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Stainless Steel vs. Low Carbon Steel Fasteners


Shopping for fasteners is not the most complex process, but you do have choices. Some choices are easy, like what function or size you need. Some choices are not so easy, like choosing between steel types.

Steel is steel is steel, right? Not so fast. There’s a big difference between carbon steel and stainless steel. Let’s cover the main points.


Stainless steel typically wins hands down in the appearance contest. Stainless steel is one of the world’s most widely used types of steel. It features a protective layer of chromium, at least 10.5% by mass, that is a barrier between air and the fastener’s iron content. That prevents oxidation, which makes stainless steel more resistant to corrosion.

On the other hand, carbon steel undergoes a chemical transformation when exposed to even slight moisture in the air, causing it to corrode and rust quickly. To prevent rusting and corrosion, carbon steel can be galvanized with a liquid zinc coating that protects it from the environment. It may also be plated in order to increase its durability or covered by oil so as not create any unnecessary marks on your product’s surface. The problem is, however, that coatings wear away, even if only in one spot, exposing the rough steel underneath to the elements. This vulnerability is almost completely eliminated with stainless steel, especially 316 grade.


The most widely cited mechanical property of threaded fasteners is tensile strength; the maximum tension-applied load the fastener can support before or coinciding with its fracture. Stainless steel screws exceed most others with extraordinary tensile strength of 100,000 to 150,000 tensile pounds per square inch (PSI).

Low carbon steel, on the other hand, is one of the most widely used types of steel due to its affordability and machinability. It is made mainly of iron, with a carbon content ranging from 0.2% to 2.1%. As the carbon percentage increases, the steel becomes harder, stronger, and less pliable, meaning it is more likely to crack than bend when placed under high stress. Carbon steel is used in various applications, including construction, automotive manufacturing, and shipbuilding. It is also a popular choice for making knives and other tools due to its durability and strength. While carbon steel has many advantages, it also has some drawbacks. For example, it is susceptible to rust and corrosion if not adequately protected. In addition, high-carbon steels can be difficult to weld and work with due to their hardness. Despite these challenges, carbon steel remains a widely used and versatile material.

Low-carbon steel is a good choice for general purpose applications where strength is not a major concern. Medium-carbon steel is stronger than low-carbon steel and is a good choice for applications that require strength and durability. High-carbon steel is the strongest type of carbon steel and is often used for high-strength applications.

No matter what grade or type of carbon steel you select, it is important to ensure that the material meets the application’s requirements. Carbon steel is a versatile material that can be used for a variety of applications, but it is important to choose the right grade and type for the specific application.

In Short, What Is The Difference Between Stainless Steel and Carbon Steel?

  • The chemical make-up of stainless steel, which gives it the power to withstand rust and corrosion, also gives it strength and hardness
  • The high chromium content of stainless steel is a protective layer against corrosion and rust.
  • Carbon steel can corrode and rust quickly, leading to failure
  • Stainless steel is more appealing to the eye and can be used for decorative products.
  • Carbon steel is stronger and more durable than stainless steel
  • Low carbon steel is less expensive than stainless steel

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