Can stainless steel rust?

Can stainless steel rust?

Ideally stainless steel should be known as corrosion resistant steel.

Stainless steel contains at least 12% chromium which helps form a thin, invisible, corrosion-resistant film on the surface. This film self-repairs as long as the surface is clean. Therefore, the answer is that if the correct grade and finish is initially selected, and the stainless steel is cleaned regularly, then any type of corrosion can be prevented for many years. Stainless steel will offer a long life as well as excellent value.

There are a few things to consider: contamination by the atmosphere, proximity to the coast, and any contact with mild steel, can all create discolouration or ‘tea-staining’. However, it is possible to minimise the amount of maintenance required by selecting the appropriate grade of stainless steel for your location.

There are several types of stainless steel, but the most commonly used grades for balustrades are grades 304 and 316. There may also be Duplex options to consider which is a mixture of the two.

The first question to ask is if the balustrade is internal or external? In most cases, the rule of thumb is to use 304 for indoors and 316 for outdoors. For outdoor use either could do the job, but there will be a lot less contamination form on grade 316, which is why this is recommended for outdoor use.

For indoors, most people choose grade 304 and the main advantage is that it is less expensive than 316 and will still work well.

Outdoor stainless steel

Next, if you are in a high pollution area or close to the sea, then also consider the finish of the stainless steel. Most products will have a satin finish, but in these locations, it is worth considering a mirror finish as the smooth surface will help to prevent and discolouration and keep any maintenance to the minimum.

The amount of cleaning required will vary from area to area, so it’s simply a case of inspecting every month or so, and cleaning when necessary, with one of our products. Please check here for more information.



When cutting stainless handrails or grinding any non-stainless steels such as mild steel, dust or debris should not be allowed to settle anywhere on stainless steel items. If contaminated in this way staining will occur when the products become wet. Once contaminated the product may suffer corrosion or a reaction between the different metals.


When considering the environment, it is worth noting that stainless steel can be readily recycled. Most stainless steel will already contain at least 50% of recycled material. It is an excellent material for sustainability.

Did you know?

Stainless steel is a British invention and was first discovered by Harry Brearley of Sheffield in 1913.


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