How to Deep Clean Your Stainless Steel Sink

Because, let's face it, it's working overtime.

May 21, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

I recently moved from a studio apartment to a two-bedroom apartment. I love all the extra room we now have—especially since my boyfriend and I have been working from home. But truthfully, that isn't even my favorite part of our new life. No, it’s the sink: I have a new-found appreciation for the "luxury" of a standard-sized sink.

We’ve always cooked a fair bit at home , but often felt restricted by the size of our studio “kitchen”—and its tiny-space sink. Today, we find ourselves practically making excuses to spend all day in our kitchen: cooking, yes, but also watering plants in the sink, washing clothes in the sink, and washing fork after fork after fork.

With all those demands made on it, the sink was looking like it could use some love. I’ve always assumed, when it comes to cleaning a sink, that just soap and water will do—I mean, you’d think all that running water would keep it pretty clean anyway. But when I stopped to think about it, it's where we wash dirty veggies, de-vein shrimp, smear peanut butter, and trap food scraps. Let's face it: with all of us spending more (much more) time at home, our sinks just never stop working. So, aside from the daily soap and water spritz, each week or so, I’ve been giving my sink the spa treatment it needs to stay cleaner, longer.

Follow these five simple steps for a sparkling, nice-smelling, bacteria-free kitchen sink. The best part? You need little more than the supplies you already have.

Photo by Amanda Widis

Your props:

  • Sponge
  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Lemon or Orange peel
  • Olive oil

What to do:

  1. First, wash out the sink with water. Remove any food or obvious schmutz from the drain. You can scrub the sink with soapy water at this point. While you're at it, give the faucet, spray nozzle and sink strainer some love as well, using water and a mild dish soap. Use an old toothbrush for the hard-to-get-to parts. (You can also leave the strainer to soak in a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water for a bit to disinfect.) Rinse everything down, and wipe down the faucet to avoid those annoying water stains.

  2. Now, let's get those scratches out. Sprinkle the wet sink with baking soda. Use the soft part of your sponge to work that soda in a circular movement, following the grain of the steel. The baking soda and water creates a delicate but abrasive paste to buff out all those scratches. Deeper scratches may also be removed with a very fine steel wool scrub. Make sure you scrub away at the entire surface of the sink.

  3. When you're done scrubbing, rinse the entire sink with white vinegar, which will cause the baking soda to bubble—let it fizz away. Once done, turn on the water to wash everything down. Let it dry.

  4. Take a chunky lemon or orange peel and rub along the entire surface of the sink to deodorize it. Nothing like leaving the sink smelling sweet for the next morning!

  5. Final step: Dab a little olive oil on a cloth and polish up the insides to give your sink extra shine for a week. Wipe away any excess with a clean cloth.


If you have a garbage disposal, here's how you can clean it at any point:
1. First, stop the drain and fill the sink with hot, soapy water. Now unstop the drain and run the disposal.
2. If you want to scrub out the chamber, remember to turn the breaker to the disposal off before doing that. Turn back on once you're done.
3. Next, add ½ cup of baking soda down the disposal, followed by a healthy pour of vinegar. Let it sit, fizzing, for about 10 minutes.
4. Now turn on the cold water tap and run the disposal once more. For an extra dose of freshness, put a wedge of lemon through it while the tap is on.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“At the same time, I give my sink an easy scrub with the business side of a slightly-soapy ScotchBrite, which also pops into the dishwasher, and my sink and sponge are always both clean and sanitary. Naturally, if I were cooking chicken or fish (very rare occasions for me), I’d also give sink, strainer, and sponge a bleachy spritz. ”
— J

That’s it. Your sink is ready to be your kitchen's workhorse once more.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Amanda Widis

Written by: Amanda Widis


Denise L. September 26, 2021
I use a 1/2 cup of bleach and 1/2 cup clothes detergent, fill up the sink with hot water. I let it soak for 1 hr. I drain rinse dry the sink. Than I spray goo be gone and wipe the sink. BEAUTIFUL.
Charlene V. September 26, 2021
If you have a garbage disposal, be sure t clean that circular black rubber thing that sits on top of it. That gets lots of gunk on it over time. You just pull it out and you might need a toothbrush to scrub around the edges and the flaps inside it. Then you place it back in and kind of push down around the edges to re-seat it in the drain. I also like Bon Ami for scrubbing, as it’s a little finer grit than BKF.
macca August 16, 2021
the easiest and best way to clean your sink and and stainless steel benches is to pour plain flour on the stainless and rub in circular motion and watch the stainless steel come alive.
J May 10, 2021
Most of us need a better sink strainer. Unless you really do use the thingie on your strainer to hold water to fill the sink, just get a plain sink strainer. They’re sold in packs of 2 for a reason: when you fill the dishwasher, wipe out your strainer effortlessly (SO much easier than trying to wipe out the kind with the thingie) and put it in the dishwasher, then put the spare into the sink! At the same time, I give my sink an easy scrub with the business side of a slightly-soapy ScotchBrite, which also pops into the dishwasher, and my sink and sponge are always both clean and sanitary. Naturally, if I were cooking chicken or fish (very rare occasions for me), I’d also give sink, strainer, and sponge a bleachy spritz.
David G. August 11, 2020
We just remodeled our kitchen - finished a month before the pandemic started SIP orders for San Francisco whew - and I use two sink protectors for the stainless steel sinks. They keep it from being scratched and dinged and make it easier to clean. I've seen them range in price from $8.00 on up.
Arati M. August 24, 2020
David, I wish I had bought a protector for our new kitchen before my husband took over washing duties ;) (He'll say it was me haha) We have a silicone one in there now, and it's a real savior. I throw it into the dishwasher every week as well.
Medora V. July 23, 2020
You asked what was the oddest use we'd found for a sink. When we redid the kitchen, I specified the largest sink that could be found (apart from one designed for a restaurant kitchen). My line was "big enough to wash a toddler in." No toddlers have been washed in the capacious sink--I don't actually know any toddlers--but, in a rare case of good timing, the strangest thing to enter the new sink showed up this morning: a mouse. (We're out in the woods, and mice are [ahem] regular visitors.) After the requisite yelps of dismay, I trapped it in Tupperware and escorted it back to its natural habitat. Perhaps not all that odd, but memorable.
Arati M. August 24, 2020
I only just got to read this, Medora and you made me smile. First of all, thank you for escorting the wee mouse back to its habitat--that's so kind. And then, the sink for the toddler that isn't! lol. Hope you're putting that giant sink to good use, I can think of a million!
Kristina P. June 10, 2020
I love the option of vinegar and baking soda bc so many of us are trying to be more chemical conscious. Also, so many are trying to get into clean and healthy habits for little ones and of course fur babies. Thank you!
Smaug June 10, 2020
Well, everything's chemicals including vinegar, baking soda, thee and me. Either vinegar or baking soda has some use for cleaning- in combination with heat either can be very effective against burned on residue on pans (though vinegar tends to reek if boiled), and baking soda is a fair abrasive. Neither is very effective as a disinfectant, and if you mix them together all you get is salt water and carbon dioxide.
Smaug June 10, 2020
You really can't beat bleach, especially for the black mold that tends to accumulate in drains, anyplace wet, insides of hollow faucet handles etc., and of course for bacteria, viruses etc. I don't know how the notion of cleaning things by mixing baking soda and vinegar persists, they just neutralize each other. It does look like something is going on, but either will clean better on it's own.
Kay May 23, 2020
I think that a better oil to finish is mineral oil - or baby oil... Neither will turn rancid or sticky, like olive oil. Mineral oil is great for wooden cutting boards too!
Arati M. June 10, 2020
That's a great tip re: mineral oil. Thank you, Kay!
Kimani B. May 22, 2020
I scrub the sink after each time I wash the dishes. A nice rub down with the sponge. And the best sponge is netted cloth, because they're much more hygienic and don't hold onto odors.
Susie W. May 21, 2020
I scrub mine with Barkeepers Friend.
Amanda W. June 10, 2020
Thanks, Susie! Love Barkeepers Friend, can definitely be another great option instead of baking soda.