View Full Version : Stainless cleaning - help ASAP

06-02-2002, 07:18 PM
I'm using B&R because it gets more traffic than any other and this pertains to a job tomorrow.

If anyone can help, I've got a big cleaning job tomorrow. It's a two-year old boat but has had extremely heavy use by a sailing school/charter company. We did a boat for them a couple of weeks ago and some of the stainless - anchor holder and chainplates had some kind of coating/corrosion.

The best I can describe it is looking like hardwater/lime buildup you'd see in a shower. This one is way worse than the other boat. The stainless is absolutely covered. Also, what's not got the buildup has rust and or has absolutely turned black. There's no damage to the surrounding gelcoat, or I'd suspect acid or some kind of spill.

I don't mind working on something all day long if I'm making progress. On the last one, I eventually abandoned the task because the spots were isolated and not too conspicious [sp?]. Most of it came pretty good though.

What I tried before:
Bon Ami cleanser
Cameo stainless cleaner
Collenite Metal Wax cleaner/polish
Wink - rust remover/light acid
CLR - Calcium/Lime/Rust remover (in an inconspicious area)

The only thing I didn't try was buffing.

If anyone thinks they can help, there's pictures at:


I made them small size wise - 450 pixals, but upped the quality hoping to show more detail.

Thanks for any help!

- Margo

P.S. My spelling sucks when I'm stressed. Sorry.

ken mcclure
06-02-2002, 07:26 PM
Flitz. Buff it. Should be able to find it at the hardware store.

06-02-2002, 07:45 PM
Thanks guys -

Ken - If I buff those areas like the handles by the swim platform, what are we talking Dremel?

Donn - By bronze brush are we talking the tooth brushing looking thing? It seems harsh.

ken mcclure
06-02-2002, 09:05 PM
Nah. Use the bronze pads and brushes like Donn says. Flitz and the 3M are competitive products. I'm used to using the Flitz, but I'd bet the 3M would be just as good or maybe better.

06-02-2002, 10:38 PM
Try Brasso - don't know if you can get it in your neck of the woods, but it works a treat down here in Fogsnard CA where we have a thick marine layer full of wet salt air mucking up the stainless. It won't keep it from getting mucked up again, but does the trick for getting rid of the yucky stuff.

06-02-2002, 10:41 PM
Oops, now I looked at the pics - seems likes this is not a superficial fix, more like needs a grinder to get down to the steel, those pits are definitely more than skin deep.

If I were you (lucky I'm not tomorrow) I'd remove the offending pieces and have them buffed by a welder who has the equipment to get them down to new metal. I can't see that elbow grease and ANYTHING is going to get that stuff bright overnight.

Good luck.

06-02-2002, 11:03 PM
Thanks for trying Miss P. It is definitely the worst stainless I've ever encountered. I'm sure the company is aware they may need to replace some or all. That's why I didn't want to invest too much time if there wasn't something that stood a good chance of making a difference in a practical amount of time. Working miracles keeps them calling me back, but this is looking a little tough.

Seriously, I've seen stainless stuff on sinkers that was fine after scraping off the crustaceans and a good cleaning. This is far worse!

I'm going with Donn's suggestion as quick as I can track down the 3M product. The chandlery here on "industrial row" doesn't carry much but can normally get anything in by the next morning. The other option is Waste Marine across town over lunch.

We shall see.

Thanks all. You're great sports!

- M

[ 06-04-2002, 10:32 PM: Message edited by: Concordia..41 ]

Scott Rosen
06-03-2002, 07:15 AM
a strong solution of oxalic acid and water will instantly remove stains and rust from stainless steel. I learned this entirely by accident. I was bleaching my teak deck, and I noticed that after the bleaching the bases of my stainless stantions were perfectly clean and clear of any stains. I then learned that the popular rust stain removers are nothing more than an oxalic acid paste.

After you apply the oxalic acid, you could move on to any of the polishing products that others have mentioned.

Ed Harrow
06-03-2002, 08:05 AM
Along the lines of what Scott said, I've used muriatic acid to remove rust.

Additionally: http://www.alltheweb.com/search?cat=web&cs=utf-8&l=any&q=rust+removal&phrase=on
Look here for some other ideas.

Looking at the picts one has to question the quality of the "stainless"...

ken mcclure
06-03-2002, 09:41 AM
Margo, when I've worked with stainless I've usually cleaned it first to see just how bad off it really is. Sometimes the crud can look like rust and fool you. If you get it cleaned down you can better asses what needs done.

I usually also work with the least potentially damaging products/methods first. I'd try the 3M or Flitz with the pads to clean the areas up. Dunno about Brasso - it hasn't worked well for me in the past except on items that were in pretty good shape to begin with.

I'd stay away from the Dremel or any spinning tool, as it will tend to sling cleaning compounds all over the place - and usually where you don't want it.

After you've cleaned the area(s) off, you can see what's there. If there's surface rust left, then you could graduate to an acid product. Oxalic is pretty good, phosphoric acid (janitors use it for cleaning bathroom fixtures) is pretty good. Muriatic's main drawback is that it off-gasses chlorine and may be too aggressive right from the git-go.

The acid products will make the rust stains dissappear, but they can also etch the metal leaving a dull finish if you leave them on too long or use too strong an acid. You again need to be careful not to get the stuff anywhere else around the area where you don't want it.

If the metal is badly pitted, it's not a cleaning job - it's a replacement job.

Art Read
06-03-2002, 11:29 AM
That's a two year old boat? If I ran that charter company, I'd have the local rep from the builder's down to look at that! Obviously not just "neglect". They must have gotten a bad batch of "stainless". I'm sure they wouldn't want "that" boat representing their product in a charter fleet...

06-03-2002, 01:14 PM
Thanks all. Did prelimary cleaning and a lot came off. The chandlery does have the 3M product and we're finishing off a two-hour lunch - hey it's a 100 degrees here - it's the only way to survive.

Will pick up the 3M and have oxilic in the cleaning stuff I already have aboard. Would of never thought to use it though. Thanks Scott

Will report later.

- M

06-03-2002, 08:02 PM
Well the results are in and it's official.



More pictures and details at:


ken mcclure
06-04-2002, 12:39 AM
smile.gif You'll get my bill.

Art Read
06-04-2002, 04:56 AM
Wow! I wouldn't have believed it would come back that well... Bet they're impressed!

06-04-2002, 05:08 AM
Gee Art, it's 3 a.m. you're time. :eek:

After having my nose to the stuff for several hours, my WAG is the stainless was damaged by pollution/acid rain. I've heard stories of boats kept in marinas near the interesate and numerous problems. The discoloration is everywhere including under seat mounts and other places not splash related. Only odd thing about that theory is the aluminum hatches are ok and there's no corresponding surface damage. Go figure. It's not typical stainless for this brand boat of any age. I guess the stainless could of been cleaned with something that impacted it's ability to protect itself. Another WAG.

After the one we did a couple of weeks ago I told them I planned to change my company's name to "Miracles are Us"

Heading off for day two. Thanks again for everyone's help! :D

Scott Rosen
06-04-2002, 05:27 AM

Nice job. I checked out the pictures on your website and can't believe how bad that metal was before you started. I've never seen stainless looking that bad.

How would you rate the various products that you used? I've use the Collinite Metal Wax and like it. What is the Insulating Wax? Also, how did you like the 3M Metal Restorer?

06-04-2002, 09:28 PM
Scott - I LOVE the Insulator Wax. A friend's mother is a wholesaler for Collinite so I get to try everything.

The Insulator Wax is a wax though and not a cleaner. It'll get off light water spots but not much else. Putting it on after using the Metal Wax really seems to protect the metal and definately holds the shine a lot longer. It'll also do good on rubber - i.e fenders, etc. If you put it on a new water hose, it'll keep it from breaking down so quickly in the sun. She says she's getting great reports from folks using it on Eisenglass, but I'm not much for experimenting with mine or anyone else's Eisenglass.

Just detail the stainless and then follow with the Insulator Wax. Whenever you rinse the boat, just chamois the stainless or run a terry towel over it. It'll look like the day you polished it! Actually, you don't have to chamois if you don't mind water spots, but it is a wax and the water will bead. Hince the need to chamois.

On our Watkins I've used the Insulator Wax for about four years and "do" the stainless about every 9 months if I'm lucky. Frankly it's the best looking thing on the boat as we've been so busy with the Concordia we've just the Watkins go to ruin.


Turns out I didn't have the oxalic acid in the cleaning supplies, so just went with the 3M product. You can see the absolutely amazing results, but it was a mess with the bronze wool!

We spent all day today on the interior, but tomorrow's set aside to do the stainless on the rest of the boat. Grabbed some oxilic acid today and will try to see if it'll equal results with less mess.

Thanks as always for your help!

- M

Art Read
06-05-2002, 10:44 AM
"Gee Art, it's 3 a.m. you're time...."

Yeah... Been keeping some "odd" hours 'since we got the new puppy. It's as bad as having a baby!

Scott Rosen
06-06-2002, 08:22 AM

Thanks. I just spoke with the Collinite folks and they told me that the Insulator wax is the identical product to their Fiberglass Boat Wax. I actually have a half-full bottle of the FBWax somewhere in my garage. I used it on some very tired Awlgrip a few years ago. I think I'll dig it out and try it on my metal.