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Keeping Your Boat's Stainless Steel Shining Bright - How to Look After Your Stainless Steel

Keeping Your Boat's Stainless Steel Shining Bright - How to Look After Your Stainless Steel

Keeping Your Boat's Stainless Steel Shining Bright

Stainless steel fixtures are a common sight on boats, adding a touch of style and practicality. But keeping those shiny surfaces gleaming requires a bit of TLC. Here at Mount Marine Fabrication, we're passionate about helping you keep your boat looking its best.

A Quick Stainless Steel History Lesson

Back in 1913, English metallurgist Harry Brearley stumbled upon a game-changer for the marine industry: stainless steel. By mixing chromium with low-carbon steel, Brearley created an alloy that could withstand the harsh marine environment without rusting.

Marine-Grade Stainless Steel: The Tough Stuff for Boats

The stainless steel we use today is a blend of metals, with chromium making up more than 10%. This, along with molybdenum, nickel, and nitrogen, makes stainless steel the ideal choice for boats. It's tough against corrosion, stays strong even in hot temperatures, and looks great too.

Understanding Corrosion: The Enemy of Shine

While stainless steel is good at resisting corrosion, it's not invincible. When exposed to harsh weather conditions, stainless steel can rust or corrode, forming iron oxide. Chromium, a key ingredient in stainless steel, helps prevent this by forming its own oxide, chromium oxide, which acts as a shield.

Common Corrosion Types and How to Fight Them

    1. Atmospheric Corrosion: This happens when stainless steel is exposed to airborne stuff like sea spray, rain, salt, or dirt.

How to stop it: Give your boat a regular rinse with fresh water, making sure to get all those stainless steel bits.

    1. Chemical Corrosion: This happens when stainless steel comes into direct contact with harsh chemicals, like bleach.

How to stop it: After cleaning your boat, give it a thorough rinse to remove any leftover bleach. Try to use other cleaning methods instead of bleach whenever possible.

    1. Contact Corrosion: This happens when tiny pieces of other metals, like carbon steel, copper, or scale, get stuck in stainless steel, causing pitting.

How to stop it: Avoid using different metals together whenever possible. If you can't, put a plastic or rubber spacer between them to prevent corrosion.

Stainless Steel Care Tips for Sparkling Fixtures

    1. Regular Cleaning and Repairs: Regularly cleaning your stainless steel and fixing any damage right away is key to keeping it looking its best.

    1. Know Your Metal: Marine-grade stainless steel is different from chrome-plated stuff. Use a magnet to tell which is which before cleaning.

    1. Thorough Rinsing: After every saltwater trip, no matter how long, give your boat and all its stainless steel fittings a good hose down to reduce the risk of corrosion.

    1. Gentle Cleaning: Use a soft cloth or non-abrasive sponge with fresh water and a mild marine-grade cleaner. Stay away from harsh stuff like steel wool or scouring pads.

    1. Polishing for a Gleaming Finish: Once you've cleaned your stainless steel, apply a polish using a soft cloth. Rub it onto the surface, let it dry to a haze, and then buff it to a high shine by hand. Repeat as needed. Autosol is a good choice for polish.

    1. Clean Often: Regularly include stainless steel cleaning in your boat maintenance routine to keep it looking its best and prevent corrosion.

    1. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Stay away from cleaning products with chlorides or acids, especially bleach, as these can damage stainless steel.

Electrolysis: When Dissimilar Metals Don't Get Along

Electrolysis is an electrochemical process that happens when two different metals touch in a saltwater environment. One metal corrodes faster than the other, leading to damage.

Cathodic protection is a common way to prevent electrolysis on dissimilar metals. It involves attaching a sacrificial anode, usually made of zinc, aluminum, or magnesium, to the more vulnerable metal. This sacrificial anode takes the electrical charge, protecting the other metal from corrosion.

Electrolysis Prevention Tips

    1. Identify Dissimilar Metal Contact Areas: Know where dissimilar metals are in contact, like on lower units.

    1. Cathodic Protection Maintenance: Make sure cathodic protection materials are in good shape and replace or repair when needed.

Dealing with Rust

If rust has pitted and gone beyond surface rust, you may need to get it welded and then pre-passivated with an acid solution. This should be done by a professional and followed up with a marine-grade polish. Mount Marine Fabrication offers comprehensive stainless steel rust removal services. 

By following these simple guidelines and seeking expert help when needed, you can ensure that your boat's stainless steel fixtures remain shining bright for years to come.

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