Difference between Stainless Steel and Mild Steel

Key difference: The primary difference between the two is the fact that stainless steel is a chromium based steel alloy, whereas mild steel is a carbon based steel alloy. Mild Steel is also known as carbon steel due to the fact that it contains between 0.05–0.25% carbon. Stainless Steel, on the other hand, contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium content by mass.

Stainless Steel vs Mild SteelStainless Steel and Mild Steel are both widely used products. Both are different alloys of steel, which in itself is an alloy of iron and other elements, primarily carbon. Steel is one of the most common materials in the world, in all of its variations. The steel industry produces more than 1.3 billion tons of steel a year, which is used in a multitude of implications, not limited to buildings, infrastructure, tools, ships, automobiles, machines, appliances, weapons, as well as household items.

Mild Steel is also known as carbon steel due to the fact that it contains between 0.05–0.25% carbon. Stainless Steel, on the other hand, contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium content by mass. Hence, as noted, the primary difference between the two is the fact that stainless steel is a chromium based steel alloy, whereas mild steel is a carbon based steel alloy.

Stainless Steel is known for its high corrosion resistance, which means that it does not stain, rust, or tarnish; a feature that mild steel does not have. Stainless Steel is also very resilient to impact, due to its high level of hardness. Mild steel, on the other hand, does not have the same level of hardness. Instead, it is far more malleable and easy to fabricate due to its carbon content. However, its surface hardness can be increased through carburizing.

Additionally, Stainless Steel may or may not be magnetic. Ferritic stainless steels are generally designed to be magnetic while austenitic stainless steels usually are not. Mild Steel typically is magnetic which makes it great for use in certain electrical or mechanical appliances. However, stainless steel usually has a more clean and streamline look, something that mild steel lacks; which is why when aesthetics is important, stainless steel is primarly chosen, but if the look is not important or will be eventually painted or covered in some way, then the ideal would be to use mild steel, as it is usually more cost effective, especially in large quantities.

Stainless Steel and Mild SteelStainless steel has a wide variety of implications, such as in construction, household items, etc. It is commonly used for cookware and cutlery, such as knives, forks, and spoons. It is also commonly used in household hardware, surgical instruments, major appliances, industrial equipment as well as an automotive and aerospace structural alloy and construction material in large buildings. Mild Steel, on the other hand, is primarily used in construction as well as in motors and electrical appliances.

Comparison between Stainless Steel and Mild Steel:

 

Stainless Steel

Mild Steel

Type

Steel, an alloy of iron and other elements, primarily carbon.

Steel, an alloy of iron and other elements, primarily carbon.

Material

Contains chromium as the alloy

Contains carbon as the alloy

Composition

Minimum of 10.5% chromium content by mass.

Between 0.05–0.25% carbon

Corrosion, i.e. rust

Naturally averse to corrosion

Requires galvanizing to prevent corrosion

Tensile strength

High tensile strength

Tensile strength depends on carbon component

Hardness

High level of hardness

Low hardness, though surface hardness can be increased through carburizing.

Magnetic

May or may not be magnetic. Ferritic stainless steels are generally magnetic while austenitic stainless steels usually are not

Is magnetic

Cost

Typically more expensive

Typically less expensive and most cost effective

Reference: Wikipedia (Stainless Steel and Mild Steel), Austen Knapman, Pearlite Steel
Image Courtesy: greenmanbushcraft.co.uk, boats.com

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