What Causes Rust Spots on Stainless Steel Silverware?
A new stainless steel silverware set can be one of the most prized possessions in your dining room. It can also be one of the most overused pieces. Over time, you will notice that these stainless-steel silverware will slowly rust or produce black spots (also called pits). These things are proof that your silverware is not being maintained properly.
An Overview of Stainless Steel Flatware
When you say flatware, this simply refers to “flat” items in your dining area or cutlery set. Examples would be knives, forks, and spoons.
Stainless steel flatware describes a composition of flatware which is made up of a mixture of chromium and nickel. An ideal composition of these two substances is the 18/10 – 18% chromium and 10% nickel. Chromium is responsible for making the flatware corrosion-resistant, so 18% of this is ideal. On the other hand, nickel is responsible for making the flatware durable under high and low temperatures and it also gives the non-magnetic characteristic of the flatware. There are other ratios of these two substances – 18/0 and 18/8.
Stainless steel flatware is different from silverware. The former is a more durable option because the nickel and chromium materials make it strong and less prone to rusting. The latter is a more expensive option because it makes use of real silver. Because of the material used, you will need to polish silverware well so that you don’t see thumbmarks on it. In short, silverware is high maintenance.
Why Does Stainless Steel Flatware Rust?
If stainless steel flatware has rust-resistant properties, then why does it still get rusty over time?
- Carbon on Flatware
Usually, rust spots on knives from dishwasher is the most common type of flatware problem people experience. This is because carbon is added to the blades so that they are more durable when cutting through different kinds of food. When carbon is removed totally from the blades, then you can expect it to be blunt easily after a few slices through thick portions of meat.
- Acid from Food and Drink Residue
The second reason why rust accumulates on your stainless steel flatware is acid from food and drink residue. When you leave your dirty silverware lying around for long (whether it’s on the sink or on the table), the acid from the food damages the chromium coating of your silverware. However, this doesn’t occur quickly because chromium has a “regenerating” property where damaged chromium gets fixed over time. But don’t be complacent with this because an excess acid on your silverware will create more damage than your silverware can handle.
- Strong Detergents
Strong detergents are another culprit of rusting on silverware. When the detergent or dishwashing soap is too harsh on your stainless steel flatware, chances are that your utensils will get damaged quickly than when you use a milder detergent.
- Wet Flatware Stored in Dishwashers
And lastly, dishwasher rust stains on dishes. Yes, you read that one right. The use of a dishwasher can increase the chances of accumulating rust on your silverware especially when your dishwasher already has rust or when you store your silverware in the dishwasher while they are still wet.
When you leave your wet cutlery on the dishwasher, it doesn’t just increase the chances of rust, but it can also leave water marks on the silverware. You should know that water can be acidic too, so even if you’ve cleaned your silverware right after you use it, not wiping it dry can create water stains that can be a challenge to get rid off.
How Do You Prevent Rust and Stains?
Although there are ways to restore stainless steel flatware, you do not want to always have to remove rust from your utensils. Instead, you should focus on preventing rust from accumulating in the first place. Here are a few tips on preventing rust and stains on your silverware.
- Remove Food and Drink Stains First
Whether you are handwashing your utensils or leaving it in the dishwasher, you should always remove food and drink residue first. Rinse your utensils before washing them so that the acid on food will not linger and further damage the chromium coating of your silverware. Think of it as the enamel on your teeth. The longer the acid stays on your mouth, the faster your teeth will decay.
- Wash Utensils Immediately
It sounds like a hassle, but the only way to keep your silverware from rusting is by cleaning them right after you use them. It is still highly recommended to hand wash your cutlery because then you’ll be sure you can scrub the dirt away. Also, this prevents unnecessary scratching of your utensils with other plates and glasses.
- Avoid Using Detergents with Citrus Ingredients
Since one of the main causes of rusting is a harsh detergent, then as much as possible, use a detergent that doesn’t have harsh chemicals. The way you apply your detergent also helps in preventing rust. For example, put your detergent directly onto the sponge instead of putting them directly on your stainless steel flatware.
- Dry Your Utensils
There are times that it’s not the detergent and food acid that causes the rust. As mentioned earlier, your water can be acidic and the acid here can be the cause of rust. Even when there is nothing you can do to adjust the acidity of your water, you can still slow the rusting down by drying your utensils after they are washed. Wipe them with a soft towel and arrange them neatly on your cupboard.
Rust is a common issue for any metallic object. Thanks to chromium and nickel, rust does not easily form on silverware. However, it pays to take proper care on your stainless steel utensils to avoid having to scrub off the rust or to buy a new cutlery set altogether. The prevention methods here will help save you a lot of money in the long run.