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5 Uses of Steel You Did Not Know About

Published by Rapid Metals on

Steel is one of the most commonly used materials in the world, featuring heavily in things like construction, transportation, machinery, and appliances to name just a few. The reason steel is so common is because it offers a high level of strength at a low cost, making it the go-to choice across several industries. 

You likely come into contact with steel every day. If you drive on a road, work in an office block, use cutlery to eat, have ever had a temporary dental crown, or got on an aeroplane to go on holiday, you’ve benefitted from steel. 

It’s so common it’s hard to avoid, and you might think you can easily identify steel off the bat, but there are a number of steel uses you might not be familiar with. Here are five little known uses of steel you might find interesting and perhaps even a little bit surprising! 

1. Musical instruments 

When you think about the soft beauty of a musical instrument, namely a piano, the last thing that comes to mind is steel. What place could a clunky, heavy metal, used to build trains and planes, possibly have in the composition of one of the most magnificent instruments known to man? Rather interestingly, steel plays a vital role in the function of many instruments, especially pianos and other string pieces. 

Pianos rely on something called piano wire. When a key is pressed, a hammer hits the string, with the sound of the strike being the recognisable note of a piano. The string that is hit needs to be incredibly durable in order to withstand the pressure applied to it. Some piano strings are tightened to be able to cope with up to 100kg of tension. 

It may seem excessive for such a delicate sound, but there’s a lot of pressure needed for a piano to make its beautiful notes, and there’s only one metal that’s up to the job: steel. It’s so hardwearing that it can easily stand up to the pressures demanded of it, but it can also create stunning sounds when struck. 

Other uses of steel in musical instruments include guitar strings and the screws of woodwind instruments. 

2. Soap bars

Soap and metal don’t necessarily seem like a match made in heaven, but stainless steel bars are growing in popularity because of one unique property they have: the ability to completely eliminate odours. You can’t wash your hands with just a stainless steel soap bar because it won’t kill bacteria, but if you’ve been cutting strong food like garlic and you can’t get rid of the smell, use a stainless steel soap bar. 

Smelly foods like fish and garlic contain sulphur which can get onto the hands. When water is added (as in the case of normal handwashing), the sulphur turns into sulphuric acid. Stainless steel binds sulphur molecules which means they can be washed off entirely, meaning the strong smell can also be washed off. 

3. Food storage 

We’re used to thinking items like baked beans and chopped tomatoes are stored in tin cans made from – as the name suggests – tin, but this is no longer the case. Cans were historically made from tin, but nowadays, steel and aluminium are the most common materials used to create food cans. 

Food packaging needs to be tamperproof, and steel provides this thanks to its strength. If the packaging is tampered with, it will be abundantly evident (think of a can opener). Not just this, but steel food storage is also an excellent preservative and means extra additives are not required. A by-product of excellent preservation is that less food is wasted, hence why tinned foods often seem to never expire! 

4. Computers

A bit like musical instruments, computers are now known for being lightweight and even delicate, so steel might seem a bit out of place for a computer, but this isn’t the case. In fact, around 25% of a computer is made from steel, typically the casing. You still need to take care with a laptop or a computer, but the steel casing will generally be able to withstand a few knocks and bumps, increasing the lifespan of a computer. 

Another reason steel is used on computers is because it has sound-proofing properties, therefore reducing the loud sound of a fan. 

5. Footwear

Steel isn’t exactly comfortable, so you’d be forgiven for assuming it has no place in footwear, and for most types of shoes, this is true, but for specialised types of footwear, steel is essential. Safety shoes are commonly worn by those in the construction and manufacturing industries to protect workers feet from heavy items and chemicals, but the component that makes them so safe is steel. Most safety shoes have steel toe caps, but some have steel cores, too. 

Buy steel online today 

There are endless steel applications, most of which are more common than the five niche options listed above. If you’re in need of some steel – whatever your project is – we can help. We stock steel:

  • Angles
  • Flats
  • Box Sections
  • Channels
  • Tubes
  • Sheets
  • Sections

Ordering online is easy, with each piece cut to size depending on the measurements you input. If you’re unsure about what type of steel you need, or if you want to find out more about our selection of steel, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help. Alternatively, call us on 02475 095 911 to discuss sourcing an item or a quantity that isn’t on our website.

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