Cleaning stainless steel

Since I started playing around with stainless steel safety lock-wire,
I’m pretty pleased with the results, but now I need to figure out how
to pretty it up after I’ve abused it… it gets work-hardened during
the knot-tying process, and I can kill the temper by heating it, but
it darkens considerably when I do so.

If I can avoid having to heat it, no problem. Here’s one that I made
in 0.020" wire:

But if I use heavier gauge wire it needs to be annealed at least a
little bit, when I’m ready to stretch it to size, and that leaves it
a bit brownish. So: is there anything I can do, by way of pickling
or dipping, that will bring it back to a brighter finish? Polishing
it on the buffer only affects the surfaces exposed to the wheel, not
the crevices or the inside of the ring.

I’ve tried vinegar and baking soda with no particular success, and I
try to avoid stronger acids around the house. Any suggestions?



If you’re experimenting with stainless try working with wire rope
rather than wire. I’ve done a couple of turks head bracelets in
0.024" dia. stainless cable and 0.032" dia. phosphor bronze. (16
bights x 5 plaits x 5 leads and 16 x 7 x 5) The flexibility of wire
rope means you don’t get kinks while leading through. Also, cable
gives the resulting item a nice springy flexibility which makes it
very comfortable.

You can get a wide variety of small diameter wire rope from

Unfortunately you will not find an easy way to remove heat scale from
stainless, the chrome oxide that makes it stainless also makes it
very chemical resistant. Industrial cleaning is done with hot nitric
acid and hydrofluoric, nasty nasty. Nitric by itself can work if the
scale is not too thick. I have also had some luck with Multi Etch
sold by Reactive Metals but it will etch and matte the surface

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

Thanks, but I make my own rope, because I’m stubborn. :slight_smile:

Hot nitric and hydrofluoric… yeah, too nasty for me. I think I’ll
leave it dark, unless I can find some just plain nitric and it works
overnight. I’d just as soon keep that stuff cool.


Get yourself some rubber wheels with different grits from 320 down to
fine light blue rubber and polish off the high points of the
stainless. The lower spots can be left dark to accent the piece.
Then I use green stainless rouge to bring the metal to a high polish
and take out small scratches.