What Makes Stainless Steel Stainless?

stainless steel stock

As a premier metal distributor in New England, Alliant Metals has been providing its customers the highest-quality materials since 1987. In fact, we have one of the most extensive inventories of stainless steel stock in the region. Our team of experts knows the inner workings of each material and machine needed to meet your demands. Because of our extensive knowledge, we thought it would be refreshing to take a moment and focus on a question that many of us may have wondered, but never asked. What, exactly, makes stainless steel what it is?


Stainless steel simplified

Stainless steel does not rust because of the element in which compose the medal. These elements work together, along with the natural environment, to form a film that consists of corrosion products. This film prevents additional corrosion (or rust) from occurring by becoming a barrier. By limiting oxygen and water access to the underlying layer of metal, the rate of corrosion is reduced to extremely low levels.

Although every type of stainless steel contains at least ten elements, chromium is the most active and dominant of them all. Chromium reacts with oxygen at one of the highest levels enabling the protective layer to form. Here is a brief look into a few of the main elements which compose stainless steel:


  • A relatively soft element, iron is used in a wide range of steels and alloys.
  • As previously mentioned, chromium plays the dominant role in providing stainless steel with its rust-resistant properties.
  • This element is essential because of its ability to improve the workability of stainless steel at high temperatures.
  • Widely diverse in its application, when combined with iron, carbon can provide strength and hardness through heat treating.
  • With 68% of its global production being used for stainless steel, nickel is another corrosion-resistant element.
  • Known for its high corrosion resistance and weldability properties, molybdenum can withstand extreme temperatures.


Can stainless steel rust?

Although stainless steel is comprised of several elements that are rust or corrosion-resistant, this does not mean the metal can’t rust. The key to maintaining your stainless steel stock is protecting the chromium oxide layer. With proper maintenance and cleaning, you can help maintain your stainless products at optimal levels.

stainless steel products

For more information on stainless steel, contact the team at Alliant Metals. Known for efficiency and superior service, our team is here to assist you with all of your metal needs. Call today for more information (800) 543-1453.


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