Metal is an enduring material that will stand the test of time, but metal fixtures, appliances and furniture are prone to get scratched. Metal restoration is a well-researched fine art, and thankfully there are many ways to repair even the most severe looking scratches.
Scratches can be removed from metal with a few techniques and products, like sanding the metal, using micro-abrasive pads, metal polish, restorative polish, or powdered scratch remover — only polish with the metal’s grain in one direction. Do not use circular movements.
It does not matter how careful you are with your beautiful metal appliances or furniture, accidents happen, and things get scratched. Superficial scratches are easy to get out, and one can even use common household acids, like vinegar, to help! A little more intensive work is required to get deeper scratches removed, but it can be done. Here is the definitive guide to restoring any scratched metal surface in your home.
Choose The Right Metal Polishing Product
There are many different types of metal polish available on the market, and you will need to know their properties to choose the suitable polish for your needs.
There is regular metal polish and restorative metal polish. The former has a mild formulation, that can be used regularly to maintain the luster of metal, or to polish out minor scratches, without risking further damage to the metal.
Restorative metal polish is more heavy-duty. It contains abrasives that help to polish and smooth the metal surface. This type of polish is designed to work on deep scratches or small dents.
Both of these products require the user to put in some serious elbow grease!
For medium-deep scratches, powdered scratch removers work very well.
Clean Before You Polish Scratches Out Of Metal
Before you begin polishing, it is essential to give the metal a proper cleaning. Using a soft sponge, apply plenty of cleaning solution to the surface and make sure that it gets into the scratches.
Buff the metal with the sponge using circular movements. Once you have cleaned and buffed, remove the cleaning solution with a damp cloth.
For very minor, superficial scratches and general tarnish, this step can already make a huge difference, and it often enough to resolve the issue.
Identify The Grain Of The Metal
To restore metal to its original finish using polishes, you need to pay attention to the finer details, like the direction of the grain of the metal.
All metals have a grain, due to their physical crystalline structure. Metals are made up of distinct crystals, or grains, that are aligned in a certain orientation.
Regardless of what polish or product you use, identifying the direction of the grain is vital, as polishing against the grain of the metal can actually make scratches worse!
The grain can run vertically, up-and down, or horizontally, side to side. This is easy to see on surfaces like brushed stainless steel.
Remove Light Scratches From Metal
If cleaning and buffing is not enough to do the trick, it is time to bring on the microfiber cloth. Use vinegar as a cheap, non-toxic, and easily available solution for removing light scratches.
Wet the microfiber cloth generously with vinegar and rub the surface gently, in the same direction as the metals grain.
Instead of only polishing the scratched area, rub the whole surface with the vinegar to create a more even overall finish. Once you have rubbed all over the surface, leave it to dry.
Clean the surface of all the vinegar by wiping it with a wet cloth and letting it dry. Apply olive oil or mineral oil to the clean, dry surface using a clean microfiber cloth.
Gently rub the metal with the oil-soaked microfiber cloth, along the grain of the metal. Wait for 10-15 minutes for the oil to work its magic.
Using a clean, dry microfiber cloth, wipe the oil from the surface in the same direction as the grain. Using circular movements at this stage may cause the scratches to get worse.
Continue rubbing until all the oil has been removed. At this stage, the scratches should disappear.
There is no need to run out to the supermarket or hardware store for metal polish if you are trying to fix light scratches. All you need is right in your pantry! You can use vinegar to help remove minor scratches from metal, as it is a mild acid.
Does Toothpaste Remove Scratches From Metal?
Toothpaste has mild abrasive properties, especially whitening toothpastes, therefore, can be used to remove minor scratches from stainless steel.
Using a toothbrush with soft bristles or a microfiber cloth, apply the toothpaste to the metal surface, and rub in the direction of the metal’s grain. Wpe away the toothpaste with a clean cloth and check if the scratch has lifted.
If the scratch is still there, repeat the process, but once it has gone, clean the metal and apply a small amount of olive oil or polish to the metal to protect it.
How To Polish Scratches Out Of Metal
Find a general-purpose metal polish is you are dealing with light to medium scratches or use a restorative metal polish if the scratches are deeper.
Once you have cleaned and dried all dirt or built-up grime from the surface, evenly soak a clean microfiber cloth in polish and rub it onto the metal.
Rub the metal in the direction of the grain, working on the whole surface, not just the affected area. As you rub (it may take a while, and you will have to apply more polish) you will see the scratches polish out.
Use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe off all the polish (again, in the direction of the grain) and dry the metal surface. Be very gentle as you rub and wipe, to prevent scratching it further.
Using Powdered Scratch Remover To Restore Metal
Medium or deep scratches need something a little stronger than polish. Powdered scratch removing compounds are more abrasive, thus more efficient at smoothing scratches.
Powdered scratch removers have to be made into a paste before we use them. Mix a small amount of the compound with a few drops of water and mix until it reaches a toothpaste-like consistency.
Prepare the surface by applying vinegar with a microfiber cloth. Leave it on the metal for 15-20 minutes and then wipe it off carefully with the cloth.
Apply olive oil or mineral oil to the surface with a cloth and wipe it so that it is clean and smooth. This helps the powdered scratch remover work most efficiently.
Apply the paste to the metal surface using a microfiber cloth and rub the whole surface in the direction of the grain. Start with the scratches and work outwards, to achieve an even, smooth, finish. You will need to keep reapplying paste.
Once all the scratches have polished out, wipe the metal clean with a dampened microfiber cloth. Dry the surface with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. Remember only to wipe in the same direction as the grain of the metal!
Sanding Metal To Remove Deep Scratches
The sand, clean and polish method works to remove severe, deep scratches from metal. It is time- and labor-intensive, as you are gradually removing layers of metal to scour the entire surface down to the bottom of the scratch to make it disappear.
Start with a course grit sandpaper (400 or 600) and gradually work down to a very fine grit (1200 to 1800). Soak the sandpaper in water for 5 minutes prior to using it, as the moisture will act as a lubricant to help the sandpaper slide across the metal.
Going in the same direction as the grain of the metal, and only rubbing in one direction, rub the sandpaper back and forth in long strokes, applying gentle, even pressure. You are creating tiny scratches in the metal, so be very careful!
It helps to wrap the sandpaper around a flat block of wood, to maintain even pressure, and avoid making uneven new scratches.
Sand the whole surface, not just the scratched area, as you are essentially resurfacing the metal. Once the scratch is almost gone, switch to a finer grit.
Repeat the sanding process, each time using a finer grade of sandpaper, always soaking it in water before use.
When the scratch has disappeared, clean the surface with a damp cloth,and polish it with oil to the desired finish using a microfiber cloth.
Scratch Removal Kits For Metal
There are many scratch removal kits available on the market. These are convenient, because they contain all the products you need to polish or buff out scratches. It can get expensive buying all the products you need separately, if you are only needing to use a small quantity.
The kits are usually intended for a certain type of metal, like stainless steel, sterling silver, or chrome. Scratch removal kits usually include a microfiber cloth, various grades of sandpaper or abrasive pads, and a polishing compound or polish.
The following scratch removal kits have been proven to work wonders:
- Barry’s Restore It All Scratch-B-Gone is brilliant at restoring scratches stainless steel surfaces. It can only be used on un-coated stainless steel, making it ideal for keeping the kitchen sink, stove, refrigerator and other appliances looking shiny and new. The kit contains easy-to-use foam backed abrasive pads, a microfiber cloth, and the patented Ulta Shine polish.
- Scratch Pro Kit is another excellent product for stainless steel. It includes diamond buffing compounds, that abrade the surface of the metal to restore its shiny finish. The ergonomic design of the sanding block makes it easy to hold and use.
- QUIXX Metal Restoration Kit can be used to fix scratches on a range of surfaces. It is gentle enough to be used on brass, silver, gold or copper, but strong enough for use on vehicle rims, chrome, and aluminium. The kit includes very fine grit sandpaper (up to 5000), polishing cloths, a sanding block, and metal polish.
Quick Pick Products For Scratch Removal From Metals
These are the top brands and products on the market for scratch removal from metal:
- Brasso has been people’s go-to metal polish for over 100 years, and for good reason! It is excellent for a variety of metals like brass, copper, stainless steel, chrome, bronze, pewter, and aluminum. It is great for polishing light scratches out with a microfiber cloth.
- Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish is a micro-abrasive formula that is designed to restore a range of different metals, but is mainly used on cars. It is brilliant for removing imperfections and polishing metal to a glossy, clear finish.
Maintaining Your Metal Appliances And Furniture
Metal is perceived as a strong, durable material, and this is why we tend to be a bit rough with metal appliances, furniture and other surfaces, causing them to develop scratches. We do however, need to treat our metallic surfaces with extra care.
Be very careful when using other metal objects on or around a metal surface. Magnets, knives and other utensils can easily scratch stainless steel appliances. Address scratches as soon as they occur, because they tend to get worse with time. The longer you leave a scratch before fixing it, the harder it will be to remove.
To extend the life of the metal surfaces in your home, it is important to regularly clean and polish them with a mild product, as this can protect the metal from scratching.
Metal is an enduring material, and most scratches, from minor scuffs to deep gouges, can be removed. It does require time, a lot of effort and a high quality metal polish. Very minor scratches can be removed using a mild household acid, like vinegar and a microfiber cloth, or an everyday micro-abrasive compound, like whitening toothpaste.
When rubbing and poilishing metal it is vital to do so along the grain of the metal. Rubbing against the grain can make scratches worse. It is also important to polish the entire surface, rather than only around the scratched area, to avoid giving the metal an uneven appearance.
Medium- depth scratches require one to use a powdered scratch removing compound, or a heavy-duty restorative metal polish. The abrasive properties of these products are higher, allowing them to even out the metal better than micro-abrasive products.
When tackling deep scratches or gouges, you will need to sand the metal using sandpaper. Begin with a course-grit (400-600) and gradually progress to a fine-grit (1200-1800). It is vital to sand in the direction of the grain of the metal. Once deep scratches have been removed, polish the whole surface to the desired finish using oil or multi-purpose polish.
Convenient scratch removing kits are available to buy. These are usually made for a specific metal finish, like stainless steel. It is cheaper to buy a kit, than to purchase all the products you need for a restoration project individually.
Related post: How to Remove Paint From Metal With Acetone