Since the 1990s, people have used stainless steel in a multitude of industries. It’s used to build anything from skyscrapers to kitchen cookware, making stainless steel one of the world’s most versatile materials.
Although we’re literally surrounded by stainless steel on a daily basis, most people never stop to think about what makes this metal so unique. To that end, we’ve put together a list of surprising facts about stainless steel most people don’t know.
1. Stainless Steel Can Stain
Despite its name and durable nature, stainless steel isn’t impervious to staining. If you’ve ever owned stainless steel cookware, you’ve probably seen this with your own eyes.
When exposed to moisture and oxygen, stainless steel forms a thin, protective layer that resists rust and blotchiness. Over time, however, this protective layer can break down, leaving its surface vulnerable to staining. To keep your stainless-steel cookware looking great for as long as possible, clean it well after each use and give it adequate exposure to oxygen so its protective layer remains intact.
2. Some Stainless Steel is Magnetic
While most types of stainless steel are not magnetic, there are a couple of types that are.
Stainless steel is divided into five different types: austenitic, martensitic, ferritic, duplex, and precipitation hardening. Stainless steel’s magnetic properties depend on the combination of metal alloys it contains. Martensitic and ferritic stainless steel both contain higher levels of chromium, making them magnetic to some degree.
3. Stainless Steel and Stainless-Steel Byproducts are Recyclable
The American Iron and Steel Institute says that about 88 percent of the steel used across the globe is recycled, making it one of the planet’s most recycled materials. Furthermore, the Institute estimates that two out of every three tons of new steel is made using recycled steel.
Another cool thing about steel is that many of its byproducts can also be recycled and reused. Mill scale, processing liquids, steelmaking slags, steelmaking dust, and sludge can all be gathered and recycled into other metals such as zinc.
4. Stainless Steel “Soap” is a Thing
As silly as it sounds, stainless steel soap is a thing. It is essentially a piece of steel shaped like a bar of soap. While it can’t kill germs or clean like regular soap can, it does neutralize odors especially well. All you have to do is rub it on your hands after handling onions, garlic, or fish, and it’ll get rid of the odor that otherwise seems to hang around for days after.
5. Stainless Steel Contracts and Expands with Temperature Change
Although stainless steel is valuable for its high-temperature oxidation resistance, it still contracts and expands with temperature changes. As such, builders must account for this change in size when planning any new structure. For example, during the summer, the Eiffel Tower stands 984 feet tall (minus the antenna). On cold days, however, it shrinks almost six inches!
6. Stainless Steel Can be Made into Clothing
Stainless steel can be stretched thin and woven into mesh clothing. When worn this way, stainless steel is radiation and thermal resistant, which makes it perfect for the electrical and textiles industries. Stainless steel fibers have even been woven into the carpeting to reduce static electricity buildup.
Stainless steel is one of the world’s most versatile materials because it is strong, durable, and can withstand corrosion for a long, long time. This valuable metal is used all around us, so take a little time to appreciate everything it does to make your life easier. Be sure to ask a stainless steel expert for more information when you get the chance.