Fact or Fiction: Getting Real with Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is light, strong and resistant to corrosion. It’s an ideal material for piping. But there are long-standing misconceptions about stainless steel that can lead to applications not having the most appropriate type.

Avoid costly and time-consuming repairs. Familiarise yourself with this material by separating fact from fiction. Improve your use and maintenance of stainless steel and learn how to choose which type is appropriate for specific applications.

  1. Stainless steel will never rust.

FICTION – Anyone familiar with metals will tell you that stainless steel is still subject to rust. Made with iron, carbon, nickel, molybdenum and chromium, it is the last element that makes it particularly corrosion-resistant. But improper maintenance renders this protective element less effective.

When cleaning your stainless steel pipes, avoid using solutions that contain chlorine. These cleaners can pit the surface of the stainless steel and create deep pit holes in the metal. Prolong your pipes’ lifespan by using cleaners that are specifically for stainless steel.

Additionally, use a soft bristle brush instead of steel wool to avoid damaging the damaging the surface. Steel wool leaves microscopic particles in the surface, that then rust making the stainless steel appear as if it is corroding. If the chromium oxide surface on stainless steel is scratched, the exposed chromium quickly oxidises forming a tightly bonded chromium oxide passive skin that resists further damage.

  1. Stainless steel is more affordable than other piping materials.

Fact – Although stainless steel is more expensive than other materials, it is more cost-effective in the long term. Its durability, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance make it easier to save on repairs and replacements. With the proper maintenance, you can use the same stainless steel pipes for decades.

  1. Stainless steel is a recyclable material.

FACT – Stainless steel is one of the most recycled materials around the world. Additionally, it doesn’t suffer from degradation even after multiple rounds of recycling. Now, you don’t have to add broken pipes in the landfill. Redirect them towards recycling plants to give them new purpose and decrease your carbon footprint.

  1. All stainless steel is the same and can be used anywhere.

FICTION – There is a misconception that there is only one type of stainless steel when there are four main types with multiple variations. Knowing how to differentiate them will help you determine which type is appropriate for your application.

  • Austenitic steel is non-magnetic. Containing chromium, nickel and carbon. Its high nickel content gives it better resistance to stress corrosion cracking.
  • Ferritic steel is magnetic and is a nickel free grade with varying chromium levels from 12-18%, making it less expensive than others. But like austenitic steel, ferritic steel is resistant to stress corrosion cracking.
  • Martensitic steel has higher carbon levels than the others and is the first branch of plain chromium stainless steels. This makes it harder to weld, often requiring pre- and post-weld treatments. This is the steel type often used to make cutting tools.
  • Duplex steel is a combination of austenitic and ferritic. Most grades include some molybdenum plus some nitrogen addition. Its higher yield strength is also the reason behind its popularity in corrosive piping applications.

Understanding Stainless Steel Pipes with Air Energy

Stainless steel pipes are widely used in Australia as they are ideal for high performance piping systems. Although it costs more than other piping material, it’s still cost effective for most applications. Let Air Energy help you with our expertise on the subject.

Specialising in pipework, we have the knowledge and experience to help you with your piping systems. We provide several stainless steel solutions that are available throughout Australia.

Get in touch with our team today. Call us on (03) 9765 5600 or send an email to sales@airenergy.com.au.