Since When Does Stainless Steel Rust?

The point of stainless steel appliances, I always thought, is that they’re all shiny and metallic and don’t rust. The not rusting thing is kind of key. So he’s disappointed to see a smattering of rust spots on the front of the stainless steel Kitchenaid dishwasher that he bought less than a year ago.

I purchased a kitchenaid stainless steel dishwasher 10 1/2 months ago and the front is rusting, they told me stainless steel doesn’t rust… BUT its a cosmetic issue. A service tech even came out and said its a defect!!!

Meanwhile the house I purchased still has a 10+ year old stainless steel fridge by kitchenaid without a mark.

We wrote back and asked for pictures, and Michael sent these along.

rusty.jpg

rusty2.jpg

These spots may not be the iron oxide rust that we normally think of, but they are gross. It would be better if they weren’t there in the first place, but there are plenty of rescourse out there with cleaning tips: the stainless steel industry even has their own cleaning handbook. Neat.

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  1. The Fake Fake Steve Jobs says:

    Is that rust or discoloration? Very hard to tell from pic.

    • GrayMatter says:

      Having worked with a LOT of stainless in my career, there are two possibilities:

      1. The “rust” is indeed that. Rolling mills and other tools used to shape the parts are typically regular steel. Some of that steel rubs off onto the stainless. If all that regular steel is not removed, it can rust and look bad.

      2. Some versions of stainless will develop a red coating. Although it has a similar color to rust, it is chemically different. It is also strongly adherent to the substrate, unlike rust. But yes, it looks unsightly and I had problems with customers because of that.

  2. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I see the problem. I see Jesus. Jesus tears trump stainless steel.

  3. Jim M says:

    Stainless, will rust, low grad stainless even faster. Depends on what was used to clean it.

    • TomClements says:

      This is why they call it stainLESS, not stainPROOF.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        stain /= rust. Unless it’s specifically a rust stain we’re talking about.

    • zippy says:

      I have known people to use steel wool to clean stainless steel, and then get rust as a result of tiny particles from the steel wool that break off and embed in the stainless steel, and then rust. Most often they do this when they have something with a brushed finish and they think using the steel wool going with the grain of the finish will keep it looking “brushed”.

      Heavy nickel (18/10) stainless steel also doesn’t hold an edge well, so the blades of knives (even dinner knives) tend to be made with 18/0 steel and can develop rust-spots as a result, especially if left in water or a moist environment for long periods.

    • aerodawg says:

      Yep, stainless should really be “stains less” in truth. It’s just a lot more corrosion resistant than standard steel…

  4. Wireless Joe says:

    The inside of our LG dishwasher has rust stains on it; just a poor grade I guess.

  5. daveinva says:

    Seeing stainless steel appliances rust is unusual, but yeah, stainless steel DOES rust (well, stain is more accurate), especially if left out in the elements. I’ve got some stainless bolts on my motorcycle and they rust up just as easily as if they were made of ol’ pig iron. A little Simichrome polish and a pipe cleaner takes the stuff right off.

    • shepd says:

      I think that’s the point–it’s stainless–as in the rust stains don’t stick. Clean them off without any major effort and you’re good, with little loss of material.

    • Revolverkiller says:

      its not just nickle, its chromium as well. if you clean stainless steel with anything that has carbon on/in it, you have just imparted carbon into the surface of the steel and it will rust. just at the surface though.

  6. Mark says:

    Stainless steel =/= rust-proof. It is rust resistant, but can and will rust, depending on the environment it is in, chemicals it comes in contact with, and the quality of steel.

  7. seth1066 says:

    I you are thinking about a photography career, don’t give up your day job.

  8. aleck says:

    “Stainless” is a very vague term. The quality of the steel to a large extend depends on the quantity of nickel added to the steel. 18/0 has zero percentage nickel, still considered “stainless”, but will look like crap after some time. 18/10 is the best grade, but even then, stains may still happen.

    Nickel makes the steel non-magnetic, so you can test if you have any by using a magnet.

    • GrayMatter says:

      Well, no. The 400 series of stainless are mostly attracted by a magnet, and pretty strongly in some cases. However, compared to regular steel, the attraction is much lower.

      The 300 series, which are the most common versions around, tend to not be attracted by magnets.

      • JGB says:

        Work hardening any stainless will ‘re-magnetize’ the material as well. If a material has been sufficiently worked (such as swaging), then the magnet will stick to stainless steel just fine.

        • GrayMatter says:

          Yup!

          Seems we have some technically qualified people reading this blog.

          • YouDidWhatNow? says:

            …and technically speaking, pretty much nothing is actually “non-magnetic” – it’s paramagnetic. Which is to say, it’s affected by magnets…just imperceptibly so.

  9. You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

    Just get some Bar Keeper’s Friend. That’ll keep your pots nice and shiny!

    • Inglix_the_Mad says:

      Emulsyde (if I remember right) was what we used on stainless at the fuel station. It was a JVS product.

  10. RandomLetters says:

    You can do a quick check to see what quality stainless steel you have. If you can stick a fridge magnet to it then its a low quality stainless steel. High quality stainless steel has enough nickel in it to negate the iron’s magnetic properties. On fridges I’ve been told they use a plate of steel behind the stainless so you can stick magnets to them. I don’t know about dish washers though so it may be that my test is worthless.

    • Overshoot says:

      I took a magnet to Home Depot when I was looking at gas grills with stainless. There was a wide difference between the grades that were used. The guy working that department was pretty impressed by the ole magnet test. If you are going to buy stainless make sure it is a good grade. I’ve had low grade SS rust plenty – Good grade not so much.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      THANK YOU! I am buying a fridge this weekend and will use this.

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Nope, I’ve read this before when researching other products. Stainless steel does not stain. But it can rust.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Stainless steel neither stains nor rusts, it corrodes.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Would not rust be a result of corrosion?

        • Azagthoth says:

          Yes, but the process is called corrosion. The result is rust. Saying that an object will rust is technically wrong. It will corrode, and the corrosion will produce rust. Yes, this is very nit-picky.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            That’s like saying the sun does not technically set.

            Splitting hairs on the english nomenclature and idiomatioc expressions therein is just a stupid waste of everyone’s time.

            • Blueskylaw says:

              This is called the process of learning and is the basis of intelligent conversations.

              • AjariBonten says:

                True Indeed; and the need to endlessly “teach” the uneducated masses is called Narcissism

                • Blueskylaw says:

                  “the need to endlessly ‘teach’ the uneducated masses is called Narcissism”

                  How would you suggest it be done? If I say something that is factually incorrect, I would actually like to know the correct answer (in a nice way of course, you don’t say – hey as*hole, you’re wrong). Over the course of a lifetime, this type of knowledge adds up.
                  Do you still believe that Santa Claus and the tooth fairy still exist, or did you eventually find out the truth? Perhaps it’s also narcissistic of Consumerist readers to endlessly point out to the editors of the spelling and grammar errors that seem to be in every article?

  12. Jane_Gage says:

    Did you know stainless steel pots and pans along with ceramic bathroom tiles will outlast every other part of our houses if we went extinct?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      And the first part of a house to go, and cause the entire to eventually collapse is the Chimney.

      Specifically, the materials used to seal the chimney to the rest of the house. Assuming nothing else is already failing on the house (i.e. it’s a new house) the chimney seal will be it’s undoing. Ironically, the chimney itself will outlast the rest of the house assume it doesn’t take the chimney down with it during a collapse.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        *entire house.

        Accidentally a word

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I’m always amazed at how long chimneys will stay standing, well after the house burned or rotted into nothingness. On my surveys, it’s not at all uncommon to find chimneys standing alone, in the middle of nowhere, where even roads haven’t been passable in 80+ years.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Makes you wonder why we don’t just build a house out of chimneys. And planes out of black boxes.

  13. Cosmo_Kramer says:

    “Since When Does Stainless Steel Rust?”

    Since forever.

  14. HappyHiker says:

    What’s next? A woman suing her beauty parlor because her permanent wasn’t permanent?

  15. crispyduck13 says:

    I’ve seen cheap “stainless steel” stain. It looked like mild surface rust, it was because something was left sitting on it during transport that allowed moisture to collect and stay for a while. 5 minutes with a polisher/grinder took it right off.

    Is this guy absolutely sure his appliance face is a true stainless steel panel? They do sell those SS ‘lookalike’ versions. Not sure why the hell people buy those but the option is there.

  16. chiieddy says:

    Yes it can rust, and people find out the hard way their stainless steel appliances are much hard to clean and take care of than standard appliances. Also, the scratch easily. So not worth it, but if you insist on having them, bar keepers friend will keep them clean. Use a soft cloth so it won’t scratch the finish.

  17. Blueskylaw says:

    Types of Stainless Corrosion

    According to the DOD Technical Bulletin Corrosion Detection and Prevention there are 8 separate types of corrosion, with only a few having a major impact on stainless steel. Please be advised the descriptions below are extremely brief and written in laymen terms. Before acting on any particular application, qualified advice particular to such application should be obtained.

    1. Uniform Attack – also known as general corrosion, this type of corrosion occurs when there is an overall breakdown of the passive film. The entire surface of the metal will show a uniform sponge like appearance. Halogens penetrate the passive film of stainless and allow corrosion to occur. These halogens are easily recognizable, because they end with “-ine”. Fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine and astatine are some of the most active.

    2. Crevice Corrosion – this is a problem with stainless fasteners used in seawater applications, because of the low PH of salt water. Chlorides pit the passivated surface, where the low PH saltwater attacks the exposed metal. Lacking the oxygen to re-passivate, corrosion continues. As is signified by its name, this corrosion is most common in oxygen restricted crevices, such as under a bolt head.

    3. Pitting – See Galvanic Corrosion. Stainless that had had its passivation penetrated in a small spot becomes an anodic, with the passivated part remaining a cathodic, causing a pit type corrosion.

    4. Galvanic Corrosion – Placing 2 dissimilar metals in a electrolyte produces an electrical current. A battery incorporates this simple philosophy in a controlled environment. The current flows from the anodic metal and towards the cathodic metal, and in the process slowly removes material from the anodic metal. Seawater makes a good electrolyte, and thus, galvanic corrosion is a common problem in this environment. 18-8 series stainless fasteners that work fine on fresh water boats, may experience accelerated galvanic corrosion in seawater boats, and thus it is suggested you examine 316 stainless.

    5. Intergranular Corrosion – all austentic stainless steels contain a small amount of carbon. At extremely high temperature, such as welding, the carbon forces local chrome to form chromium carbide around it, thus starving adjacent areas of the chrome it needs for its own corrosion protection. When welding, it is recommended you consider low carbon stainless such as 304L or 316L.

    6. Selective Leaching – Fluids will remove metal during a de-ionization or de-mineralization process. This usually happens inside a pipe and is rarely a fastener problem.

    7. Erosion Corrosion – This corrosion happens when the velocity of an abrasive fluid removes the passivation from a stainless. Again, this is almost exclusively limited to pipe interiors and rarely a fastener problem.

    8. Stress Corrosion – Also called stress corrosion cracking or chloride stress corrosion. Chlorides are probably the single biggest enemy of stainless steel. Next to water, chloride is the most common chemical found in nature. In most environments, the PPM are so small the effects on stainless are minute. But in extreme environments, such as indoor swimming pools, the effects can be extreme and potentially dangerous. If a stainless part is under tensile stress, the pitting mentioned above will deepen, and cracking may take place. If you are using stainless steel bolts under tensile stress, in an environment where chlorine corrosion is likely, you should examine the potential for stress corrosion cracking carefully.

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      You make me remember my college thesis. Now I’m having a headache.

    • PaulR says:

      Thanks for posting this. If I can add:
      As others have mentionned: don’t use steel wool on SS. In fact, don’t use any abrasive on SS – you’ll remove the passivated layer. Then it’ll rust.

      Don’t leave chlorine/bleach on SS for very long – it WILL cause the SS to pit. The SS will rust at the pit.

      Most pots and pans are made out of 18/8 SS. Kitchen sinks, deep fryers, and that appliance in the photos are likely made out of 304 SS.

      The most durable SS I’ve used in my job is Type 316 – it’s what ship hulls are made out of, usually. Expensive, but good, and a real b**ch to drill through. Under the right circumstance, it too will rust.

      Some info here:
      http://www.bosunsupplies.com/stainlessinfo2.cfm

  18. MrEvil says:

    Doesn’t look like rust to me, looks like discoloration which can happen with Stainless steel.

    Also contrary to the name, there are grades of Stainless steel that will develop a patina. That patina protects the underlying metal from further corrosion. My car has a factory stainless exhaust system, but you can’t tell from the brown patina it has developed.

  19. Lyn Torden says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stainless_steel

    Basically, pure water all by itself will not cause problems with stainless steel. But other things like salt can.

  20. George says:

    stainless steel can defiantly rust, especially if it is scratched or damaged.

    • synimatik says:

      So you think that stainless steel isnt rusting from a natural chemical process and is actually doing so out of an act of defiance? Weird!

      • Blueskylaw says:

        Would you willingly let yourself be scratched or damaged without acting out defiantly?

    • blinky says:

      … boldly going where no stainless steel has gone before!

  21. bender123 says:

    I have had this…It is a surface defect and it really isnt rust. I was able to, with some time and muscle, scrub those spots out with a magic eraser.

    Annoying, but not horrible.

  22. nicless says:

    It’s called stainless steel, not rustless steel. AmIright!?

  23. 2 Replies says:

    If the metal is magnetic, it COULD be oxidation.
    (True stainless steel isn’t magnetic. Bringing a strong magnet when shopping for stainless steel items is a good idea.)

    • JGB says:

      Not completely true. Take a stainless steel part and beat on it with a hammer for a while. Magnet will stick from the work hardening.

  24. synimatik says:

    Barkeeper’s friend. It is the absolute best cleaning product for stainless steel.

  25. BigDragon says:

    Looks like improper maintenance to me. Try taking those photos again with the macro mode (little flower) turned on in your camera. It will allow it to focus and actually show us what you’re trying to take a picture of. What, your iPhone does have macro mode? Get a real camera!

    • nicless says:

      If my phone camera has a macro mode, is it a real camera?

      • BigDragon says:

        Only if it’s an Android phone.

        • nicless says:

          Nope, sorry. Lumia 900.

          • BigDragon says:

            You bought one? I have more respect for Microsoft than I do Apple, so I guess you’re good to go! I do find it funny to see people badmouthing Siri at the mall when the voice recognition doesn’t work or the answer is bizarre.

            I just get irritated when people don’t read the instruction booklet and turn on macro mode for close-up details. Such a handy feature!

            • nicless says:

              I love my Windows Phone but I don’t understand the Siri hate. I personally wouldn’t use it, but I can see how some people could like it.

  26. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Whether stainless steel rusts or not – bottom line – this should not happen to a 10 month old fridge.

  27. xspook says:

    I have a Frigidaire SS dishwasher that did the same thing within the first year. Was supposed to be their top of line model. It’s the last Frigidaire I’ll ever buy.

  28. sirwired says:

    Stainless steel appliances, while they look kind of neat, are utterly out of place in a home kitchen. To keep them looking nice, they need to be cleaned almost constantly with special cleaners, and actual stainless attracts fingerprints like no tomorrow.

    The reason restaurants use stainless steel everywhere is because they can be scrubbed down with a Scotch-Brite, Comet, Steel Screens, and Bleach twice a day forever with pretty much no wear. None of that has anything to do with home use, where a wipe down with a soapy rag a few times a week is all the chemical abuse most ever see.

    Painted (and porcelain-coated, where appropriate) appliances are cheaper, easier to care for, and IMHO, look better.

  29. JF says:

    I’d be curious to know if he lives near salt water or what kind of chemicals he has used to clean it (and does he wipe it dry whenever water drops get on it). I have seen stainless steel on boats in the ocean get rust spots and pitting.

  30. celinesci says:

    Steel rusts no matter what. StainLESS means it rusts less, it’s not impervious to rusting.

  31. Green Beer Day says:

    It’s not possible to buy a stainless or nickel shower caddy or trash can that doesn’t rust. Sadness prevails.

  32. SoCalGNX says:

    GE Profiles rust along the ice/water gizmo. I have one to prove it.

  33. ldillon says:

    From a welder’s perspective there are three different main families of stainless (which is basically a high chrome, high nickel alloy). One type ferritic, has iron in it, will attract a magnet and will rust when exposed to high salt environments.

  34. Hartford says:

    You did not really expect them to use quality materials, did you? LOL. You fail to understand that all products today have a tail light warranty.

  35. ILoveBacon says:

    All steel rusts. Even stainless steel. Anyone who tells you different doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Some types are more resistant than others, but they all require occasional maintenance. Keep it clean and dry. A thin coat of oil will help, too.

    Whenever I get rust on my “stainless” tools, I just clean it with some baking soda and an old toothbrush. It only takes a few minutes and it’s gone.

  36. PBallRaven says:

    Cheap chinese stainless steel.

  37. km9v says:

    Lower quality stainless, like 409, will rus b/c it’s magnetic, has lower chromium content.

  38. badgeman46 says:

    As someone who owned a Delorean, I can tell you that 409 grade stainless was meant to last. When I got my car I found patches of what looked like rust, but in fact was tiny bits of steel wool that the former owner used to regrain a body panel. A few other things would create a rusty look, but corrosion wise, there was nothing there. Try using oven cleaner on it. That is what I used on the Delorean for the best shine ever!

  39. raZZo99 says:

    “Stainless” does not mean it will not stain…it means it will “stain LESS”.

  40. elkhart007 says:

    Particles of steel can deposit on stainless and rust. If we grind stainless at work with a grinding pad that has touched carbon steel, it will rust where the pad has touched.

  41. dandyd says:

    My Kitchen Aid fridge is 4 months old and has heavy rusting. Stainless steel doesn’t rust, so how’s this happening. Well it appears that what these manufacurers do to save money is purchase ordinary steel and then bond a thin layer of stainless over the steel. That’s ok, but what they do next is to put a scratch finish on the stainless. You guessed it, the stainless is so thin that the scratch finish penetrates the stainless down to the ordinary steel, ie., rust that now fills the scratch effect.. Kitchen Aid said they would send me a cleaner for the rust, but their warranty only covers cosmetics for 30 days. Sorry!