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What Makes Stainless Steel Stainless?

Home > Steel Outfitters Blog > What Makes Stainless Steel Stainless?

As you can guess from our name, we at Stainless Outfitters Inc. are experts on stainless steel. One question we have received again and again is what makes stainless steel different from regular steel–essentially, what makes stainless steel stainless? In this article, our team at Stainless Outfitters Inc. will do our best to satisfy your curiosity and explain the chemistry at work in this material.

What Makes Stainless Steel Stainless?

First, steel is not a pure metal but an alloy made of both iron and carbon. In its pure form, iron is relatively soft and easy to shape, but adding carbon helps to harden it and prevent it from becoming misshapen. When exposed to water, iron atoms in the steel react with the oxygen in the water and form the compound iron oxide, which is more commonly known by its non-scientific name, rust. Stainless steel resists the rusting process due to the addition of chromium into its chemical makeup–the chromium bonds with the iron and forms a thin layer (called the passive layer) of chromium oxide on the surface, which prevents further oxidation from occurring. Unlike iron oxide, chromium oxide does not weaken the structure of the steel and has no visible color change to give it away.

We at Stainless Outfitters Inc., hope that this article has been helpful, or at least interesting. If you need stainless steel for your home, business, or boat, we encourage you to give our team a call to find out more about what we can do for you.