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Facts about Stainless Steel - Properties and Uses

Updated on June 5, 2016
Harry Brearley discovered stainless steel
Harry Brearley discovered stainless steel | Source

Stainless steel is an iron based alloy. It is a strong alloy and is resistant to corrosion and rusting. It can withstand high temperatures.

It is also known as "inox" steel or corrosion resistant steel. It has a minimum of 10.5 % of chromium and more than 50% of iron.

Stainless steel may also have an addition of Nickel, Molybdenum, and Titanium to improve the structure of stainless steel.

Stainless steel is produced in the form of coils, sheets, plates, bars, wires and tubing to be used for different purposes.

Stainless steel was discovered by Harry Brearley when he was researching for an alloy that was resistant to corrosion and could withstand high temperatures.

Why is stainless steel resistant to corrosion?

The chromium present in steel forms a protective layer of chromium oxide. This protective layer helps to prevent further corrosion of the metal surface and makes it resistant to staining.

Even if the surface layer of chromium oxide is scratched off the chromium content in the stainless steel will again form another protective layer of chromium oxide when it comes in contact with atmospheric oxygen. This makes stainless steel resistant to corrosion for a very long time. It has a life expectancy of 100 years.

Composition of stainless steel –

Stainless steel is an alloy. The term “alloy” means a mixture of metals.

The following elements are added to improve the quality and structure of steel –

1. Chromium – makes the alloy resistant to corrosion.

2. Carbon – carbon is often added to increase the hardness and strength of the alloy.

3. Nickel – Nickel may or may not be added. The addition of Nickel helps to withstand high temperatures and also aids in making the alloy corrosive resistant.

When the need arises, Molybdenum and Titanium are added to make the stainless steel more resistant to corrosion and high temperatures.

The three major classes of Stainless Steel

1. Austentic Stainless Steel

Austentic stainless steel is composed of 16-26% Chromium, 6-22% Nickel, has a low carbon content and is non-magnetic. The addition of Nickel increases corrosion resistance.

This type of steel is very sturdy and is hardened even more by the process of heating, cooling and heating again. It is commonly used for making knives and cooking utensils. It is highly resistant to scaling and high temperatures.

2. Ferritic Stainless Steel

Ferretic Stainless Steel is a chromium-iron alloy with 17-27% chromium and low carbon content with magnetic properties. Ferritic stainless steel is used in the production of cookware and household appliances.

3. Martensitic Stainless Steel

Martensitic Stainless Steel is an alloy of chromium and iron with 10.5%-17% chromium along with carbon. It is strong and hard but brittle and difficult to mould or weld. It is used for making equipment for chemical and oil industries. It is also used to make surgical instruments.

Stainless Steel Tubes
Stainless Steel Tubes | Source
Stainless steel coils
Stainless steel coils | Source
stainless steel is used to make different types of cookware
stainless steel is used to make different types of cookware | Source

Stainless Steel - The ideal metal alloy for cookware

  • Stainless steel is ideal for kitchen utensils because it has no pores or cracks for germs to enter and breed.
  • It is very easy to clean and needs minimum care. It does not chip or rust easily.
  • It does not react with acidic foods and does not change the flavor of the food in any way.
  • Stainless steel is totally recyclable.

The many uses of Stainless Steel

1. Stainless steel is used to make many types of cookware, cutlery, and utensils.

2. It is utilized in the field of medicine to make medical equipment and surgical instruments.

3. Stainless steel is used to make electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, screws, nuts, washers, keys, latches, handles, wires, chains, belts, tools, machine parts, etc. for industrial purposes.

3. It is used in the automobile industry for the production of two wheelers and four wheelers.

4. Stainless steel is used to make jewellery and watches because it is pliable and can be molded into many shapes easily. It does not cause any skin allergies. The 316L grade of stainless steel is used for making jewelry.

5. It is used in the construction of buildings both in the infrastructure and for decorative purposes on the exterior of the buildings. The Type 316 grade of stainless steel is used on the exterior of the Petronas Twin Towers and the Jin Mao Building.

6. Stainless steel is also used in bridges, monuments, and sculptures. It is also used in the manufacture of cars, railcars and aircraft.

7. Stainless steel is also used in the production of firearms, handguns, and pistols.

stainless steel in the kitchen
stainless steel in the kitchen | Source

Role of stainless steel in improving the environment

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable. Stainless steel does not have any negative impact on the environment. Any stainless steel object has 60 % recycled stainless steel.

Most of the stainless steel that is used for many purposes is made up of

  • 25% old scrap
  • 35%new scrap
  • 40% new raw materials

Stainless steel plays a significant role in saving the environment and life on earth.

1. Stainless steel helps to deliver clean drinking water

Drinking water supply pipes are made of stainless steel because it does not contaminate water because of it’s high resistance to corrosion and rust.

2. Stainless steel helps to bring down pollution

Diesel filters remove 95 % of smoke and 85 % of soot particles from the exhaust gas of a diesel engine. These diesel filters are made of stainless steel because it can easily withstand high temperatures.

3. Stainless steel is recently being used in many applications that help to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel.

It is used in

  • Condensing boilers
  • Rooftop solar panels
  • Fuel cells

5. Waste water plants use stainless steel pipes to transport waste water products because it does not corrode easily and is low maintenance.

6. Stainless steel is used in the construction of plants that

  • Dispose waste
  • Recycle paper and cardboard

7. Stainless steel is used to make recycling bins that are placed to collect waste materials for recycling.

Stainless steel improves the quality of life and helps to save the earth in countless ways.



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    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      poetryman6969 yes it is a good substitute for plastic, thank you for stopping by.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Some interesting facts about stainless steel. Since it does not have the BPA problem maybe it is a good substitute for plastics.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      mary615 thank you and am happy you learned a lot about stainless steel. Thank you for the vote up and share.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I learned a lot about stainless steel by reading this very informative Hub. I have a set of stainless steel I got for a wedding gift in 1955, and it is used every day. I think it will outlive me!!

      Voted UP, and shared.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      vocalcoach thank you stainless steel is great for making jewelry and lasts for a long time. Thank you for the many votes and share.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      I have a lovely bracelet made of stainless steel which brings me many compliments. I love stainless steel. Your informative hub is filled with great information. Voted up+++and sharing.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Vinaya thank you, stainless steel is very useful and long lasting alloy.

      Ruchira thank you, I use a lot of stainless steel vessels too. Thanks for reading and the share.

      KenWu thank you, stainless steel is an alloy with amazing properties that makes it very useful.

    • KenWu profile image

      KenWu 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Interesting. I never know that there are so many facts about stainless steel. I thought all stainless steels are the same but I was wrong. Stainless steel makes me remember the food container that my parents used to keep food.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      This was indeed a useful hub, Nithya.

      Thanks for informing me about this useful material which is used in my household :)

      Sharing it across!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      My knowledge on steel is limited. I only knew steel is iron based alloy. Thanks for this useful and informative article.


    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Thank you Shyron E Shenko.

      Thank you LongTimeMother.

      Thank you thelyricwriter.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 4 years ago from West Virginia

      Vellur, very informative article on stainless steel. It was interesting learning about all the compositions and facts about stainless steel, very useful content. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      I have a new respect for stainless steel now that my husband has it wrapped around the broken bones in his ankle. I no longer just associate it with kitchens. lol.

      Interesting hub. Voted up +

    • Hackslap profile image

      Harry 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Great post . .I'd have never thought about writing about stainless steel.. .something we take for granted as an everyday substance

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 4 years ago from Texas

      Vellur, this is an interesting hub and you did a lot of research. Don't think anyone else wrote about metals .

      I could not believe that it has iron in stainless steel. Iron is the most corrosive and rusts the easiest of most metals.

      Voted up and interesting and will share.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Nell Rose, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Much appreciated. Thanks for the vote and share.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      What a great idea for a hub! not something we think about, but to read it, it really is fascinating! voted up and shared, nell

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Jackie Lynnley thank you, stainless steel is everlasting indeed. Thanks for the votes too.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Impressive info. I love stainless steel; it just seems so ever lasting in everything from appliances to earrings. Voted interesting and useful.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      billy buc thank you for your appreciation and support of my writings.

      mbuggieh thank you for stopping by and for sharing your view.

      Ruchira thank you for stopping by and the share, much appreciated.

      always exploring you are so right, maintaining silver is a lot of hard work, Thank you.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I know i posted a comment earlier.I mentioned that i had a stainless steel kitchen in my old house and i really liked it, as far as silverware, i much prefer stainless steel, silver requires too much polishing. Great hub.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      Useful information, nithya.

      Sharing it across!

    • profile image

      mbuggieh 4 years ago

      Interesting...thanks for the information!

      I suspect that plastics and other synthetics will eventually replace steel---at least for most common uses.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nice research and interesting information. This hub was a bit different for you; good to see you trying new formats and genres. Nice job!