How to Clean & Treat Cable Railing
Watch this quick tips video on how to protect your stainless cable railing from rust and keep it looking beautiful for years to come.
How difficult is this project?
This project is: DIY-FRIENDLY
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.
Here's what you'll need to complete this project:
- Nylon brush
- Soap and water
- Blow dryer (optional)
- Boeshield Rust Free (for treating existing corrosion)
- Boeshield T9 Stainless Steel Protectant
- Shop rags
1 | Clean your stainless steel railing
Do this after installation, especially at seams, post bases, and anywhere stainless steel may have been scuffed. Use a soft nylon brush to remove dirt and wash your railing with warm water and mild dish soap. 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.
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 stainless steel 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.
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.
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. Check early and often to gauge how your unique environment is affecting your railing. The best time to treat your railing is at the first sign of corrosion. Failing to adequately clean and protect your stainless steel can result in rust, compromise the integrity of your railing, and 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.
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.