A general background of stainless steel flatware

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A general background of stainless steel flatware and how and why it wears.
Stainless steel is essentially iron which has been infused with more than 10 percent chromium.  It is very good at resisting corrosion and rust through normal wear and tear, but occasionally it will dull.  Stainless steel is noted for its hardness and ability to withstand everyday use.  To make the flatware shine, a little of the chromium is used to form the hard oxide coating on the surface.  This is like a hard outer shell protecting the steel on the inside.  Over time, and subject to use and exposure to harsh elements like dishwashing detergents, this hard protective shell very slowly wears down.  This is a normal occurence for all flatware, although it should not occur for quite a long time.  Typically the higher the quality of flatware the longer the time it takes for the outer shell to wear down and thus a reduction of luster to occur.  In very high quality stainless flatware you may be able to use it for several decades before a noticeable reduction in luster occurs.
Cleaning your flatware if it is still relatively new and in good shape.  There are a number of possible ways to clean it up and restore some of its original shine.  One such method used to remove streaking is to take a soft dish towel and rub a little olive oil on the flatware, this should remove streaking.  One can also polish and shine stainless steel by using vinegar and a soft cloth to wipe the flatware.  This is also good to remove heat stains from the flatware.  If you don't have any vinegar, club soda can also be used as an alternative.
Important notes regarding washing your flatware in the dishwasher.  Try to rinse off any salty or acidic foods stuck to the flatware.  Usually people will put utensils in the dishwasher and then wait upwards of 3 days to actually run the dishwasher.  This extended time is a killer on your stainless steel flatware and will dull it quicker.  An important note to remember is that detergents are harsh chemicals used to clean off stubborn food, but ironically they can also damage your flatware.  When possible use detergents that are mild.  Usually a detergent will state this on it's label.  Also leaving your cutlery in the dishwasher to cool down is not recommended because it will actually condense the moisture in the machine and remain wet will cause staining and eventually pitting of the surface. It best to allow it to cool / dry outside of the machine in fresh air. Many manufacturers consider their flatware safe to wash in the dishwasher.  Generally speaking this is true, however your flatware will still be best maintaned by following the above recomendations.
What not to use to clean your stainless steel flatware.  Definitely do not use harsh abrasives or steel wool on stainless steel as it will surely scratch the suface and cause additional problems.

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