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How to Remove Scratches from Your Stainless Steel Table


It was Saturday night and the restaurant was buzzing. Customers were chatting happily while waiters whisked by carrying plates of steaming food. As a manager doing final rounds, you noticed something that stopped you in your tracks – deep scratches across the surface of the stainless steel tables in the dining area. How did these get here? And how can they be removed without disrupting service?

Scratches on stainless steel tables can make a restaurant look worn down. But they also create grooves where dirt, grime and bacteria can accumulate, posing cleanliness issues. For catering companies, scratched table surfaces decrease your professional image during events.

The good news is that many light to medium scratches can be removed from stainless steel tables without too much trouble. In this article, we’ll go over techniques for assessing scratch severity, cleaning, lubricating, removing surface scratches, repairing deeper marks, preventative maintenance, and when to call in a professional. With some elbow grease and the right products, you can have those stainless steel tables looking shiny and pristine again. Let’s get started on making them scratch-free!

Assess Scratch Severity

Before determining the best way to remove scratches from your stainless steel table, it’s important to assess how severe they are. Scratches can range from minor surface scratches to deeper gouges that penetrate the metal.

To determine scratch severity:

  • Examine the scratches closely under good lighting. Use a flashlight or lamp to illuminate the surface.
  • Surface scratches will be thin lines that only disrupt the very top layer of stainless steel. You’ll be able to catch your fingernail on them lightly.
  • Deeper scratches will be wider lines that penetrate deeper into the metal. Your fingernail will likely catch on them more.
  • Gouges are deeper grooves in the metal that your fingernail can easily fit inside.
  • Also consider the length of the scratch. Shorter scratches tend to be less severe than long scratches.
  • Think about the object that caused the scratch. A sharp object like a knife will cause deeper scratches than a round object like a pan bottom.
  • Scratches running in the direction of the stainless steel grain are often less noticeable than scratches running against the grain.

Properly identifying scratch depth will help you choose the right scratch removal method. Minor surface scratches may only require cleaning and polishing, while deeper scratches call for more intensive repair.

Cleaning & Lubricating

Before attempting to remove scratches from your stainless steel table, it’s important to thoroughly clean the surface. Use a soft cloth or sponge with a mild soap and warm water to wipe down the entire table. Pay close attention to the scratched areas. For tougher grime, a citrus-based cleaner can help break down grease and residue without damaging the stainless steel finish.

After cleaning, make sure to dry the surface completely with a microfiber cloth. Any lingering moisture can lead to further issues down the line.

Once cleaned, apply a lubricant like WD-40 to the scratched areas and allow it to penetrate for several minutes. This will help soften abrasions and lubricate the surface for smoother sanding. The lubricant fills in scratched grooves to minimize deepening and rounding out as you sand. Just be sure to wipe away all excess lubricant before moving onto sanding. Proper lubrication is key for getting scratches out of stainless steel effectively.

Removing Surface Scratches

For light scratches that don’t catch your fingernail, start by gently sanding the scratched area with extra-fine (600-800 grit) sandpaper using even, straight strokes. Make sure to sand in the direction of the grain. Check often to see if the scratch has lessened, and stop when it’s no longer detectable.

If the fine grit isn’t getting the job done, you may need to work your way up through progressively heavier sandpaper grits like 800, 1000, and 1200. Rinse the table and check for scratches after each round of sanding. Take care not to sand away the brushed grain finish.

Scotch-Brite pads can also be used to gently buff out minor scratches. Dab a bit of lubricant on the pad and rub the scratched area using small circular motions. Clean and check the results, reapplying more lube and gently buffing until satisfied.

The key is to start very gently and take it slow. Patience and light, even pressure are crucial for removing surface level stainless steel scratches without damaging the finish.

Repairing Deeper Scratches

If the scratch penetrates through the stainless steel surface, more aggressive methods will be needed to remove it. Start by cleaning the scratched area thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris. Then, assess the depth of the scratch.

For deeper scratches that catch your fingernail, you’ll need to sand the area using coarser grit sandpaper. Start with 80-120 grit sandpaper to remove the scratch. Always sand in the direction of the grain. Apply even pressure as you sand to avoid creating any deeper divots.

Be careful not to over-sand, which can cause more damage. Work in small circular motions until the scratch is gone. Thoroughly clean the sanded area afterwards.

If the scratch is especially deep like a gouge, you may need to start with a hand planer or metal file. Carefully shave down the area until you get close to the bottom of the scratch. Then smooth it out with coarse sandpaper as described above.

The key is to work slowly and methodically when dealing with deeper scratches. Take your time to sand evenly across the whole scratch. If needed, gradually step down grits from 80 to 220 as you get closer to removing the scratch. With some elbow grease, you can successfully erase even very deep scratches.

Finishing Touches

After sanding out any deep scratches, it’s important to keep the table surface clean during the process. Wipe away any metal debris frequently with a dry microfiber cloth while sanding to prevent any particles from scratching the surface further.

Once you’ve smoothed the scratches, do a thorough cleaning of the entire table. Use a stainless steel cleaner or mild soap and water to remove all dust and residue from sanding. Buff the table dry with a clean, soft cloth.

The final step is applying a polish specifically made for stainless steel. Use a small amount of polish and buff it into the surface by hand in circular motions using a microfiber cloth. For best results, use a power buffer on low speed to really make the table shine. Take care to follow the direction of the original grain pattern when buffing.

Periodically stop buffing to check for streaks or swirl marks, wiping the surface clean and reapplying polish as needed. Buff until you’ve achieved a uniform, mirror-like finish across the entire table. Consistent maintenance polishing will help prevent future scratches and keep your stainless steel catering table looking its best.

Preventing Future Scratches

It’s always better to prevent scratches in the first place rather than removing them after the fact. Here are some tips to keep your stainless steel tables scratch-free going forward:

  • Apply wax or sealant to protect the table’s surface. Using a wax or sealant formulated specifically for stainless steel will help create a protective barrier against scratches and abrasions. Apply a thin coat with a soft cloth and buff to a shine. Reapply regularly per the product instructions.
  • Use table pads or tablecloths during use. Having a cushioned barrier between the table’s surface and whatever is placed on top will help prevent incidental scratches. Choose a soft cloth or felt pad specifically sized to your table.
  • Take care not to cut food or drag objects on tables. Avoid using sharp kitchen knives directly on the bare table surface. Also be cautious of dragging rough, abrasive items across the surface which could cause faint hairline scratches over time. Use cutting boards for food preparation and lift objects when moving them.

By taking a few simple precautions, your stainless steel table can stay smooth and scratch-free for many years of use. A little care goes a long way!

When to Call a Professional

There are some scratches that are too severe or extensive for DIY removal. Here are some scenarios when it’s better to call in a professional for stainless steel table repairs:

For severe, deep gouges that remove the brushed finish

If you have a gouge or scratch that cuts deeply into the metal, removing the brushed satin finish, it can be very difficult to repair this on your own. A professional with experience restoring stainless steel can re-brush the damaged area to match the original finish.

If you need to polish large surface areas

While you can polish small scratches yourself, if you have extensive scratches or damage across a large portion of the table surface, it’s better to hire a professional. They have the proper power tools and compounds to efficiently polish and restore large areas of stainless steel.

If scratches remain after sanding extensively

If you’ve tried sanding out some stubborn scratches and they still remain visible, a professional may be needed. They have access to more aggressive abrasives and tools that can remove deeper scratches without damaging the surrounding finish. Extensive sanding by an amateur risks making the problem worse.

Calling in an experienced professional ensures your valuable stainless steel catering table gets the restoration it deserves when DIY efforts just aren’t cutting it. They’ll have the expertise to make those unsightly scratches disappear while retaining the table’s original brushed finish.

Stainless Steel Table Maintenance

Regular maintenance is the key to keeping your stainless steel tables looking pristine and protected. Here are some best practices:

  • Regular cleaning – Wipe down tables after each use to remove any spills, food residue, greasy fingerprints, etc. Use a soft cloth or sponge with mild soap and warm water. Rinse and thoroughly dry. This prevents buildup that can damage the finish.
  • Dry and polish after use – Always wipe dry and polish with a microfiber cloth after cleaning. This maintains the lustrous finish and prevents water spots or streaks which can lead to corrosion over time.
  • Reapply protective sealants periodically – Stainless steel sealants help prevent scratches and oxidation. Reapply a thin, even layer with a soft cloth every 3-6 months. This maintains the protective barrier.
  • Inspect for damage and fix promptly – Periodically inspect tables for any new dings, scratches, discoloration or damage. Addressing issues quickly prevents further deterioration and keeps tables looking pristine.

Following these simple maintenance steps will keep your stainless steel catering tables shining like new for years of use. Investing a little time into regular care goes a long way.


The techniques covered in this article can help you tackle many of the scratches and scuffs your stainless steel tables encounter through daily wear and tear. With a little bit of elbow grease, you can get your tables looking fresh and polished again.

A two-step process of gentle cleaning and polishing is often all that’s needed to remove minor surface scratches. For deeper scratches, wet sanding with increasingly finer grit sandpaper helps smooth them out. Follow up by buffing the sanded areas to restore the original brushed finish.

While it’s possible to remove many scratches yourself, if the damage is extensive or you want professional results, consider contacting a reputable refinishing company. They have specialized tools and expertise to make your stainless steel tables look brand new again. Our team would be happy to provide an estimate and restore any stainless steel surface – tables, counters, railings and more. Just reach out for a free consultation.

With proper care and maintenance, you can keep your stainless steel tables looking pristine for years to come. But it’s reassuring to know that even scratches and scuffs can be remedied with a little time and effort.