What are some proper railing maintenance tips?
- Use water and cloth
- Detergent or dishwashing liquid method
- Chamois and Phosphoric Acid
- Use a cleaning solution
Stainless steel railings are a great addition to any building because they help with protection from hazards that put people’s lives at risk. However, once they are already installed, cleaning and maintaining them properly is the next challenge one might face, and it’s not all that clear how to do that. When it comes to local stainless steel, here are some tips on how to properly clean and maintain railings.
Use water and cloth
One of the great things about stainless steel is that they are robust and can stand the abuse of the elements with no problem. This is why this first tip is rather simple — use water and cloth.
Routine cleaning for most items other than stainless steel railings can be accomplished by using warm water and a piece of cloth. On top of being very accessible and simple, this is also the least risky option for cleaning handrails. They can clean most forms of dirt, and pose little to no chemical content that can have adverse effects on stainless steel (except for the occasional water spot that can be caused by minerals in ‘hard’ water like calcium). If you are using filtered water, then you don’t have much to worry about. Keep it simple by using some water and cloth.
Detergent / dishwashing liquid method
During times where there is high water and salt content in the air like near beaches and swimming areas, stainless steel, even the high-grade version like 316, has been known to exhibit corrosion, rust, and contamination marks. Warm water and cloth may not be enough to get rid of those marks.
This is where detergent and household dishwashing liquid come into the picture. These cleaning agents have a little more stain-removing power than water which makes them apt for the situation. Mild detergent or dishwashing liquid (just choose one) and some warm water can do a great job of cleaning out the corrosion or contamination marks without damaging the stainless steel itself. Just make sure to rinse the railing properly so as to not leave any soap residue.
Chamois and Phosphoric acid
Chamois or chammy leather and phosphoric acid might be a little less accessible than previously mentioned tips and methods, but it is definitely one of the more effective ways to clean stainless steel. When the glass railing you are looking to clean is exhibiting lots of ‘brown spots’ due to rust or other environmental pollutants, some phosphoric acid applied using a chamois can be an effective way to clean it.
What makes using chammy leather effective is its non-abrasive surface. Combined with its high absorption properties, it can soak up the phosphoric acid well and clean surfaces consistently without having to replace or dry the chamois. Meanwhile, phosphoric acid’s cleaning efficacy is no secret as it is also used to clean concrete, tiles and natural stone. It is also applicable to stainless steel as its chemical properties do little to affect the metal alloy’s composition.
If the railing you are going to clean is made of polished stainless steel, make sure to clean along the grain and not against it.
Use a cleaning solution
Last but not least, if none of the previous methods are effective, cleaning solutions made for stainless steel is available in the market. This is probably the most effective cleaning agent to use for your endeavor as it’s chemically engineered to remove most, if not all, forms of dirt that can stain the otherwise stainless steel. It can also function as a scratch remover and polisher for your stainless steel products, not just your railings. If you are not sure about how much to use, don’t be afraid to test it out on an inconspicuous part of the railing, and always read the instructions.
As an extra tip, if fingerprints and skin marks are the main hindrances to your clean railings dream, cleaning solutions made for glass can work wonders. Try it.
Things to avoid
Now that you know what to do, here are some things you should avoid when cleaning stainless steel. Never use steel wool or sandpaper for your railing. Using these highly abrasive materials will leave tons of scratches and blemishes on your railings. Stick to gentler materials such as chamois and regular cloth.
You should also avoid using chlorine or chloride-based solutions. Chlorine when in contact with water and as a dissolved gas is potentially aggressive to stainless steel and can result in more stains or worse, holes in your railings thanks to pitting corrosion.
As you’ve read, it’s not that hard to clean stainless steel in the Philippines. If you are left distraught at the cleaning endeavor you can always just go to the nearest hardware or department store to buy a stainless steel cleaner. Experts also recommend cleaning your stainless steel products in 3 to 6-month intervals, especially if they are outdoors and are exposed to harsh elements.