Stainless steel is one of the most sought-after metals in various industries all over the world for many reasons. One of the most valuable properties of stainless steel is its non-porous and thus, resistance to corrosion. You see, stainless steel contains a combination of alloys, including nickel, magnesium, chromium, copper, and iron. It is the chromium coating that gives stainless steel the ability to defend against rust and corrosion.
There are many more wonderful attributes of stainless steel; but what about magnetism? Is stainless steel magnetic? Many people want to know, but many people will tell you different answers. Continue reading to clear up the confusion for good.
Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals
Depending on the application, magnetic properties of a stainless steel commodity can have an effect on its performance. This is why you might care whether or not stainless steel is magnetic. Before you can understand the possible magnetic properties of stainless steel, you must first understand ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and the difference between the two.
Ferrous metals are metals, or alloys, that contain iron. The word “ferrous” literally translates to “iron”, making it easy to understand what a non-ferrous metal it. The term “non-ferrous” means “non-iron”, which means that non-ferrous metals are those that do not contain iron. Read our blog, “The Discerning Attributes of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metal” to understand these differences in better detail.
Stainless Steel and Magnetism
Getting back on topic, the test to identify ferrous and non-ferrous metals is through the use of magnets. Magnets are attracted to iron metal, which means a magnet will stick to something that contains iron, or is ferrous. If you stick a magnet to something, and it does not attract, the item likely does not contain iron, making it non-ferrous. So when you ask whether or not stainless steel is magnetic, you really might want to ask yourself is stainless steel ferrous or non-ferrous metal.
Most people assume stainless steel is magnetic because it contains iron in its chemical composition; but this is where the confusion comes into play. You see, although it contains iron, stainless steel isn’t always magnetic. In addition to containing iron to be magnetic, stainless steel must also be manufactured with a crystal structure arranged in a ferritic or martensitic structure. If it does not have both of these attributes, or mostly consists of of an austenite structure, it may not be magnetic.
✨ Check back with next month’s blog where we will discuss which types of stainless steel are magnetic, and how they compare to austenitic structures, which are not.
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