Differences Between Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel

Choosing the correct steel for your product is one of the most important things. Depending on the nature of the material used, different steels have different characteristics. However, before deciding on steel, you must first determine which type you need to use. Generally, the most common types of steel are carbon steel and stainless steel. What is the difference between carbon steel and stainless steel? The fundamental difference between them lies in the ratio of chromium. Carbon steel contains less than 10.5% chromium, and stainless steel must contain at least 10.5% chromium. But many other factors help us distinguish between carbon steel and stainless steel. So this blog post aims to compare the difference between carbon steel and stainless steel. This discussion will eliminate your doubts about “Is carbon steel stronger than stainless steel?”

Detailed Composition Between carbon steel vs. stainless steel properties

People always try to compare carbon steel vs. stainless steel! However, this is not the case because each has its characteristics and properties. It is not a good thing to start the debate “carbon steel versus stainless steel.”

3 Characteristics of Carbon Steel

World’s one of the most widely used commercial metals, steel, is carbon. This form of steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, has a more significant carbon content than other varieties, making it stronger and more useful for applications requiring strength. Carbon content is used to classify and evaluate carbon steels. Each kind is categorized into one of the following groups based on its total carbon percentage:

  1. 25 percent low carbon steel (For instance, AISI 304)
  2. 25 percent to 0.60 percent medium carbon steel (Example: AISI 409)
  3. Steel with a high carbon content of 0.60 percent to 1.25 percent (Example: AISI 440C)

These classifications help break down the physical characteristics of steel and aid steelmakers in determining the optimum uses and applications for each kind.

4 Characteristics of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel, like carbon steel, is a metal alloy that is widely used across the world.

  1. Corrosion resistance is the primary benefit of stainless steel.
  2. Stainless steel, made up of chromium and iron, is used to create a wide range of items, including food and pharmaceutical containers, surgical instruments, wire, sinks, patio furniture, water tubing, and cable trays.
  3. The amount of chromium added to the iron varies between 10% and 35%, depending on the grade of stainless steel being manufactured.

Chromium oxide protects stainless steel by forming a protective coating that resists rusting and corrosion. Stainless steel can also be enhanced with nickel, titanium, and other metals to increase specific properties. There are hundreds of different stainless-steel alloys to choose from. 

So what is the difference between carbon steel and stainless steel?

The following tips are the perfect answer if you want to know the difference between carbon steel and stainless steel. If you understand these technologies, you can quickly distinguish carbon steel from stainless steel.

How to distinguish carbon steel and stainless steel?

First of all, the surface finish of the metal and how it reflects light is the most apparent visual difference between carbon steel and stainless steel. For example, stainless steel is more polished and shiny than carbon steel. Furthermore, carbon steel has a darker and matt appearance. Looking for oxidation (red rust) is also one of the simple ways to distinguish between carbon steel and stainless steel. Because carbon steel has a high carbon content, it is easy to rust when wet, while stainless steel never rusts.The method is to put a drop or two of lemon juice on the steel. If you are short of time and can’t wait, just let it sit for a while to know the result. If the lemon juice leaves black marks on the metal surface, it may be carbon steel.

Stainless Steel vs. Carbon Steel Strength 

So now, come back to this question, is carbon steel stronger than stainless steel? The answer is yes. In comparing stainless steel vs carbon steel strength, we believe that stainless steel has better yield and tensile strength. However, we can not get exact answers if it is high carbon steel vs stainless steel or low carbon steel vs stainless steel.The mechanical parameters to see the power of steel are:

Carbon Steel

  1. Low-carbon steel has a tensile strength of 60,000 to 80,000 pounds per square inch.
  2. The tensile strength of Medium carbon steel is 100,000 to 120,000 pounds per square inch.
  3. Alloy steel has a tensile strength of above 150,000 psi.

Stainless Steel

  1. Austenitic stainless steel has a tensile strength of 72,000 to 115,000 pounds per square inch.
  2. Stainless steel of Martensitic has a tensile strength of 72,000 to 160,000 pounds per square inch.
  3. Stainless steel ferritic – tensile strength ranges from 65,000 to 87,000 psi

Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel Price

The pricing differential of carbon steels vs. stainless steels is another essential factor to consider. Stainless steels are usually more expensive than carbon steels, even though prices vary depending on the grade. This is primarily due to alloying elements such as chromium, nickel, manganese, and others to stainless steel. These extra features all add up to a higher cost than carbon steel. Carbon steel, on the other hand, is mainly made up of inexpensive iron and carbon components. Thus, if you have a low budget, you can choose carbon steel by comparing carbon steel vs. stainless steel. 

Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel Corrosion

Carbon steel is more susceptible to corrosion than stainless steel. The reason is that it is made of iron, and oxygen can easily corrode iron. The result is iron oxide or rust, which can ultimately attack carbon steel. You might think, “Wait, if both steels are iron-based, why is stainless steel corrosion-resistant?” That’s because stainless steel has a secret weapon: chromium. Chromium can make stainless steel get rid of oxygen without corrosion.

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Weight

Stainless steel is widely used in various fields because of its good reflective effect, anti-corrosion, and luster. Such as construction, aerospace, jewelry, and other industries. In addition, it is also an ideal choice for storing food because it can retain the flavor of the food to the greatest extent. However, stainless steel is heavier than carbon steel and aluminum and has the lowest strength-to-weight ratio. This makes it unsuitable for industries where weight is the critical factor. Naturally, there are many restrictions on use. But overall, the decorative and rust-resistant properties of stainless steel make it the first choice for many manufacturers. 

Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel Knife Comparison 

We chose when it comes to carbon vs. stainless steel knives the one suitable for our work. If you are aware of your requirements, you will not have to debate for stainless vs. carbon steel knives. Home cooks frequently use stainless knives. Professionals frequently use High-carbon steel. Why? Stainless knives are easier to keep and are more widely accessible. Cutting edges are usually made of martensitic stainless steel. These stainless steels are more difficult to work with than other grades. They aren’t as brittle as even tougher high-carbon steels, so they can go in the dishwasher or bang against the marble. This is frequently adequate for the home cook who does not undertake precision knifework. In this case, rust prevention aids in keeping the blade sharp. Wear and iron oxides on the cutting edge will both dull a knife. When it comes to high-carbon steel vs. stainless steel knives, professional cooks prefer high-carbon steel. Blades are more durable than stainless steel and can be sharpened to a razor’s edge and are. Even after extensive usage, high-carbon grades maintain a sharper edge.


After reading our article, I hope you now know which carbon steel or stainless steel is more suitable for your business. People who do not understand the properties of metals often confuse carbon steel and stainless steel. But now, you will never have the question of “is carbon steel the same as stainless steel ”again. All in all, when it comes to work that requires high strength, you should use carbon steel. If you are a housewife, you can choose a stainless steel knife because it is not rusty and not so sharp. But if you are a professional chef, select carbon steel materials as your tools. We hope this article will help you understand “is carbon steel stronger than stainless steel? ” You may now know the difference between carbon steel and stainless steel. If you have any questions about carbon steel and stainless steel, you can comment below. We will reply to you promptly.

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