What Is the Difference Between Steel and Stainless Steel?

The difference between Steel and Stainless Steel is not only from the name but from the significant components contained therein. Because almost everyone knows these two quite popular materials. The following is an overview of the differences between these two materials in terms of various aspects.

Difference Between Steel and Stainless Steel

As a first point, it is important to highlight that both types of steel have properties that make them good for each project. That said, to understand better, we will begin by explaining each term in detail.

Stainless steel is composed of iron, carbon, chromium, and nickel, to avoid oxidation, compared to steel carbon, this product is characterized as harder, further supports best under high humidity, and resists temperatures Very low.

Concerning steel, this material has a composition based on iron and carbon, resulting in greater hardness and less resistance to rust, as well as greater flexibility. This material is ideal for dry environments.

The difference between the twoand/or, that is, between stainless steel and steel lies in the amount of chromium in the composition since the presence of this material is the cause of the formation of a layer on the surface of the stainless steel. This layer generates corrosion resistance, making it an ideal material for construction, automobiles, and machinery. 

After better understanding these types of steel, we will mention the differences:

  1. Physical Appearance: Steel is opaque, with a matte finish, while stainless steel is lustrous and can even increase in shine through an increase in the amount of chrome.
  2. Resistance to corrosion and oxidation: As we mentioned previously, stainless steel has a particular characteristic and it is its high resistance to problems such as corrosion and oxidation, thanks to the existing chromium in its composition since this material creates a protective layer keeping free of the degradation and corrosion, on the other hand, steel does not have this property so it results in oxidation much faster.
  3. Specific applications of stainless steel and steel: Generally, stainless steel is most common in consumer items since it has a presence in the construction and design sector (such as kitchens, appliances, etc.) while steel is more used in manufacturing, production, and on projects where steel is hidden from view.
  4. Cost: Another point of great relevance is the difference in costs between both metals. Stainless steel is characterized by being more expensive concerning steel, due to the set of elements by which it is composed, such as nickel, chromium, manganese, and more. These elements generate a higher cost.

For a better understanding of both steel and stainless steel. You need to understand them individually.

Stainless Steel

Anti-rust steel or stainless steel is one type of material that is a mixture of iron with at least 12% chromium, plus an alloy of manganese, nickel, and molybdenum.

Thus the difference between steel and stainless steel can be seen from the combination of components. Only with a combination of 12% chromium with iron without any additional metal can it be called stainless steel or commonly known as stainless steel.

Meanwhile, stainless steel is a very popular material used as kitchen utensils for various reasons, namely, it is easy to clean, does not change the taste of food, and can be recycled.

The composition of iron, chromium, manganese, silicon, molybdenum, and nickel in stainless steel. It acts to form a protective layer (Cr2O3) on the stainless steel surface which is not only believed to be stronger but also rust-resistant.

Characteristic Properties of Stainless Steel

The main property of stainless steel is its high corrosion resistance, in addition to its high toughness, easy machining, malleability, and high weldability.

In general, the properties possessed by stainless steel are stainless steel

  • Formability for deep drawing, stretch forming to make any shape;
  • Energy absorption, for materials for buses, trains, etc.
  • Good weldability;
  • Toughness at high temperatures;
  • Corrosion-resistant.
  • Resistance to abrasion and erosion
  • Good surface finish and / or reflectivity

Types of Stainless Steel and Their Uses

Not only popular for kitchen utensils but stainless steel can also be used for other things according to the chromium content used.

  • The first type is Martensitic Stainless Steel which has a chromium content of 13% -14%, which is useful for the manufacture of water pipelines.
  • Second, Ferritic stainless steel with a content of 18% chromium is suitable for components in the chemical industry or is corrosive.
  • The last third is Austenitic Stainless Steel which can be used for equipment in environments with high salt content such as ship propellers.


In contrast to iron which is a natural material made from the element Fe (Ferrum), steel is an artificial material (metal alloy). Iron metal serves as a basic element to be mixed with several other elements, such as carbon, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, and a small portion of oxygen, nitrogen, and aluminum. Meanwhile, what is meant by steel for construction is a structure made of an organized combination of structural steel which is specially arranged and designed to meet the needs of construction.

Based on its composition, steel can be divided into several types:

  1. Steel: It is divided into several classifications according to the amount of carbon that makes up the steel, namely low, medium, and high steel.
  2. Alloy Steel: Steel that has received certain additional elements. The addition of these elements aims to increase the mechanical properties of steel at low temperatures, as well as increase the resistance of steel to chemical reactions (in this case oxidation and reduction).
  3. Special Alloy Steel ( Special Alloy Steel ): Steels containing various metals, for example, nickel, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, tungsten, and vanadium. The addition of this metal to the steel will change the mechanical and chemical properties of the steel to become harder, stronger, and more ductile.
  4. High-Speed ​​Steel: This steel has a carbon content of about 0.7% -1.5%. and their use as cutting tools, such as drills, milling cutters, reamers, and so on. The purpose of using high-speed steel is because cutting tools made of this type of steel do have a speed when operated, even up to 2 times faster than the use of steel.

Meanwhile, based on its use, the types of steel can be divided into:

  1. Construction steel: This type of construction steel contains less than 0.7% C carbon. This type of steel is used for the construction of building materials.
  2. Tool steel: This type of tool steel contains carbon of more than 0.7% C. To function as a tool, this type of steel must have wear-resistant, sharp, easy to sharpen, heat-resistant, strong, and ductile properties.


There are several advantages of steel structures, including:

Fast Installation

Due to the fact that steel structures or components are manufactured in the factory, the accuracy of the size is reliable, which can speed up the installation process. In addition, it also allows monitoring using the management with the software to complete the installation more quickly.


The Use of steel structures is more flexible to the latest applications, loading conditions, it is easy to expand vertically and can be changed according to the owner’s wishes. This factor is what no other framing system can do.


Buildings using steel construction do not require plywood boards, as is the case when using cast concrete so that building construction using steel is cheaper and cost-effective compared to cast concrete.

More Guaranteed Quality

Steel made in the factory does not doubt its quality compared to cast concrete, thereby reducing the risk of steel components not conforming to the desired specific quality.

Environmentally Friendly

When compared with wood materials, the use of mild steel materials is more environmentally friendly. This is because the wood material is often disturbed by termites so that it requires maintenance or even a complete replacement at a certain time.

Health and Safety

Based on industry surveys, it has consistently shown that steel structures are the safest construction solution. This is because the steel structures are manufactured in factories and installed quickly on the construction site by skilled personnel, so they do not cause dust or noise pollution in the installation process.

Among these many advantages, of course, steel also has its drawbacks. One of them is the fact that steel is susceptible to corrosion and rust. However, this can be overcome by carrying out several steel protection processes, including the following:

  1. Tarring, namely coating the steel surface using coal gas ( coal tar ) with a high-temperature process so that the gas is slightly absorbed on the steel surface.
  2. Galvanizing, which is coating the steel surface with zinc, is done by immersing the steel in liquid zinc.
  3. Electroplating, namely coating the steel surface by means of electrolysis of particles of silver, nickel, and so on.
  4. Painting, namely coating steel surfaces with paint.
  5. Metal spraying, namely coating the steel surface with gas or liquid zinc or aluminum or tin by spraying it.
  6. Casing, namely coating the steel surface by wrapping or covering the steel with concrete.

Steel Components

Furthermore, to see the difference between steel and stainless steel can be seen from the composition of the steel itself. Has the same basic alloy as stainless steel which is obtained from iron but for steel, iron is combined with carbon.

If there is a difference in the use of stainless steel according to the chromium content in its components, then the difference between steel and stainless steel can be seen from the type of steel that adjusts usage based on the carbon content in it.

Types of Steel and Their Use

The function of steel in human life tools is divided into 3 types.

  • The first is called Mild Steel with a carbon content of 0.05-0.30%, has malleable properties making it suitable for the manufacture of car or boat bodies, pipes, and building construction.
  • Second, Medium steel with 0.25-0.6% carbon is needed in engine components because it is easy to bend and has strong resistance from hits.
  • Then the third type is High steel with a carbon content of 0.6-1.6%, this type of steel is known to be very hard and the strongest.

How to Make Steel and Stainless Steel

The difference between steel and stainless steel is also quite significant in the way it is made. Anti-rust on stainless steel is passed in two stages, namely with the Electric Arc Furnace system and enhanced with the Argon Oxygen Decarburization tool to remove impurities in stainless steel.

Meanwhile, the steel-making process is quite long because it uses three processes, including Open Hearth Furnace, Basic Oxygen Furnace, and finally the Electric Arc Furnace. The function of the three processes is to eliminate unwanted non-metallic elements in the alloys in steel and to eliminate brittle properties or sudden damage to the steel.

Conclusion on Steel VS Stainless Steel

It can be concluded, the difference between steel and stainless steel is in the composition used, function, and also manufacturing system. Both of these materials have strong resistance properties, but stainless steel is resistant to rust and is suitable for use in kitchen utensils while steel is suitable for use with stronger equipment.

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