Got Major Sink Stains? Here's What to Try Before Replacing It
Here's the combo that salvaged my granite composite sink, plus what to try (and what to avoid) based on your sink's material.
From the moment we set foot in the 1917 colonial home in Florence, Alabama, we knew it was the perfect home for us. Except I had a problem with one thing: the kitchen sink. It's a minor detail, for sure — but as someone who's constantly in the kitchen (and the chief dish washer, I might add), having a sink that was exceptionally functional and also pretty was important to me.
The sink itself was filthy, scratched and covered in dark stains that had settled into the subtle "X" crease of our undermount. How on earth could the previous owners have lived with this? I wondered. Though we weren't doing any big renovations prior to moving in last September, the one thing on my list was a new sink.
We started looking around for sinks and got totally overwhelmed. Simply searching "undermount kitchen sinks" on Lowes.com yields more than 4,000 results. Instead of sifting through way too many options without much clue as to what we needed, I thought I'd at least *try* to clean the current sink to see if it was salvageable. Truth be told, I didn't think it was — but if I put a little effort into it, I could at least say I'd attempted to save it.
First, I started with baking soda and water, then moved to baking soda and vinegar, using a rough scrubbing pad that wouldn't scratch. I wanted to start gentle, and without chemicals, to avoid damaging the material, which I discovered after looking under the sink was something called Silgranit — a patented granite composite made by Blanco. I checked out Blanco's website and learned that they recommend baking soda and water to remove scuff marks, but the gunk in our sink wasn't going anywhere with this combo.
Next, I broke out a Magic Eraser, and also recommended by Blanco. It broke down the eraser but not the stains. A bottle of granite and stone cleaner I'd picked up in a massive Target cleaning product haul was ineffective, too.
It was time to move onto something heavier. Desperate stains call for desperate measures, which in this case was bleach. I carefully poured a little bleach around the rectangular sink and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
To my great surprise, the spots where the bleach had been were lighter! The sink was beginning to look white again, though it still needed a little work. Blanco's website said a mixture of bleach and water could be used to lighten food stains on Silgranit sinks — and to clean with a little dish detergent afterward. Following this method definitely improved the look of the sink, but it still wasn't sparkling.
In our last place, we'd had a stainless kitchen sink, and I relied heavily on Bar Keepers Friend powder to keep it shiny. But after reading the back of the canister, it seemed like it was going to be too abrasive for the composite material.
Then I eyed my can of Bon Ami, which my Southern in-laws had introduced me to when we lived with them for a few months while searching for a house during the pandemic. I sprinkled it all over the sink and let it sit for about 20 minutes, then came back armed with a fresh non-scratch scour pad. I started making little circles with it in a corner of the sink at first to ensure it wasn't going to harm the material. To my great surprise, it was working! The final stains were coming off — and the sink was actually beginning to sparkle. After a few more minutes of work, I stepped back to admire my work. I'd managed to not only salvage our sink, but leave it looking nearly brand new.
Now, it's all about maintenance. The Silgranit sink does scuff pretty easily when I set a stainless pan or pot in it, and if I rinse off a dish from lasagna night, I can count on having to repeat a lighter version of the Bon Ami routine to get rid of tomato sauce stains. I'm glad we have a faucet with a retractable spray head, as I rely on that constantly to rinse out the sink after every use to prevent further staining.
If you're thinking of swapping out an old sink because it looks dingy beyond repair, give it one last whirl before heading to Lowe's. Here's what to try, based on your sink material:
Porcelain and Fireclay
While a beautiful material, especially for farmhouse sinks, porcelain is a little high-maintenance. Things like bleach, chemical cleaners and abrasive solutions can all start to erode a porcelain finish, so tackle stains with just dishwashing liquid first, then move on to a paste of baking soda and water if needed, according to experts at MaidPro. A similar material called fireclay is a little bit more durable, but you should still use the same careful cleaning methods. Extreme stains can be handled with a 50-50 solution of water and bleach.
You can use a mildly abrasive cleaner here, such as Bar Keepers Friend — but do so sparingly, as stainless is prone to scratching that can lead your sink to look dull over time. MaidPro experts recommend using a soft rag rather than a scratchy pad to clean stainless sinks.
Sinks made of copper can be a real showpiece for a kitchen and have the added benefit of being antimicrobial by nature — but they have their downsides too, especially when it comes to cleaning. Copper can easily be damaged by anything acidic, including foods (like tomatoes or lemons) as well as cleaners, so you must constantly run water when working with those items in the sink. Use only a pH neutral dish soap and a soft cloth to clean, advises MaidPro.
This type of sink is inexpensive and relatively stain-resistant, but can still be easily scratched and lose sheen over time. You should avoid using heavy abrasives or hard scrubbing, but it's no problem to clean stains with watered-down bleach. Use fine-grain sand paper and acrylic cream polish to fill in scratches.
Granite & Granite Composite
Though these sinks are usually sealed, they require quite decent maintenance to keep them in good shape, as they can stain and streak rather easily (as I've learned!). Avoid any abrasive cleaners and never let acidic foods sit on the sink's surface. MaidPro recommends applying a dab of mineral oil every so often to protect against water stains. Granite composite (like my Silgranit sink) is slightly more durable and can handle cleaners such as vinegar and baking soda, as well as watered-down bleach for tough stains.