Three years ago, the manufacturer’s film was removed from our new kitchen appliances. Within the first 1-2 years, there were some odd spots left after cleaning with appropriate cleaners. After the third year, the issue was absolutely clear: rust! It affected two of the appliances, with so many spots of corrosion that it looks like freckles, starting as tiny dots and growing in streaky splotches. The manufacturer, of course, is calling this “cosmetic”, as though “cosmetic” implies that the value is not reduced. I wonder what price a buyer would pay for a “premium” stainless steel appliance if they weren’t cosmetically shiny and unblemished on the floor.

This led to a review of the composition of grades of “stainless steel”. For cookware, I’ve been leaning away from nickel-containing types of stainless. Nickel can initiate or exacerbate allergies. There is an old Faberware cookie sheet in my collection, one that I wish were two or three since it is the easiest for baking cookies and has no fluorinated coating. Baking cookies is high on the agenda for the next few weeks. Banner loves ginger snaps and snickerdoodles. I hadn’t found one like this, after searching several different times over the years. This time I tried Amazon, since you can find almost anything on Amazon, and sometimes from good sellers. There were two good options! One was an 18/0 stainless made in India. So, Banner has no worries – there will be plenty of cookie sheets for cookies this year.

This brought back interest in the types of dishes for food and water. For food, stainless steel 304 is practical, and as long as it is kept clean and shiny, the short duration of food and tongue contact is probably insufficient for concern, and this is much better than plastic. Well-glazed crock dishes are a good alternative, but moist food tends to accumulate inside at the corners and this makes it hard for them to clean out. A good meal requires that every morsel of flavor be collected. As with metal migration through poorly glazed mugs, these dishes need to be well-glazed and made using a grade of ceramic material that is food-safe (based on heavy metals).

The problem with buying stainless steel dishes is like buying “stainless steel” appliances: 1) there is no way for an owner to independently verify that the material meets the standard for the grade shown and 2) nickel in its composition is the reason that corrosion is deterred in stainless steel. Other grades with lower levels of nickel may lose nickel similar to the way galvanized metal loses zinc as it protects the iron beneath.

Whether you think you are getting a good buy or paying a high price for a stainless steel dish, the material used to make the product is unknown, and any vet bills that may directly or indirectly be associated will be the same. Just because it’s shiny doesn’t mean that it is 18/0, but you will have to make choices using the information available. Several years ago, “stainless steel” was found to contain recycled waste metals including metals that can be toxic. When a manufacturer’s specification is for a certain grade of stainless, this does not mean that they are receiving that grade from their vendor unless they are testing. (And there are some good labs in the US that specialize in testing and certifying metal source materials.)

Water dishes hold water continuously, and any loss of nickel from the dish would migrate into the water. This applies to plastics also, that materials from plastic can migrate into food or water. A glass, or glazed, surface would be good, but glass breakage and the heavy weight of glazed ceramic dishes large enough for watering Newfs make this a cumbersome choice. Stainless steel may still be a good option, but stainless steel (usually 304) is used for equipment in pet food manufacturing, and in the manufacture of ingredients used in pet foods. So the potential for cumulative levels of nickel is also a concern. Allergies are already a much-too-common issue. Pet dish manufacturers rarely list the grade of stainless steel that is used to make their dish, so finding one that claims to be 18/0 is a challenge. 316L is also very corrosion resistant, but too expensive for most pet food dishes. Having recently solved a problem with a hot water heater by using a zinc-containing anode, I wonder if a galvanized bucket would be a better material. The presence of zinc may help keep microbial growth down in a water dish. Zinc has good health benefits as long as the total intake level is in the appropriate range. Too much is toxic and can even cause death by hemolytic anemia. For a Newf, this would require a lot higher intake than for a Yorkie. The amount that would be present in water that has been left in a bucket is unknown. A galvanized bucket would deteriorate slowly as it is used, leaving opportunity at some point for other metals to dissolve into the water. Careful inspection would be needed, but a better material is preferable.

Given the option, Banner would prefer to drink from the cattle watering tank (old well), which is plastic, or from her outside bucket, the old stainless steel dairy bucket (filled from the old well), which was a better quality stainless from decades ago. I don’t plan to bring either of these into the house, but would consider the large bucket if it were secured to the wall. (That would be a large spill.) She also prefers water from the old well to water from the new well (I do also), and she prefers either of these to RO water. Sometimes your dog may know something that you don’t, but I plan to keep making coffee with the RO water.

The quest for a better water dish continues . . .

12/7/22: Additional note: When stainless steel is oxidized, pitting can occur. This is where the more easily oxidized nickel becomes water-soluble. Chloride ions will cause pitting, and even thought stainless steel dishes are usually “dishwasher-safe”, oxidation can be initiated through the cleaners. Surface oxidation can usually be removed by cleaning and shouldn’t accumulate with regular cleaning, but once pitting occurs, it is best to replace a dish.

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