Most stainless steel hardware suppliers agree that stainless steel is one of the highest quality materials to use. This metal is extremely strong, durable, and known to be naturally corrosion resistant. It is also used for all types of industrial hardware pieces, from hoists and shackles to wire ropes and chains.

But there are some things about stainless steel that you may be surprised to learn. If stainless steel hardware is not used or cared for correctly, it can cause major issues. Even though stainless steel is extremely strong, it is not indestructible.

But first, let’s cover the basics of stainless steel.

Stainless steel is an alloy, as it contains between 10 to 30% chromium. Other elements are also added to the steel to influence properties such as strength, shine, and corrosion resistance. The most common elements added are nickel, chromium, aluminum, nitrogen, selenium, and titanium.

Steel is incredibly common in the US, making up 95% of all metal production – but only 7% of this metal is used to create stainless steel. This is one of the reasons why stainless steel industrial hardware is more expensive than other materials.

So, before you purchase hardware made from this material, it is important to know about factors that could impact its use and durability.

1. Stainless Steel isn’t Completely Corrosion Resistant

Most people assume stainless steel is completely resistant to rusting and corrosion. While it is highly resistant to water corrosion, this statement is not entirely true.

Stainless steel is available in over 100 different grades. Some of these grades are more corrosion resistant than others and are designed for specific environments. 304 and 316 are the most common grades used for industrial hardware.

Grade 304 is naturally corrosion-resistant, as it contains 8% nickel and 18% chromium. However, it will corrode if it is in contact with chloride solutions, such as saltwater. 316 is far more corrosion resistant to chloride ions, so this grade is recommended for marine applications.

It is important to consider environmental factors, such as the weather, temperature, and exposure. Failing to use the ideal type could cause the metal to corrode quickly. It is highly recommended to consult with an industrial hardware distributor to discuss the best grade depending on your intent.

2. Stainless Steel Cannot be Used with Aluminum

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Another lesser-known fact about stainless steel is that it can have a negative reaction with other metals, specifically aluminum. Aluminum and stainless steel cause galvanic corrosion, which can ruin the metals.

The reason this reaction occurs is that the electrons in the aluminum transfer into the stainless steel. This will deteriorate the aluminum, causing it to rust must faster than normal. So, stainless steel industrial hardware should never be used with aluminum pieces.

Since these metals are often used for pieces like cables, it is important to keep the two separated. If they must be in close contact, a rubber casing can be applied to prevent galvanic corrosion.  

3. Stainless Steel can Repair Itself

As odd as it sounds, stainless steel can protect itself naturally from corrosive elements. The metal produces an oxide that coats its exterior in a thin layer. This coating is invisible to the naked eye, but it helps to coat the metal and protect it from external elements, like water, which could corrode it.

This layer forms best in oxygen-rich environments. Stainless steel hardware that is used in enclosed spaces may not have as thick of a protective surface and could be slightly more prone to corrosion.

This layer is also self-healing. If it is disturbed or cleaned off, it will start to form once again to protect the stainless steel interior.

4. Stainless Steel is Recyclable

Did you know that stainless steel is one of the most environmentally friendly metals? This material is highly sustainable as it can be completely recycled over and over again. About 88% of the stainless steel used today is already recycled.

There is also no toxic runoff emitted by stainless steel during production, so it has a minimal negative environmental impact. There is also little waste from stainless steel and by-products such as the dust and sludge can be used to create other metals, including zinc.

5. Stainless Steel Expands

Another surprising fact to learn about stainless steel is that its properties are influenced by temperatures. Warmer weather can actually cause the metal to expand, while colder temperatures cause it to contract.

While this change is typically rather insignificant in industrial hardware, it can change the size of larger structures. For instance, the Eiffel Tower is 6 inches taller in the summer than it is during the wintertime.

This is a factor to take into consideration if the stainless steel hardware is going to be in an environment with extreme temperature changes. While the external temperature might not have much of an effect, extreme heat can.

Some grades of steel stand up to high temperatures better than others. For instance, 304-grade steel can withstand heat up to 1600° F without melting. Grade 316 has a lower heat resistance, while 330-grade stainless steel resists oxidation at temperatures up to 2000° F.

Over to You

Stainless steel is truly one of the most interesting and versatile metals used in industrial hardware. Its strength and durability make it a popular choice for industrial purposes – but it is important to learn more about its properties to see when and how it should be used. 

If you have any further questions regarding stainless steel industrial hardware or need to place an order, please contact Elite Sales. We carry a great selection of industrial equipment made from stainless steel and other materials. Our team is also on-hand to answer questions and point you in the right direction.