Do Stainless Steel Kitchen Faucets Rust? (Tips)

Kitchen faucets can get expensive (as my wife and I just discovered), so choosing ones that are durable is important, especially when it comes to rust. So do standard-issue stainless steel kitchen faucets rust?

Stainless steel is highly durable and corrosion-resistant, but not 100% rust-proof. As an alloy of iron, carbon, and chromium, the presence of iron means there is always the potential for rust.

Let’s dive down into the subject of stainless steel faucets in more detail, and discover whether they do actually rust and what we can do to maintain them for a long life in the kitchen. We’ll also look into possible alternatives…

Do Stainless Steel Kitchen Faucets Rust?

Will Stainless Steel Kitchen Faucets Rust?

Asking whether stainless steel kitchen faucets will rust is kind of a tricky question if you think about it for more than a few seconds.  After all, stainless steel is a really good corrosion-resistant material.  That’s part of the reason why it’s so popular.

It’s also incredibly durable and performs well when exposed to water and oxygen.  Water and oxygen are, of course, the key ingredients when it comes to rust formation in iron.

“Aha!” you might be thinking.  “Gotcha!  There’s no iron in stainless steel, so it won’t rust.”

If you’re thinking that, you’re thinking wrong.

To recap, iron is a metal.  A very strong, durable metal.  However, iron is also highly corrosive.  If you have cast-iron grates on a grill, all you need to do is leave your grill outside for a while and you’ll find rust forming on those grates.  Why?  Because of oxygen and water content in the atmosphere.  Once rust starts building up, it keeps building up.  This is why you need to maintain cast iron products frequently.

Steel, on the other hand, is an alloy of iron combined with carbon.  This combination makes steel even stronger than iron.  That’s why things like warships, tanks, and most cars are constructed from it.  But steel, too, also rusts because of its iron make-up.  This is why ships and cars are painted.

Stainless steel, though, is an alloy of iron, carbon, and chromium.  Chromium gives stainless steel the reputation of being rustless by forming a protective film that helps stainless steel resist corrosive rust.

Resist.  That’s an important word.

Stainless steel is highly durable and corrosion-resistant.  It is, however, not 100% rust-proof.  Because there is still the presence of iron, there is always the potential for rust.

Now does that mean your stainless steel faucet will rust?  Not necessarily.  However, factors like age, wear and tear, and the use of abrasive cleaners, can all combine to reduce the resistant nature of stainless steel and possibly lead to rust.

What Kind of Faucet Does Not Rust?

If you’re looking for a faucet that is not likely to rust at all, then you need to find a faucet without iron in its composition.  After all, rust is the natural reaction of iron being exposed to the presence of oxygen and water.  Its highly corrosive nature is also why you haven’t found cast iron in plumbing since the mid-1970s.

That being said, cast iron was never a real choice for a faucet.

So, what types of faucets don’t have iron in them?  Well, you’ve got three popular choices to choose from.  Those choices are brass, copper, and bronze.

Copper is copper, which means it’s a metal, whereas bronze is an alloy and is made up of a mixture of copper and tin.  Brass, on the other hand, is also an alloy but primarily consists of copper and zinc.  All three choices are highly resistant to corrosion in the presence of water and oxygen and none of them contain iron.

What Is Better for a Kitchen Faucet Chrome or Stainless Steel?

Both chrome and stainless steel are popular choices for faucets.  In appearance, it’s often hard to tell the two apart.  The biggest difference, when it comes to looks, is that chrome is shinier but also shows fingerprints more easily.

Another drawback to chrome is that, as a soft metal, it can pit easily.  This can be the result of using abrasive cleaners on chrome.  It can also be the result of your water’s chemical composition.  That being said, with the right cleaning products, chrome is relatively easy to maintain.

In the end, it really comes down to your budget and how much you want to maintain your faucet. Well, that and what you think looks better with your kitchen appliances and such.

Stainless steel kitchen faucet

How Can I Tell if My Faucet Is Chrome or Stainless Steel?

The easiest way to tell chrome from stainless steel is the outward appearance.  Chrome is shinier and brighter than stainless steel. 

Stainless steel, besides being not as bright, also has a more industrial look to it.  Its subdued color is still eye-catching, but it doesn’t look as “showy” as the brighter chrome products.  However, polished stainless steel is still pretty bright and  “showy”.

Stainless steel also doesn’t show fingerprints and watermarks as much as chrome does.  That’s why it requires less maintenance.

Now, there is always the case that a chrome faucet doesn’t have a bright and shiny appearance.  Instead, it may have a satin finish that makes it look more like stainless steel. 

So, if you have a faucet that looks like it could be chrome or stainless steel and it’s very clean so there aren’t a bunch of old fingerprints or watermarks present, you can always try the feel test.

What’s that?

Well, does it feel like chrome or stainless steel?  Yes, it’s not very scientific, but chrome is softer and tends to be lighter.  As already mentioned, stainless steel looks more industrial and also tends to feel like it.  So, if your faucet kind of feels like it could have plastic underneath the exterior because it’s light and somewhat soft, it’s probably chrome.

You might find a site somewhere that suggests breaking out a magnet because stainless steel isn’t magnetic.  This is pretty much true for food-grade stainless steel. 

It’s also true for chrome.  That is unless the chrome has a substrate metal that happens to be magnetic like steel.  However, when it comes to faucets, the chrome’s substrate is usually an alloy like brass, which isn’t magnetic either.

Are Stainless Steel Faucets Hard to Keep Clean?

Besides being easy to keep clean, stainless steel faucets are also strong and durable.  They don’t show fingerprints or water spots easily. 

To clean them, you often only need a soft cloth and some water to wipe your faucet down and dry it off with a dish or paper towel.

There are, of course, specially formulated products out there designed specifically for cleaning stainless steel.  The majority of these products also have a polishing aspect to them, so they’re not necessarily cleaners you’ll use on a daily basis.

What Is the Most Durable Faucet Finish?

Brushed nickel is often considered the most durable of finishes for faucets.  Besides having an antique appearance, it also doesn’t show water spots, or fingerprints, and is easy to maintain.  It also keeps its finish longer than chrome and is just as resistant to corrosion.

Another thing going for it is that brush nickel easily fits in with most kitchen fixtures, and looks good in almost any environment while not requiring the attention that shinier fixtures need.

Some, though, feel that brushed nickel pairs better with white sinks and appliances, vice stainless steel. 

Summary: What Is the Easiest Faucet Finish to Maintain?

Well, the easiest faucet finish to maintain is the one you love because you don’t even think about maintaining it, even as you’re cleaning it

Okay, that’s a bit more of a dramatic and romantic answer than you were probably looking for.  No, the easiest faucet finish to maintain is also the winner of the most durable faucet finish category: brushed nickel.

Besides being incredibly durable considering the workload expected from it, brushed nickel faucets also require very little cleaning, clean up easily when they do, and show little to no water spots, or fingerprints, and hide other things like dust and the occasional splatter from the sink.

Yes, other faucets like chrome and stainless steel are very durable but require more attention when it comes to maintenance.  The fact that brushed nickel doesn’t require nearly as much attention, along with its low cost, sets it above other choices and lands it in the top spot.

So it looks like we’ll be going shopping for some brushed nickel kitchen faucets for our new extension very soon. 🙂