How to Clean a Sink: The Ultimate Guide to Sink Maintenance
Sinks play an essential role in the home, ensuring easy access to water and a designated place to clean various home items, from dishes to toothbrushes to even your clothes! Frequent use makes it especially important to know how to clean a sink. Not only will consistent sink care leave the surfaces looking pristine, but regular maintenance ensures long life and use for these essential fixtures.
How to Clean a Sink—The Basics
When it comes to caring for your sinks, the type of sink material is the biggest factor in determining how to clean and maintain them. While one cleaning method might work wonders on one sink, the same approach could cause irreparable damage to another. That being said, below is a general list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to regular sink care:
- Use soft, clean cloths for wiping, cleaning, and drying.
- Use mild or gentle soaps for regular cleaning, if needed.
- Rinse the sink after each use.
- Wipe the sink dry when you’re done.
- Use abrasive cleaners, sponges, scrubbers, and other harsh materials—no steel wool necessary.
- Ignore special care instructions that apply to your sink material.
Simply adhering to these basic tips on a regular basis can maintain many sinks and keep them looking beautiful.
As mentioned earlier, each sink material has its own special qualities or tendencies that may be best served with more specific care. This guide outlines the ways you can clean and care for your particular sink.
Metal Sink Care & Maintenance
How to Clean a Stainless Steel Sink
Stainless steel is a solid standard for kitchen sinks since it’s both antimicrobial and resistant to rust, heat, and stains. It’s also very easy to clean and maintain, making it a popular choice in many homes. Simply rinsing and drying the sink with warm water after each use can help deter water buildup or mineral deposits.
However, for an even deeper clean, below is the tried-and-true best way to clean a stainless sink:
- Rinse the sink with hot water to remove any debris or food particles.
- Leaving the sink damp, sprinkle on a layer of baking soda.
- Use a soft sponge to rub in the baking soda. Scrub in the direction of the grain and use a soft toothbrush to target trouble spots.
- Evenly spray or pour a layer of white vinegar onto the baking soda.
- Let the vinegar and baking soda mixture sit for a few minutes. Once the mixture has finished bubbling, rinse the sink.
- To avoid water spots, completely dry the sink after thorough rinsing.
Though stainless steel can stand up to abrasive scrubs, harsh chemicals can still damage the surface over time.
Remember that the higher gauge, the higher the likelihood of denting. Lower gauge stainless steel—specifically 16 to 18 gauge—is thicker and less susceptible to denting.
How to Clean a Cast Iron Sink
Cast iron sinks are a workhorse of a sink material—very heavy and hardy. Cast iron sinks come with a beautiful enamel/porcelain coating, making these sinks non-porous and also customizable in color. Grids are also recommended for cast iron sinks since their coating may be prone to chipping or cracking from sharp or fallen objects.
A mild detergent should be used for regular cleaning of cast iron sinks. Even though it’s non-porous and stain resistant, cast iron sinks should not be cleaned with abrasive cleaners, materials, or harsh chemicals since they can stain the surface.
See the porcelain care section for further tips on caring for porcelain-coated sinks.
How to Clean a Copper Sink
The antimicrobial copper is an especially beautiful high-end sink material, and it develops a patina over time, giving it the signature antique style. Copper sinks are durable yet still soft and easily scratched, scuffed, or dented.
Many copper sinks come with a seal to protect it from the usual suspects; however, acid, abrasive chemicals, some cosmetics (like toothpaste, shaving cream, and makeup), excess heat, and even your body’s natural oils can strip the natural patina from a copper sink. Give the sink a thorough rinse after every use to remove such substances and residue as soon as possible.
A mild soap, water, and a soft cloth or sponge can maintain the luster and patina of a copper sink with regular cleaning. If needed, you can apply a copper-specific protective coat to the sink.
Similar to glass sinks, copper, bronze, and brass sinks are not built for cleaners to be left on for extended periods of time. Any soap must be rinsed off immediately after application.
How to Clean a Bronze Sink
Bronze sinks are made of copper but also incorporate other alloys in order to increase durability since copper isn’t always a practical sink material. This enhancement gives bronze sinks antimicrobial properties and resistance to corrosion. Like copper, bronze sinks will develop a lovely patina over the years through oxidation.
Bronze sinks can be cleaned with warm water, a soft cloth, and if needed, a mild soap. It’s best to wipe down and dry a bronze sink after each use to prevent any water spots from becoming permanent.
Do not use scrubs, polishes, or abrasive cleaning supplies on bronze or copper sinks since they scratch easily. A thin layer of wax can be used to prevent water spots from developing, but know that it may also warp the patina.
How to Clean a Brass Sink
Brass sinks have a timeless yet durable quality. A combination of copper and zinc, brass sinks have antimicrobial properties, though they may be prone to dents, dings, and scratches.
Day-to-day cleaning for a brass sink is simple: a soft clean cloth with mild dish soap should do the trick—just make sure to thoroughly rinse and dry after. A small amount of brass cleaner can help remove any stains or tarnish on brass sinks. If using a brass cleaner, be sure to polish it off with a soft, clean, dry cloth afterward.
Minor scratches and scuffs can be removed with fine car buffing compounds, whereas deeper scratches may require sandpaper to remove; both should be followed up with brass polish to return the natural golden shine.
Clay and Glass Sink Care & Maintenance
To prevent scratches and chips, avoid dropping heavy items into your porcelain or ceramic sink. If you are rinsing dyes out (or other vibrantly colored materials), keep the water running to keep the colors from absorbing into the porcelain.
When it comes to discoloration or stains on porcelain, a little hydrogen peroxide (or other liquid oxygen bleach alternative) is effective at diminishing the appearance of scratches and stains, no matter if your sink is white or another color. White vinegar (undiluted) gently scrubbed onto porcelain is another alternative for stains.
As a last resort, bleach can be used on white porcelain only by first setting a layer of paper towels onto the stained section of the sink before spraying the bleach onto the paper towels. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. Finally, rinse the sink until it’s completely free of bleach before drying it with a soft cloth.
How to Clean a Ceramic Sink
Ceramic, unlike porcelain, is more prone to chipping but is also easy to maintain thanks to its non-porous material. It’s made of clay, powder, and water and is shaped before being set at high heat. Smooth, durable, and waterproof, ceramic is also resistant to discoloration and scratches.
An all-purpose cleaner or a small amount of mild dish soap with a soft sponge is perfect for maintaining ceramic surfaces, if not a simple wipe down with a damp cloth. Just be sure to thoroughly dry ceramic sinks of soap and other traces. Avoid using scouring materials or highly concentrated drain cleaners with ceramic sinks.
For a deeper clean of ceramic sinks, you can use a sprinkling of baking soda around the sink to remove grime, mineral buildup, or even toothpaste with circular motions from a soft damp sponge. To brighten and whiten your ceramic sink, coat the ceramic with lemon juice from fresh lemon slices, and let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
To remove stains from ceramic, apply a mixture of vinegar/hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar to the stain and wait 10 minutes before removing the mixture with a soft sponge. You can also remove stains by spraying a bleach solution mixed with water to the ceramic surface and then letting it set for 10 minutes before rinsing.
If your ceramic sink has hand-painted features, avoid using abrasive cleansers to maintain the decoration.
How to Clean a Fireclay Sink
More scratch, stain, and heat resistant than ceramic, fireclay is a heavy-duty sink material. It’s also resistant to rust, acid, and fading. However, fireclay sinks are prone to cracking or chipping if heavy or jagged items are dropped onto their surfaces. Grids are recommended at the base of fireclay sinks to prevent chips and cracks.
Maintenance is easy for fireclay sinks. All you need to do is clean with mild dish soap and water on a regular basis. For tougher spots, applying and scrubbing in baking soda should do the trick. Remember, a damp sink can hold onto baking soda better than a dry sink.
How to Clean a Glass Sink
Tempered glass is both a durable and versatile sink material since it can be sculpted into different colors, shapes, and patterns. Since tempered glass is also low maintenance, it’s grown in popularity for vanity sinks. They don’t stain or scratch, and they are also nonporous and easy to disinfect.
An ammonia-free liquid soap paired with water and a soft sponge suffices for the day-to-day cleaning of glass sinks. No abrasive cleaners, harsh chemicals, or abrasive pads should be used on glass surfaces; these materials can dull and damage glass surfaces. Do not leave cleansers on glass for very long as that can ruin it.
For a deeper clean to catch limescale or other deposits, a glass cleaner should be used and immediately rinsed off with warm water before being pat dry. After every use or cleaning, microfiber cloths are ideal to wipe and clean glass sinks to prevent water spots and clouding.
Composite Sink Care & Maintenance
How to Clean an Engineered Quartz Sink
Engineered quartz or other engineered stone also makes for a sturdy sink as it is resistant to mold, mildew, and bacteria, and needs less maintenance than other stone sink varieties as it is non-porous and doesn’t require regular sealing.
For regular cleaning, warm water on a damp washrag should work for daily wipe downs. A regular sweep of a little non-abrasive cleaner and water will help keep engineered stone sinks clean and shiny. Be sure to wipe up spills as soon as possible to prevent any discoloring. With hard-to-remove debris, glass cleaner or a rubber putty knife can safely remove it. Use isopropyl alcohol on a wet rag to remove stains—just be sure to wipe it off after.
Avoid putting extremely hot items, like curling irons or fresh-off-the-stove pans, directly on a quartz or engineered stone sink as they can scorch or damage the surface.
How to Clean a Resin Sink
Resin sinks have a stone-like appearance—smooth and non-porous—but are made of poly-resin, fiberglass, and acrylic, which makes it more like a strong plastic. Resin sinks have more flexibility to come in different shapes, sizes, and colors since they are entirely synthetic. They are resistant to moisture, mildew, and discoloration.
Use gentle to mild cleaning products (no ammonia) to clean resin sinks; cleaners meant for painted surfaces will also work well. Abrasive cleaning supplies should be avoided as they can wear down the surface of resin sinks. Petroleum-based products can also damage resin sinks, so avoid pouring such materials down the sink.
Natural Material Sink Care: Stone & Wood
How to Clean a Granite Sink
As a natural stone, a solid granite sink requires regular and proper sealing to prevent erosion, scratching, and staining. A manufacturer might supply an initial seal, however, it’s necessary to reseal your natural stone sinks every 3-6 months to keep them in tip-top shape and avoid clouding.
Harsh chemicals and materials— including many multipurpose cleaners, abrasive scrubber pads, and steel wool—should never be used on granite or marble sinks. They all can damage natural stone surfaces.
For stains on granite sinks, combine whiting powder with hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. Apply the paste thickly to the stain and let it sit for 24-48 hours with a plastic covering. Wipe away the paste with a soft cloth or sponge, and rinse the area thoroughly before drying with a soft cloth.
To remove hard water stains, use a sponge with mild dish soap to scrub around the sink or problematic areas. Rinse and then dry before applying a mineral oil to return the sheen to the sink. Just remember to wipe off excess mineral oil after a minute or two.
How to Clean a Marble Sink
Made to last, marble is a more porous surface so it is more prone to damage—particularly stains—than other stone sinks. Marble makes for a beautiful sink, but it does come with more particular care guidelines.
Day-to-day cleaning should include mild soap diluted with water or a marble-specific cleanser that you spray on and buff off. Anything that could stain should also be rinsed or wiped up immediately.
Avoid cleansers with abrasive or harsh chemicals, as well as anything acidic (vinegar, citrus), which can break down the seal and further cause etching and staining on marble sinks. It’s advised to not pour any harsh materials down marble sinks since the potential for damage is so high.
Marble sinks require regular sealing about every 3-6 months, depending on the strength and type of the sealant. When sealing your marble sink, remember to buff off the excess seal so it doesn’t mar the finish.
To remove stains, apply a paste made of baking soda and water and let the mixture dry (or leave for 24 hours) with a plastic covering. Marble polishing powder can remove scratches and etching, though remember to reseal the marble after polishing it.
How to Clean Natural Stone & Lava Rock Sinks
Tough as nails, natural stone sinks are both hardy and beautiful statement pieces, particularly when used for a vanity vessel sink. Natural stone basins are also easier than you might expect to clean and maintain.
A mild cleanser or stone cleaner with a soft sponge is the way to go for regular cleaning of natural stone sinks. Just make sure to wipe it dry with a soft cloth after cleaning or rinsing to ensure no residue or water spots remain in the sink. Acid-based or abrasive scrubs or cleansers should be avoided with natural stone sinks.
Do not pour hair dye or fruit juice (or other vibrantly colored fluid) into a stone sink, as it could be absorbed and cause a stain. Sodium/salt can also damage stone sinks, which is why a thorough rinse is necessary after use.
Lava rock in particular needs a sealant, just as any porous stone would need. If a seal isn’t supplied by the manufacturer, it’s advised to apply one to keep the lava rock from absorbing unwanted fluids or bacteria. A seal may need to be re-applied at various intervals depending on the strength of the sealant.
How to Clean a Wood Sink
Petrified wood sinks make a gorgeous statement piece, especially in a bathroom, as each one is unique. Since petrified wood sinks will likely come polished with a sealant, they are relatively easy to clean and maintain. Petrified wood sinks require annual sealing to keep the material protected. A granite or marble cleaner will also work on petrified wood sinks, as the sealant will be similar to those used on stone materials.
More regular cleaning can be done with a mild soap, water, and a soft cloth or sponge. Similarly, a stone wax will also help maintain petrified wood sinks by preventing hard water deposits and stains. Avoid using harsh, abrasive, or acidic household cleaning items and cleansers on your wood sink to keep it beautiful.
Sink Styles & Cleaning
Keep in mind that the style of the sink might determine how easy it is to clean as well, along with how easy it is to clean your countertop too. Where a drop-in sink may provide a rim that needs to be cleaned around, an undermount sink will provide a more seamless wipe-down process where you can wipe the countertop spills and contents straight into the sink.
Vessel sinks will also require some maneuvering around to reach all the sides for proper cleaning of both the sink and the counter. Much like undermounts, integrated sinks also feature a seamless transition from countertop to sink for a beautiful look and easy overall cleanup.
(Integrated sinks should follow the care and maintenance of the overall material of the countertop and sink.)
Don’t Forget the Faucet!
While cleaning your sink, it’s likely convenient to do the faucet while you’re at it!
Faucets and water levers can come in a couple of different materials and finishes. Generally, a mild cleanser diluted with water that you’ll likely use on your sink will do the job. Using a microfiber cloth for drying will leave the sheen where it belongs for metallic finishes and keep matte finishes clear from fingerprints.
Covering Your Bases in Sink Care
Each sink material may require different cleaning techniques, though it doesn’t have to be hard to maintain whichever sink you have. It may even be helpful to invest in cleaners that work specifically with the type of sink you have, if they are available.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with regularly rinsing and wiping down your sink with water or a small amount of mild soap—as long as you remember to dry. Make it a habit, and your sinks will stay clean, beautiful, and functional for a good long while.