Can Stainless Steel Rust?

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 great value. 

Stainless steel should ideally be known as corrosion resistant steel. 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 various 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 usually recommended for external use.

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

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. 


When cutting stainless handrails, or grinding any non-stainless steels, 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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