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Cutting & Scratching of Stainless Steel Countertops E-mail
Stainless steel countertops have been praised for its many wonderful characteristics. They have a nonporous surface and do not harbor the growth of mold or mildew. They are highly resistant to high temperatures, making them an ideal surface for residential and even industrial kitchens. Maintaining stainless steel countertops is as easy as wiping it down with a wet rag.

However, there is one thing that stainless steel countertops are vulnerable to scratching.

Why do stainless steel countertops scratch?

To answer this question, one must first look at the basic metallurgy of stainless steel. Chemically, stainless steel is very much different from steel. Stainless steel has the normal components of steel – namely, iron and carbon – but in addition, it also has a protective layer of chromium.

While steel is still in its liquid form, about 5% by weight of chromium is added to it. When the liquid cools, it hardens and separates into two layers: the steel and the chromium skin covering. The chromium reacts with oxygen in the air to form an armor called chromium oxide around the steel core. This armor makes stainless steel highly water-resistant, rust-resistant, and also gives it its distinct sheen.

However, the chromium oxide skin can wear away after awhile. Two activities can cause chromium oxide to scratch: using an abrasive surface to clean the countertop and cutting or slicing directly on it. It is not actually the steel that is scratched (though excessive wear and tear can do this eventually) but the chromium oxide layer. The metallic flecks that come away from the surface when a steel-bristled brush is used to scrub stainless steel countertops are actually the protective chromium oxide skin.

Stainless steel countertop manufacturers are aware of this weakness in their product, that is why they advise homeowners to use a nonabrasive cloth or rag and not a steel brush when cleaning the surface. They also recommend using wooden or plastic chopping boards in food preparation instead of slicing directly on the surface.

After-effects of scratching

Once the chromium oxide on the stainless steel countertop has been worn away, a number of problems can surface. The stainless steel surface can be more susceptible to rust. If moisture gets into the steel component, then oxygen from the water and iron from the steel can react together to form rust. When this happens, using a stainless steel countertop for food preparation is unsanitary and dangerous. The rust can get into the food and be ingested. This can lead to serious health problems such as food poisoning.

Most people whose stainless steel countertops have rusted usually have the entire countertop replaced. This can be very expensive and frustrating as well, so stainless steel countertops should be taken care of. As long as they are well-maintained, stainless steel countertops can last for a very long time.

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