Can Stainless Steel Rust? Stainless Steel Council Session 1

Stainless Corrosion

Around the office, we get a lot of questions about stainless steel. So the Prima Stainless Steel Council has decided to educate consumers on the finer points of commercial stainless steel products, in particular stainless steel work tables and stainless steel prep sinks.

Today we're here to answer your questions on rust. Most think that stainless steel cannot rust. I'm here to tell you that it can but corrosion is a better word for it. It is after all steel. Steel is made of carbon. Carbon + water = oxidation or rust. To keep steel from rusting, different metals are added to the steel to keep it nice and shiny. Chromium is added to the steel so that the chromium interacts with the oxygen instead of other metals. This creates an invisible film which protects the surface.

The most popular types of stainless steel in food service are 304 and 430 (Types are named and determined by the SEA - Society of Automotive Engineers). For type 304, they add (by weight) 18% Chromium and 8% Nickel. This is your basic 18/8 type configuration - very popular. Type 430 steel is a chromium alloy with very little or no nickel. It is cheaper to make and less resistant to corrosion. Yet under the right heat applications, it can be stronger than 304.

What does all this mean? 1) Use type 304 in water applications, use 430 in most others. 2) Clean wisely - the chromium will only hold up to so much. If you're using harsh chemicals or chloride (in any form) on your stainless steel, wash it down with hot water and a very mild cleaner or use a standard stainless steel cleaner after every use to keep you steel from corroding (even fumes from these products have been known to cause corrosion). 3) Type does not determine strength, it determines corrosion resistance and elemental make up.

Until next time... Stay Chill!

Articles in our stainless steel council series

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