacts to acid side cleaners. The quality of the stainless steel, how the surface is finished, age and previous maintenance of the surface all influence if a splash rinses off or begins corroding the surface possibly leaving a permanent mark.
Most stainless steel used for kitchen appliances is referred to as 304 grade in the USA. This may be known by its ISO designation A2 stainless or 18/8 stainless steel in other counties. This means that in addition to low carbon steel, there is 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Stainless steel with less chromium or nickel will corrode even quicker resulting in greater damage from acidic cleaning solutions.
If the surface has been damaged, there are several options to correct it. A very simple solution will sometimes work. Just buff the surface using a white Scotch Brite brand scouring pad or similar. Work in line with the grain.
Often you will need to be more aggressive. The next step up is Bar Keeper’s Friend brand of cleanser. It is available as a powder, which I prefer, or as a liquid. Follow the directions on the container. You can find it on-line, at restaurant supply stores or big box hardware stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot..
Some technicians have reported success using 400 grit wet /dry sanding paper. I have not personally used this method. If you try this, use the wet mode.
Scratch – B-Gone is a stainless steel polishing product sold on-line and at some appliance stores. A home-owner kit and a professional kit are available. The home-owner kit will do the job unless you anticipate repairing stainless frequently. The process is not complicated, but you may feel more comfortable with a little training and practice before you use it on your client’s appliances. However, the results on heavy damage can be a life-saver.
If you find that your repair attempts don’t satisfy your client and they are asking you to replace one of their appliances, keep in mind that whether the item is a refrigerator, stove, dish washer, compactor or whatever that replace panels or parts are available. These can be changed out for much less than the cost of a new appliance.
A Trade Secret Revealed
Want to save yourself and your company from the potential cost and aggravation of damaged appliances, upset clients and all that follows? Listen closely and I will reveal a trade secret. Spinergy Resuscitate Restorative Tile & Grout Cleaner contains the only technology shown by third party testing to be safer on most metals including stainless steel!
It will not typically etch or corrode most metal surfaces, including stainless steel. It is still prudent to mask off all surfaces which could inadvertently come in contact with spray, especially metal and baseboards.
Resuscitate is also non-fuming – a real benefit over competing acid cleaners, especially when cleaning in partially enclosed areas such as shower stalls. The proprietary ingredients used in Resuscitate has proven to be more effective at removing insoluble mineral salts (calcium, magnesium, lime scale and so forth) than commonly used ingredients such as sulfamic acid, citric acid or glycolic acid.
Acid cleaners, including Resuscitate, are not usually appropriate for stone surfaces containing calcium carbonate. This includes marble, limestone and travertine. However when cleaning porcelain, terra cotta or ceramic tile or any time you would use an acidic cleaner, Resuscitate can greatly reduce your concerns about damaging stainless steel. Of course, it is still always a sensible precaution to protect surfaces that are not being cleaned.
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