What Makes Stainless Steel Stainless?

Stainless steel is one of the more popular steel types. It’s used in a wide variety of industries, and even a significant number of home appliances. However, the name doesn’t always make sense to people. Does steel even stain? What makes stainless steel “stainless”?

The metal is “stainless” because it doesn’t rust. Steel is made with iron, which will rust after exposure to oxygen and moisture. Rust is not truly the same thing as a stain, but it does change the aesthetic of the metal. The “stain” on steel is the orange-red color of the rust affecting the aesthetic quality of the metal. The problem with rust does go beyond its looks—rusted metal can be corroded and lose some of its strength and durability. Rusty steel is a sign of age or disuse in machinery, so many don’t trust using it.

Stainless steel is a different type of alloy from steel that can rust. It includes chromium in its elemental makeup, which reacts with the air to create a very fine protective layer over the metal. This layer can be susceptible to corrosion, but because of its thickness and its chemical makeup, it’s not observed by the naked eye. This layer corrodes so that the underlying steel will not.

Under certain circumstances, stainless steel can begin to rust. If the chromium protective layer is scrubbed away from the metal, by corrosive or abrasive materials, then oxygen and water can start to affect the metal beneath. This won’t often happen, because the chromium does tend to make a new protective layer after one has been scrubbed away. However, when there is less than 12% chromium in the localized area, the layer won’t reform.

When you’re looking for stainless steel, Alliant Metals has the best options. Your metals won’t rust or corrode under normal use, and you can enjoy the quality and aesthetic benefits of stainless steel for your business.

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