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What is stainless steel?

  • Jul 13, 2022

What is stainless steel?

We have all seen chrome like steel used in saucepans, sinks, tow bars and marine applications. Did you know there are different grades and finishes?
Depending on the alloy (metallic substance composed of two or more elements) content the steel will have different corrosion resistances.
Hopefully when you next look at an item for sale at a local hardware warehouse you will be better equipped to judge the potential longevity of your purchase based on the grade of stainless steel.

Stainless Steel is an alloy that contains at least 50% iron and 10% chromium. The chromium slows down the corrosion process and plays a key part in defining stainless steel. Generally the higher the chromium percentage the more corrosion resistance.

Products for Maintaining Stainless Steel


If you're not sure where to start with your stainless steel sink, try some WD-40 Multi Use Product. That's right, the same can you use for fixing squeaky doors can also clean a stainless steel sink.

Simply spray some WD-40 onto a rag, and then wipe away. Remember that just like wood, stainless steel has a grain, and it's always best to wipe along the grain than against it.

3-IN-ONE Silicone SprayIf your stainless steel is near plastic, rubber or materials that may react to WD-40 try 3-IN-ONE Silicone Spray also manufactured by WD-40.

  • Quick drying / No mess formula
  • Corrosion Protection
  • Reduces friction and wear

Surfers Paradise Beachfront Stainless Steel Sign

Outdoor and Marine applications for stainless steel

"Stainless Steel alloys are grouped according to the structure of their crystals. Adding nickel creates the structure used in marine applications, called austenitic. Austenitic stainless steels are identified by their '300' series designation."

The next step up from 304 grade stainless steel is 316 which has excellent corrosion resistance. 316 is almost always non-magnetic (i.e. very low magnetic permeability). It can be used in the manufacture of drawn stainless parts. It can be welded.

Courtesy GC Sailing Charters

Marine Industry

Gold Coast is home to a large marine industry. According to Gold Coast Boat Hire company "Stainless steel is used everywhere" on their sailing catamarans. Care is required when joining two pieces of metal eg aluminium and stainless steel. "A fibreglass washer is needed to avoid the two metals chemically reacting."

Outdoor Shade Sails

Gold Coast Shade Sail company state "all fixings are positioned using 316 grade stainless steel fittings". With a complex Deck (image above) note the combination of materials used to create this beautifully functional outdoor setting. Even the choice of screws used in the deck can be either 304 or 316 stainless steel.


Construction applications for stainless steel

The house model above is aptly named Beachside. Cameron Constructions are Gold Coast Builders. Shamus uses stainless fixings throughout on his beach locations.

In a beachside house the inside fittings, even in the bathroom will need attention to detail, using the best combination of materials.

Swimming Pool Rails

It is no surprise that a pool rail being in a harsh environment requires ongoing maintenance, even with 316 grade stainless steel.

"In mild to moderately corrosive environments, it is recommended that the rails be thoroughly rinsed with fresh water daily."

Do not use: chloride containing cleaners on metal components, abrasive cleaners, or steel wool. All of these things can cause damage to the rail and promote further corrosion.

What have we learnt about stainless steel?

That shiny product in your local warehouse may or may not be suitable for your needs. Even with the most appropriate grade of stainless steel you still may need to regularly maintain it (as often as daily depending on the environment).

To maintain stainless steel, it depends on the environment it is used. As a general rule you would never use abrasive steel wool or any substance that would react with the stainless product.

With any stainless steel application, check with the manufacturer as to whether it is fit for purpose. Also check the maintenance and care requirements.

A common issue for Gold Coast Painters


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