Mild Steel vs Stainless Steel

Mild Steel vs Stainless Steel

What Is the Difference Between Stainless Steel and Mild Steel?

One of the most frequent questions we receive from our customers, from novice to experienced, is what exactly is the difference between mild steel and stainless steel? Sure, aesthetically you can see the stark difference between the two materials, but a look under the surface will explain a lot more.

So, we’ll be looking at the properties that make each material unique: strength, ductility, hardness, aesthetics, and cost.

The Difference Between Stainless Steel and Mild Steel

Strength / Ductility

Stainless steel does not offer much in the way of altering due to its inability to be as malleable as mild steel. This is attributed to stainless steel being much harder of a material, which in turn leads it more brittle than mild steel. That said, stainless steel is far more resistant to corrosion than mild steel is due to its surface coating.


When you look at both materials at a molecular level, the difference is simple. The key difference is that stainless steel is created from very little carbon and instead alloyed with nickel, chromium, and other elements that provide its chemical properties. This in turn makes stainless steel very resistant to impact as the chromium alloy protects the material. Mild steel itself is mainly composed of carbon, allowing itself to be reinforced with additional carbon or to be galvanized with zinc. Because without the galvanization process, mild steel itself is very malleable and susceptible to damage.


One of the easiest ways to tell if a metal is stainless steel is to simply look at its surface. Famous for its smooth and polished surface, stainless steel differs from carbon steel by the amount of chromium present. Carbon steel rusts when exposed to air and moisture. This iron oxide film is active and accelerates corrosion by forming more iron oxide. Stainless steels have enough chromium present so that a passive film of chromium oxide forms which prevents further corrosion.


While the price of steel changes daily, some things remain constant: stainless steel will always be more expensive than mild steel. This is due to a bevy of factors such as supply, demand, and energy prices. Depending on your scope of work, if you can hold out on stainless steel, it’ll be better for your wallet. However, stainless steel’s durability and inviting look allow it to be a material that a majority of people overlook its costs to have their desired finish.

Now that you know what makes stainless steel and mild steel different, is one better than the other? The short answer is no. It all depends on your upcoming project and what you need to accomplish. If the surface of your next project is of the utmost importance, stainless is your best bet. However, if you need a large volume for structural purposes and the material will not be visible, mild steel will be most cost-effective. Happy building!

Visit Tampa Steel & Supply for Stainless and Mild Steel

Are you in need of steel supplies? Look no further than the professionals at Tampa Steel and Supply. We stock an extensive list of steel products for whatever project you need to tackle. We’re proud to have served our customers for nearly four decades and are ready to assist you with your steel needs. Have questions? Give us a call today to learn more, or stop by our beautiful Tampa showroom.

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