Stainless Flatware is not Stain-free

Stainless Flatware


I’m going to let you in on a secret. There’s a reason stainless steel is called stain LESS and not stain FREE.  Despite its name, stainless steel can rust if not cared for properly.  That’s because its base metal contains iron.  Over time, the object’s protective chromium topcoat can wear down, allowing oxygen and water to reach the iron, which results in rust.

18/10 means that the flatware is 18% chromium and 10% nickel. The higher the ratio of nickel, the more protection your flatware has from corrosion. 18/0 flatware contains no nickel and is very light weight.

Stainless flatware that is 18/10 is usually more expensive than 18/8 or 18/0, but the quality is evident and very noticeable in feel and look.

The additional weight of this stainless flatware also helps to balance the flatware, so it makes for very nice handling, as well as adds a lot of elegance to the dinner table.


Caring for Stainless Flatware


To keep prevent rust from happening to your stainless steel flatware, follow these tips.

Avoid Soaking

To prevent future rust stains, do not soak stainless steel silverware in water or allow it to sit in salty food residue. Rinse silverware thoroughly before placing it in the dishwasher, or hand wash and promptly dry the flatware.

Separate Your Knives

When washing stainless steel knives in the dishwasher, keep them separate from other utensils. Place them point down in their own area of the silverware basket. It also is wise to remove stainless steel flatware promptly when the dishwasher has finished to prevent the stainless from being exposed to the hot and humid dishwasher drying cycle.

Use Less Detergent

Try putting a little less detergent in your dishwasher when washing stainless steel utensils. Choose dishwasher detergents free of both lemon and chlorides.

Polish It

When you notice stainless steel silverware becoming dull, give it a quick polish with stainless steel polish. This doesn’t take long but cleans and adds a protective layer that helps prevent rust spots.


Removing Rust from Stainless Flatware


Fortunately, unsightly rust spots can be removed and here are my top tips.


Bar Keepers Friend

Nonabrasive commercial cleaning powders are excellent for removing rust stains from stainless steel flatware. Simply sprinkle some onto a damp sponge or soft plastic scouring pad and scrub the silverware with it, rinsing when you are finished. Bar Keepers Friend works particularly well on rusty flatware.

White Vinegar

Pour some white vinegar onto a sponge or dish towel and wash the silverware in it for a rust-free shine. Thoroughly rinse the silverware when you are done.

Baking Soda

There are two ways to remove rust with baking soda. The first is to create a paste. Mix one part baking soda to three parts water. Rub the paste onto the rust stains to remove them. If the stains are bad, apply the paste and let it sit for 15 or 30 minutes before wiping it away with a damp cloth. You also may make a paste that is equal parts baking soda and lemon juice. Use this paste the same way you would the baking soda and water mixture.


Bar Keepers Friend is one of my best kitchen friends, and is also great for removing flatware marks that are left behind on your plates!


  1. Good tips for cleaning flatware, Robin. Interestingly, my stainless flatware has never gotten rust? But I’ll know what to do if it does!


      You must have the higher quality 18/10 and / or properly care for your stainless. Glad it is working well for you.

  2. The idea of cleaning the silver or stainless flat wear takes me back to a time when I had more time. What great direction on how to take care of silver. This blog really makes me think about how much we surround ourselves with conveniences.


      Yes, we do surround ourselves with easy-to-do. But, I am noticing the younger folks wanting to learn the old ways.

  3. Great tips on cleaning flatware, and it comes in handy for the set that I am grateful for the set that was passed down. Good article.

    Lori English

  4. I’ve always thought it was weird to call it stainless when it actually does stain. Stain less makes sense. It’s so annoying when you get those rust spots on flatware. Thanks for the great cleaning tips.


      Glad you found it helpful; if you have never tried bar keepers friend, give it a whirl. You will have a new friend:)

  5. My stainless is better quality, does that make a difference? I’ve had it for a long time and it hasn’t rusted. I have my grandma’s silver and that stuff is a mess. It doesn’t matter because I don’t use it to eat with, just to remember her. I guess I should polish it though.

    Funny, I’m embarrassed to say that I probably would replace rather than to clean.

    Do you know what’s in Bar Keeper’s Friend and if it’s safe for consumption? Thanks for a great article…you have me thinking about taking better care of things rather than replacing!


      Yes, the better quality stainless is much harder to rust. And you must be taking proper care. Grandparents silver is a treasure and a pain to clean – is it Sterling or Silverplate? Perhaps repurpose into something you might enjoy – jewelry, key ring, lamp – I have a pinterest board with over 500 ideas for repurposing vintage silverware. I do not know contents of bar keepers friend, but have cleaned many of my dishes – I just wash well after cleaning. Perhaps visit the website and/or contact them for more information.

  6. Hi Robin,

    I keep white vinegar and baking soda in the cupboard. Didn’t know it could be used to clean stainless steel though. Most of the stainless steel cookware that I have are knives. I do love a good stainless steel pot and skillet though!

  7. This made me smiles. It brought back memories of a chore my mum made us do, we used to polish the good knives and forks that only came out on special occasions.

  8. Wow! To think that I have been doing it all wrong especially soaking them in water for long. Thank you for this useful information.

  9. This is good information. We recently got a new dishwasher, so I’ve been a bit more mindful as of late as to how it performs. I never thought to separate my stainless from my knives. Most of our knives, our nice ones anyway, get handwashed, but we have a few junkier ones that get tossed in the dishwasher. I’ll be sure to separate them from now on.


      You do good with hand washing the good ones; most folks don’t and ruin their good knives.

  10. Oh my, what great tips for flatware. I didn’t know about the ratio of nickel and chromium. Good to know! Great tips for washing utensils too. I use white vinegar and baking soda a lot but will try your recommendations too.

  11. I just realized that what you said is true as I found the old silverwares my mother used to keep. Thanks for sharing how to take care of them. I will try to implement some of them.


      Lucky to have your moms old silverware. Can be a treasure – can even repurpose into something you love.

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