Love that Stainless Steel Look? Here's what you need to know.
Stainless steel is a material that is widely used in the lighting and ceiling fans industry. Exquisite, timeless, elegant – such qualities all blend together at the right price point to make stainless steel an ideal choice of material for many homeowners. Stainless steel’s ability to resist rusting from exposure to harsh environment is perhaps one of the most highly-marketed feature that can be observed across all consumer industries. However, what many marketers don’t often tell you is how that attractive luscious shine can quickly disappear without proper maintenance. Like all other materials, stainless steel do require maintenance from time to time to keep it at its best condition.
The most common issue with stainless steel light fixtures or ceiling fans is that it can become stained or discoloured over time, especially when used outdoors. This brown discolouration is referred to as “Tea Staining”, which can take on the appearance of rust and be easily mistaken as such. Tea staining is defined as the discolouration of the surface of stainless steel that does not affect the structural integrity or the longevity of the material.
WHAT CAUSES “TEA STAINING”?
A combination of factors in the environment can cause tea staining to occur – including pollution from contaminants, wind exposure, salt level in the air, and higher temperatures. Tea staining occurs most commonly and becomes progressively worse in harsh environments, such as areas close to the coastal sea or the presence of swimming pools in our homes.
STAINLESS STEEL GRADE FACTOR
The grade of the stainless steel used in the light fixture or ceiling fan heavily affects its rate of corrosion. Stainless steel 304 and 316 are the two common grades of stainless steel used in the lighting and fan industry.
First and foremost, you can’t tell by looking at it. At the eye level, both stainless steel 304 and 316 are virtually identical with no visible difference. Structurally speaking, however, 316 stainless steel is more durable, more corrosion-resistant, and overall superior in every aspect than 304 stainless steel. The bottom line is this – 316 stainless steel costs more upfront but will last longer in the long term, especially when used outdoors. What is important to know is:
- 304 Stainless Steel – Less expensive upfront, but less durable and less corrosion-resistant
- 316 Stainless Steel – More expensive upfront, but more durable and more corrosion-resistant
SURFACE FINISH FACTOR
Tea staining also occurs more easily on rough surface finishes. In other words, the smoother the stainless steel surface, the better. Smoother surface finishes hold its shine longer whereas rough surface finishes have deep surface grooves where chlorides (salts) and other contaminants can collect and cause staining. Keep in mind however that even smooth stainless steel finishes can show tea staining if not cleaned regularly.
WAYS TO MAINTAIN YOUR STAINLESS STEEL LIGHTING FIXTURES & CEILING FANS
Now that you have a basic understanding of stainless steel, the process of “tea staining”, and the factors that contribute to it, here’s what you can do:
- CHOOSE THE APPROPRIATE GRADE
Grade 304 stainless steel products will be fine for use in indoor environments and even some gentle outdoor areas. In saying that, grade 316 will be the most appropriate for outdoor environments. We recommend using grade 316 as the minimum for both indoor and outdoor if your home is within five kilometres of the sea or if you have a swimming pool nearby.
- CHOOSE THE APPROPRIATE SURFACE FINISH
Keep in mind the mantra “the smoother the better” when choosing any lighting fixture or ceiling fan with stainless steel surface finish. Avoid selecting items with grooves as a design feature if you live in a coastal or marine environment.
- REGULAR CLEANING
Regular maintenance is still the number one key to a corrosion-free stainless steel surface irrespective of what grade or surface finish you choose. For best results wash with mild detergent or stainless steel cleaning solution and warm water and followed by clean cold water. The appearance of the surface finish can be enhanced further with polishing followed by wipe drying. Performing regular maintenance every 3 months is a good guideline to follow.