Judging by the name, you might assume that stainless steel never stains—but you’d be wrong.
Stainless steel stains less easily than other iron-based metals, but it’s not literally “stainless”. Just like standard steel, stainless can get marked up by fingerprints and grease, develop discoloration, and eventually rust. The difference is resilience. Stainless steel can withstand much more time and abuse before showing signs of wear.
All stainless steels have a high resistance to corrosion. Corrosion is a natural phenomenon. In wet or humid conditions, iron reacts with the oxygen contained in water to form iron oxide, also known as rust. The red flaky oxide deteriorates easily—exposing more material to corrosion. Iron and standard carbon steels are highly susceptible to this type of corrosion.
Stainless steel has the innate ability to form a passive layer that prevents corrosion. The secret?
The chromium found in all stainless steels reacts quickly with oxygen environments, much the same as iron. The difference, however, is that only a very fine layer of chromium will oxidize (often only a few molecules in thickness). Unlike flaky and unstable iron oxide, chromium oxide is highly durable and non-reactive. It adheres to stainless steel surfaces and won’t transfer or react further with other materials. It is also self-renewing—if it’s removed or damaged, more chromium will react with oxygen to replenish the barrier. The higher the chromium content, the faster the barrier repairs itself.
This is why Bright Balustrading uses 316 Marine grade stainless steel as a minimum in all our stainless steel products as opposed to the lower 304 grade used by most others and why Bright Balustrading Pty Ltd goes to the further extent of using 316L (The higher nickel and molybdenum content in this grade allows it to demonstrate better overall corrosion resistant properties than 316 and much more than 304) in the available tube sizes when custom fabricating a balustrade from tube.