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What’s the Difference Between Sheet Steel and Stainless Steel?

Published by Lucy Thurston on

What’s the Difference Between Sheet Steel and Stainless Steel?

From galvanised steel sheet metal to stainless steel, steel itself is one of the most widely applied metals in the industry. Despite this, every type of steel has a different set of properties, making them suitable for a wide array of applications. For instance, sheet steel, stainless steel, and galvanised steel thicknesses all differ, which could impact the way in which the material is used.

As steel, stainless steel, and galvanised sheet steel suppliers in the UK, we’re here to help you establish the difference between sheet steel and stainless steel. Read on to discover more about the divergence between each steel type.

What is Sheet Steel?

First and foremost, sheet steel is a metal alloy that’s comprised of carbon and iron. Since steel is an alloy, its properties can vary depending on the percentage of carbon that has been added. Despite this, the amount of carbon will always be less than 1.5% and properties can also be affected by other elements of the alloy. Aside from iron and carbon, the most commonly found elements in steel are sulphur, phosphorous, vanadium, tungsten, and manganese.

TIG Welding of Polished Stainless Steel Pipe

What is Stainless Steel?

Being a type of steel, stainless steel is also an alloy; however, it’s a composition of chromium and iron. Despite this, the chromium content in stainless steel is much higher than the carbon content in regular steel. In fact, the chromium content in steel reaches around 30%, as opposed to the maximum 1.5% of carbon in standard steel. Furthermore, other elements, including titanium, molybdenum, and copper can also be found in stainless steel.

What sets stainless steel apart from traditional steel is its ability to resist corrosion. Stainless steel doesn’t experience corrosion, meaning that rusting is virtually impossible. As a result, stainless steel is perfect for healthcare and kitchen applications, as it can be used in moist environments safely. Similarly, the shine of stainless steel makes it more aesthetically pleasing than standard steel.

Properties of Steel

Steel sits among the most desirable building materials due to its array of attractive qualities. These include durability, weldability, ductility, toughness, and strength. In spite of these benefits, unfortunately, standard steel is prone to rust, as the material isn’t resistant to corrosion. In order to combat this, steel products are typically protected using a layer of paint.


As previously mentioned, the first thing that sets steel and stainless steel apart from one another is their composition. Standard steel is composed of iron and less than 1.5% of carbon, whilst stainless steel is formed from iron and roughly 30% of chromium. Despite this clear difference, each type is likely to contain a handful of other elements.

Corrosion Resistance

As detailed above, one of the key deciding factors between steel and stainless steel is the need for corrosion resistance. Should a product need to be resistant to corrosion, stainless steel would be the more appropriate choice, as standard steel isn’t capable of resisting corrosion.


Corrosion results in rust, meaning that materials that are unable to resist corrosion are prone to rusting. Rusting occurs when a corrodible material is subject to a moist environment.


When it comes to hardness, steel and stainless steel aren’t too dissimilar, as each metal is relatively hard. Despite this, stainless steel is much easier to fabricate than steel.

Heat Resistance

Heat resistance is another factor that must be considered when deciding between steel and stainless steel. This is because, steel isn’t very resistant to heat, whilst stainless steel has higher heat resistance.


As previously mentioned, steel is best used in construction; however, this is also dependent on where in a property it’s being applied. For instance, in moist environments, such as kitchens and bathrooms, stainless steel might be the more appropriate choice, so that rusting doesn’t occur. It’s this inability to rust that makes stainless steel ideal for producing items for healthcare and kitchen use alike.


As you can imagine, stainless steel is much more expensive than standard steel. For instance, a 1.2 mm mild steel Cr4 sheet can be purchased for £41.70 + VAT per square metre, whilst a 1.2 mm stainless steel sheet will set you back £121.20 + VAT per metre squared.


Although stainless steel can be defined as a type of steel, it’s modified to obtain desirable properties, such as corrosion and heat resistance. Similarly, stainless steel is immediately distinguishable from steel due to its unique properties and shiny appearance. Quite simply, the greatest divergence between steel and stainless steel is that stainless steel won’t corrode.

Shop Steel at Rapid Metals

Regardless of whether you’re searching for various steel, stainless steel, or galvanised steel sheet sizes, we’re here to help. We supply steel, stainless steel, and galvanised steel sheet cut to size. Buy galvanised steel sheet, stainless steel, or standard steel from the online store today. Alternatively, contact us with any queries you may have.

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What’s the Difference Between Sheet Steel and Stainless Steel?

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