Tea Staining on Stainless Steel

If you have a stainless steel frame on your pool fence or pool cover reel, at some point it is likely you will notice a slight brownish spotting or discolouration on the surface. Don’t panic though – chances are, it’s only cosmetic, and will not affect the structural integrity of the steel. Called “Tea Staining” or ”Coastal Corrosion”, it occurs mostly within about five kilometres of the ocean and can become progressively worse closer to the water’s edge. In high wind and exposed areas, it could affect stainless steel up to twenty kilometres away!

In the case of a saltwater pool, you have your own ‘ocean-like’ environment, due to the concentration of salt added to the pool for the sanitising system.

It is generally worse in areas of high humidity, where there is a build-up of salt and moisture on the surface of the stainless steel promoting the tea staining to occur. It is a simple and easy process to rectify the tea staining, but this will have to be done on a regular basis if the same environmental conditions still exist.

Washing your stainless steel reel off every couple of months with fresh water in a high-pressure hose is generally all you need to prevent tea staining from occurring in the first place. Alternatively, washing with clean, warm soapy water (or even just rainwater) can also reduce the occurrence.

If you already have Tea Staining present on your stainless steel, you can remove it by following these instructions:

How to Remove Tea Stains from Stainless Steel

  1. Fill a spray bottle with distilled white vinegar.
  2. Cover the entire stain with vinegar.
  3. Wait 15-20 minutes.
  4. Rub the stainless steel with a warm cloth to remove the vinegar and the stain.
  5. Rinse with warm water and wash normally.

If the tea staining has been on the stainless steel for a long time, you may have to repeat this process or at least apply more vinegar.

Garry Long has been working in the Australian pool industry since 1978. A qualified canvas goods maker with a passion for innovation, he was inspired by the technology behind the sails used in America's Cup racing sails, and adapted and applied it to the pool industry at ABGAL. In 1990 ABGAL were the first company in Australia to use a single ply robotic cutting system to fabricate vinyl products. In 1993 Garry developed a 3D measuring system for complex shaped inground pools, which continues to be used today. Garry was President of the Australian Canvas & Synthetic Products Association in 2007-2008, and is the Managing Director at ABGAL Liners & Covers.