An impressive metal, stainless steel is used in many products because of its attractive and shiny appearance. From jewelry and cookware to countertops and refrigerators, and even some auto parts, you’ll find stainless steel pretty much everywhere for both its aesthetics and durability.
While it is widely used and assumed to be indestructible, it does beg the question: does stainless steel tarnish?
Does Stainless Steel Tarnish?
Yes (eventually, just like many other metals), stainless steel will tarnish!
However, the best attribute about it is that it does not tarnish easily or as quickly as the rest.
It’s important to remember that stainless steel is susceptible to ‘other‘ issues like dull or discoloration.
Discoloration of stainless steel does not necessarily mean that it is tarnishing. Water spots, for instance, are often the primary reason why some might think their stainless steel product is beginning to show its age.
Other causes of discoloration include heat damage and scratches, which can be caused by using harsh cleaning materials or scrubbing too hard.
Why Does Stainless Steel Tarnish?
Tarnishing of stainless steel can eventually happen, though the process is much slower compared to other metals.
The main cause of tarnishing is exposure to oxygen, which begins a chemical reaction that creates a thin layer of oxide on the surface of the metal.
This thin layer is what we refer to as tarnish. It is usually a dull gray or black color.
While it does not have any adverse effects on the performance or durability of stainless steel, it does affect its appearance.
Does Stainless Steel Gold Jewelry Tarnish?
Yes, stainless steel gold jewelry tarnishes over time!
A widespread misconception is that stainless steel jewelry does not rust or tarnish because of its outer Chromium film.
It can still happen though, due to continuous contact with external environmental factors.
Stainless steel jewelry features around 10% Chromium that protects it from rust and tarnish. While this does protect it, rusting or tarnishing is inevitable.
Continuous usage of jewelry alters the average tarnishing or rusting time. Jewelry made of stainless steel such as necklaces and rings will tarnish within a short time if they’re regularly in contact with water.
Tarnishing of stainless steel jewelry can also happen due to exposure to body oils, and chemicals like hairspray, lotion, or perfume.
The good news is that you can clean and polish the jewelry to bring back the original luster.
The best way to keep your stainless steel gold jewelry from rusting or tarnishing is by prevention.
You should take it off when taking a shower, or doing household chores such as washing dishes or clothes. Also, avoid contact with harsh chemicals such as bleach or perfume.
It’s advisable to store the jewelry in a cool dry place away from sunlight. You can also use a sealant to create a barrier between the metal and oxygen which will help to prevent or at least slow down the tarnishing process.
Does Stainless Steel Fade?
No, stainless steel does not fade!
The chromium in stainless steel prevents it from fading and gives it its distinctive shine. Additionally, chromium helps to protect the metal from certain types of scratches and other damage.
However, if the stainless steel does become scratched or damaged, repairing it can be challenging. Therefore, it is important to take care when wearing and storing stainless steel jewelry.
How to Clean Tarnish Off Stainless Steel
If you are wondering how to clean tarnish off stainless steel, there are several methods that can be used.
The first is by using a commercial cleaner specifically designed for this purpose.
Some of the commercial cleaners you could consider include:
You can also use a mixture of water and baking soda or white vinegar and water.
For tougher stains, you can use a paste made from equal parts lemon juice and cream of tartar. Rub the paste onto the stain using a soft cloth then rinse with warm water.
Discoloration and tarnishing are not permanent though, and with proper care, your stainless steel products will continue to look great for many years to come!
How to Prevent Stainless Steel from Tarnishing
Having established that stainless steel tarnishes over time, is there anything you can do to prevent or at least manage the tarnishing better?
The answer is YES!
Here are some tips on how to do just that:
Keep It Clean
As with all other things, the best way to keep your stainless steel looking great is by keeping it clean. Always wipe it down after use, and avoid letting dirt or dust accumulate on its surface.
Store It Properly
When not in use, store your stainless steel products in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing them in damp areas as this can accelerate the tarnishing process.
Use A Sealant
You can also use a clear sealant on your stainless steel products to create a barrier between the metal and oxygen. This will help to prevent or at least slow down the tarnishing process.
Another great way to keep your stainless steel looking its best is by polishing it on a regular basis. This will help to remove any residue or stains that might have accumulated on its surface and also give it a nice shine.
By doing the above, you can prevent or slow down the tarnishing of stainless steel and keep your stainless steel products looking great for many years to come!
Will Stainless Steel Tarnish in Water?
Stainless steel is water resistant and does not tarnish in water because of the element Chromium. The chromium reacts with oxygen to create a thin layer of oxide on the surface of the steel. This oxide layer is what gives stainless steel its corrosion resistance.
Will Stainless Steel Tarnish in Salt Water?
Stainless steel can corrode and rust if exposed continually to salt water and other corrosive conditions with time.
This is why it is important to always keep your stainless steel clean, and to dry it off as soon as possible if it does come into contact with salty water.
If you live near the ocean, or if you frequently swim in salt water pools, you will need to take extra care of your stainless steel jewelry and other items.
Here are some tips on how to prevent stainless steel corrosion due to salt water:
- Rinse off your jewelry with fresh water after each wear.
- Use a soft cloth to dry off your jewelry (avoid using paper towels or other rougher materials).
- Store your jewelry in a dry place when you’re not wearing it.
- Avoid leaving your jewelry in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
- If your jewelry does become tarnished, you can clean it with a mild soap and water solution. Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaners, as these can damage the finish of your jewelry.
Does 304 Stainless Steel Tarnish?
Although 304 grade stainless steel resists corrosion for some time, it’ll eventually start to tarnish.
A lot of people think that stainless steel doesn’t tarnish because it contains Chromium.
Chromium does give stainless steel its corrosion-resistant properties, but it isn’t the only element in the alloy.
304 grade stainless steel also contains nickel and carbon.
These elements can interact with oxygen and can cause 304 stainless steel to start developing a dull, golden-brown patina.
You may not see this patina right away, but over time it’ll become more and more pronounced.
Does 316 Stainless Steel Tarnish?
316 stainless steel, which is an austenitic stainless steel, contains chromium, nickel, and molybdenum.
316 stainless steel is resistant to corrosion and tarnish.
This combination of metals makes for a durable, strong material that is resistant to corrosion and tarnish.
Will Stainless Steel Cookware Tarnish in the Dishwasher?
Generally, stainless steel is dishwasher safe. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure your stainless steel cookware comes out of the dishwasher looking as good as it went in.
First and foremost, avoid using dishwasher detergents with bleach or harsh chemicals. These can damage the finish of your cookware and cause it to tarnish over time. Instead, opt for a mild detergent specifically designed for use with stainless steel.
Secondly, always load your stainless steel cookware into the dishwasher upside down. This will protect the surface of the cookware from scratches that can occur during the washing cycle.
Finally, be sure to run the dishwasher on a gentle cycle if possible.