We are often faced with many questions and misconceptions about stainless steel shapes and profiles. Often these are broad concerns. The fact is that there are many types of stainless steel compositions, alloys, and strengths. Not all stainless products have the same properties. So, let us try to demystify the misconceptions as succinctly as possible.
All Stainless Alloys are the Same
There are five basic categories of stainless steel, each with varying degrees of differing alloys. Alloys are metals that are made by combining two or more metallic elements. Within each category, the grades are identified by numbers. The numbers are an indication of the alloys that makeup part of each material. For instance, the 300 series contains chromium and nickel and the 400 series does not contain nickel.
The basic categories of stainless are classified as:
- Ferritic: A chromium and carbon alloy that is resistant to stress corrosion cracking and is suitable for use in seawater. This is limited to thinner sections that do not require welding.
- Austenitic: This is one of the most common types of stainless steel. It includes carbon, nitrogen, nickel, and manganese. This steel is corrosion resistant when chromium and molybdenum are added.
- Martensitic: This alloy includes chromium with higher carbon levels. Martensitic is used mainly for sheets and plates.
- Duplex: This steel has a higher strength than other types of stainless steel. It is also resistant to stress corrosion cracking.
- Precipitate Hardening: When you add niobium, copper, and aluminum, precipitate hardened stainless steel can develop very high strength. The corrosion resistance of this alloy is similar to regular austenitic steel.
Stainless Steel is not Magnetic
If you have ever tried to stick a magnet onto a stainless steel sink or flatware, you may notice that it will not hold. Certain steels are more magnetic than others are. Four of the five basic types of stainless steel have some magnetic properties. Ferritic, martensitic, duplex, and precipitate hardened steels all have some degree of magnetism. Austenitic steel is the only one that is not magnetic.
Stainless Steel does not Rust
Stainless steel can in fact rust over time. There are so many grades and compositions of this material with some being more susceptible to corrosion and rust than others. Basically, stainless alloys with higher amounts of chromium are more corrosion resistant. Oxidation “passivates” chromium. This forms a thin surface layer of protection against rust and corrosion.
There are also environmental factors to consider. Exposure to chemicals, salt water, and acid rain can take its toll on most steel. However, stainless steel is less likely to corrode and rust than carbon steel when exposed to these elements.
Stainless Steel is Difficult to Clean
Stainless steel is one of the easiest materials to clean. There is a reason why it is called “stainless”. Yes, some finishes, such as satin, will show dull finger and hand prints. However, these are so easy to wipe clean with plain soap and water, glass cleaner, or furniture polish. The sheen will be restored. The newest stainless finish is termed “black stainless”. This material is dark in color and does not show prints as easily. This finish is very popular for kitchen appliances.
Stainless is considered one of the most sanitary materials because of its ease to clean and sterilize. That is why it is a standard material for commercial kitchens and medical equipment.
Stainless Steel is Non-Recyclable
Steel, in general, is one of the most sustainable materials because it is 100% recyclable. Steel building elements can be repurposed, making them a responsible choice for construction. Our laser fused sections and profiles use a precision cutting technology that produces little waste. What waste is produced in the manufacturing process is collected and recycled for use in making other pieces.
Stainless Structurals is Committed to our Customer’s Needs
At Stainless Structurals, we are committed to producing the finest quality standard and custom stainless profiles and shapes. We believe that stainless steel offers a great return on investment because the products are strong, durable, require little maintenance, and are recyclable. We encourage everyone to think outside the box and use stainless steel for your next design. Please contact us for more information.