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Instructions for treating and preserving your cable railing

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How to Clean & Maintain Stainless Steel Cable Railing

  • 3 min read

How difficult is this project?

This project is: Easy & DIY-friendly

how to clean stainless cable rail hardware

Type 316 marine-grade stainless steel has a great reputation and solid track record for holding up well, even under harsh conditions. However, nothing lasts forever, and even the most corrosion-resistant materials will rust if not properly treated and maintained. To keep your stainless cable railing looking (and working) great for years to come, follow the steps outlined below.

Materials List

Here's what you'll need to complete this project:

clean protect and repeat

Step 1: Clean Your Railing

First, use a soft nylon brush to remove dirt. Next, wash your railing with warm water and mild dish soap. Then, dry all exposed parts of the cable railing with a soft cloth or blow dryer.

What if my existing railing or hardware is showing signs of rust?

If your stainless steel hardware is showing signs of rust, corrosion, or patina, we recommend using Boeshield Rust Free as a first step. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for applying and using Rust Free safely. It is essential to clean away all surface-level rust before treating your hardware.

Warning: Avoid using all-purpose cleaners, chlorine bleach, and abrasive cleaners which can cause damage.

Step 2: Protect Your Aluminum or Stainless Steel Components

Apply Boeshield T-9 Rust & Corrosion Protection Waterproof Lubricant or your choice of stainless steel cleaner to all components of your cable railing in order to prevent rust and corrosion. Treat the tensioner set screw channel to prevent it from gumming up, and to ensure smooth tensioning over time.

cleaning ss hardware in wood or metal posts

How should I treat stainless steel hardware in metal posts?

The T-9 aerosol spray is ideal for direct application on a metal railing. For a light protective coat, wipe off excess. If your metal railing has wood components, spray lubricant onto a soft cloth or sponge before applying to avoid contact with the wood.

How should I treat stainless steel hardware in wood posts?

The T-9 squeeze bottle is ideal for the wood post railing because it allows for more precise application. Squeeze lubricant onto a soft cloth or sponge and apply to all exposed stainless steel components.

Warning: Avoid exposing any wood to the lubricant, as it may cause discoloration.

Step 3: Repeat the Process as Often as Necessary

To maintain your cable railing, we recommend treating all components at least once a year, or as often as is necessary for your environment. How frequently you clean and protect your stainless will depend a great deal on how exposed your hardware is.

Inland vs. Coastal Environments

If you live within one mile of environments that expose your cable railing to acid rain or salt air and spray, treat your railing at least every 3-6 months, or as needed. Failing to adequately clean and protect your stainless can result in corrosion, and may compromise the integrity of your railing, which can present a safety concern.

Indoor, inland, or railing that's shielded from the elements may not need to be treated as frequently. Check your railing at the end of every season to avoid any surprises.

tensioning cables with 3/32-inch hex driver

Maintaining Cable Tension Over Time

Will I need to re-tension my cables after I've installed them?

Yes, you will likely need to re-tension your cables after the initial installation. Don't worry, this is normal! If you have installed cable railing on a new structure you may need to re-tension your lines after the structure or posts begins to settle and shift. Metal expansion and contraction, and stress on the cables can also result in lines needing to be re-tensioned.

Check for the following 1 month after installation and no less than once yearly thereafter:

  • Check your cable tension and tighten any cable lines that have begun to sag. Use a 3/32” Allen wrench to advance the set screw on either end.
  • Check each set screw channel to make sure it is clean. If you notice buildup or have difficulties advancing the set screw, clean and lubricate.
  • Check your posts for signs of decay, especially in harsh environments where wood rot and rust are a concern.

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