The cleaner stainless steel can be kept while in storage, being processed or during use, the greater is the assurance of optimum corrosion resistance which is the main reason of using stainless steel in the first place. In the forefront, design, fabrication and proper selection of grades have to be taken into consideration to minimize the upkeep problems of strictly speaking “maintenance cleaning” versus “remedial cleaning” once corrosion onset mandates more complicated intervention.
1– Maintenance cleaning: this pertains to regular cleaning in the sense of removing dirt, contaminants and residuals from normal usage. The routine cleaning will be somewhat different depending on the stainless requirements at stake as illustrated by the following examples:
- aesthetics / shininess in interior or exterior decoration: removal of dirt, particles outside, fingerprints and oily marks in the interior applications.
- food processing, whether industrial or household: there, the requirements are essentially mandated by hygiene considerations & regulations. Dirts, fats, food fragments, particularly salt-containing, are the target of cleaning. In all the situations of maintenance cleaning, the process should start with warm water, with then use of ammonia or mild alkali detergents, eventually in conjunction with a brush with nylon bristles. Grease, fats, oily marks will be best dealt with organic solvents and alkaline cleaning products. Follow by proper rinsing and drying. Also avoid completely coarse abrasive powders, steel brushes and chlorine containing cleaning agents such as bleach!
2– Remedial Cleaning: i.e. the removal of corrosion products signaling the incipience of localized corrosion not only mandate the removal of the “rust” sometimes called ”tea staining”, but also to go to the root cause of the problem. This is fairly frequent in grade 304 when exposed to sea spray or de-icing salts in urban applications of stainless cables. Remedial cleaning involves first some delicate brushing of the corroded area with nylon bristles or stainless brushes. Then the cleaning is done with Chlorine-free acidic mixes, such as citric acid cleaners, and most frequently nitric acid detergents or pastes which also repassivate the cleaned surface. Also, this might point out to improper grade selection and the need of Mo-containing grade 316 with a much higher resistance to localized corrosion induced by Chloride ions.
Contributed by Philippe Maitrepierre – Doctor of Science (PhD) in Materials
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