Carbon Steel Versus Stainless Steel

What are the differences between carbon and stainless steel?

Carbon Steel Versus Stainless Steel
  1. Chromium and carbon alloying materials
  2. Corrosion-resistant levels
  3. Larger construction calls for carbon steel
  4. Aesthetic output
  5. Durability
  6. Distinguishable coloration
  7. Strength
  8. Functionality
  9. Types and grades

When we say steel, it doesn’t only refer to one type. There are a variety of steel products in the Philippines to choose from, such as pipes and rods. Whether you want to use it to apply steel beams to your ceiling or for setting certain frameworks, there are always different types to choose from.

This article will discuss the significant differences between carbon and stainless as two of the most common types of steel people look for. How can you know which to use for which function? Read on!

Chromium and Carbon alloying material

You should first know that steel is an alloy material made out of iron and carbon. The levels of carbon in a particular piece may vary depending on its percentage. On the other hand, stainless steel contains a higher amount of chromium compared to carbon.

Corrosion-resistant levels

Chromium is a layer that protects metals from rust. It does this by oxidizing in its place. The chromium that surrounds stainless steel allows it to resist corrosion that can stem from all sorts of conditions: extreme temperatures, wet conditions, and even radiation. On the other hand, carbon does not contain as big of a percentage of chromium compared to those found in stainless steel.

Larger construction calls for carbon steel

Although you may get the idea that steel products are the most used construction material locally, there are also other types used to create towering skyscrapers. Carbon steel is a prime example of a cheaper alternative. It works best in dry environments, which makes them the perfect choice for buildings in the urban jungle.

Aesthetic output

Stainless steel has a bright, luster finish which generates a large appeal. This is why architects prefer to use this type of material for their structures. Carbon also has its own unique aesthetic properties. However, carbon buildings can only be painted after it has been polished or else it will start to corrode.


What do manufacturers take into consideration when making steel pipes in the Philippine underground system or when making knives used for cooking? The answer to that is durability.

As a metal, stainless steel has been used in the modern age for its resistance against corrosion. But when talking about who has higher levels of durability, carbon scores above stainless because of its higher carbon content. This increases not only its durability but also its sturdiness.

Distinguishable coloration

If you are observant enough, you will easily notice the difference between carbon and stainless. As a raw material untampered by painting or polishing, carbon has a dull type of color. It has a matte finish similar to that of a cast-iron pot. Stainless steel is both lustrous and smooth. Thanks to the abundant amount of chromium found in stainless, it can look satisfying even without polishing.


When choosing which type is the best for a particular function, strength is put into question. Keep in mind that stainless steel is softer than carbon steel, which makes it easier to weld. However, this weldability gives stainless the upper hand as it makes the metal stronger than carbon.


We may be under the notion that stainless steel is used in architecture and construction. However, carbon is actually the metal mostly used in the manufacturing of large-sized parts. Carbon steel cables can both hold a bridge together and support a cable car ride. And while stainless may be present in structures, they are usually there for support. Otherwise, stainless is better kept reserved for the creation of kitchen utensils or furniture.

Types and grades

To know which stainless steel fits its purpose, grades are referred to as a guide. There are terms such as austenitic, ferritic, or martensitic to identify corrosion resistance or durability. Carbon is referred to as ‘types’. Low carbon, medium carbon, or high carbon determine the percentage of carbon found.

Key Takeaway

Be a smart shopper. When you know the difference between the purpose of two types of metals, you have a higher chance of buying the most appropriate one. It is important to know distinctions so that we can determine differences and increase our knowledge of different metals.


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