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The Different Stainless Steel Grades Explained

The Different Stainless Steel Grades Explained

The robust material stainless steel is used in many areas of everyday life. Particularly important properties such as lifelong durability, antibacterial benefits or easy cleaning make stainless steel a reliable ally in everyday life. Stainless steel is 100% recyclable which makes this material unique and particularly environmentally friendly.

But stainless steel is not just stainless steel. In order for it to remain as rust-free as possible and, above all, to be resistant to all chemicals, it must be alloyed with other metals. Stainless steel 18/0, stainless steel 18/8 and stainless steel 18/10 define different amounts and additions of metal that influence the quality and properties of the material.


Table of Contents

The Stainless Steel Grades

Stainless steel is a robust material that is used in the kitchen and throughout the household - well-known names are 18/10, 18/8, or 18/0 which indicate different metal additions and quantities. They influence the properties and quality of the stainless steel.

A common component of acid-resistant stainless steel alloys is nickel. This is why it is particularly interesting for nickel allergy sufferers how stainless steel types can be used and differentiated.


What is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is not strictly speaking a specific material, but a collective term for various types of steel of particular purity. Some of these are great for household purposes and especially food.

It is best to pay attention to which alloy it is when buying. Manufacturers or dealers often provide information on this, for example in the data sheet or in the product description.

The quality of the stainless steel is usually not noted on the object itself and can hardly be determined.



What is 18/8 & 18/10 Stainless Steel?

In the food sector, particularly corrosion-resistant stainless steel is widespread, which contains chromium to be rustproof and nickel for acid resistance. It is suitable for the plastic-free kitchen, pollutant-free lunch boxes, unbreakable flatware sets and even for reusable drinking straws.

The quality is usually designated as 18/8 (or according to the European material standard 1.4301) or 18/10. This information indicates that it contains 18% chromium and 8 or 10% nickel.

Steels refined with chrome and nickel are assigned to the 300 series according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) - 18/10 stainless steel, for example, corresponds to AISI 304.

For stainless steel of lower quality (AISI-200 series), the expensive raw material nickel is partially replaced by manganese. It is less corrosion-resistant than stainless steel from the AISI-300 series, but is still well suited for cutlery.

Chrome-nickel steel, popularly called 18-10, contains not only the chrome content but also nickel. The chromium content is 18% and the nickel content 10%, hence the name "18/10". This is currently the best dishwasher-safe cutlery steel. Cutlery made from this steel is marked ‚ÄúStainless Steel 18-10‚ÄĚ or just ‚Äú18-10‚ÄĚ.

The designation of a stainless steel with the digits 18/8 is an American name for the metal. In Europe it is better known as stainless steel 1.4301 (AISI 304). In general, steel is always a metal alloy. This means that the steel used is a homogeneous metallic compound made of at least two materials.

In order to give a metal its desired properties, chromium and nickel are added to the iron in the manufacture of stainless steel. Thus the material is rustproof. In the case of material 18/8, 18% chromium and at least 8% nickel are added to the steel.

This material is used very widely in many different areas such as in the food industry. All kinds of kitchen utensils such as pots, cutlery storage containers, etc. are made from this 18/8 stainless steel.

Unpainted products made of 18/8 stainless steel can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher. Any water or grease stains can simply be removed with hot water and vinegar. The stainless steel can easily be polished to a glossy finish with a microfiber cloth.


What is 18/0 Stainless Steel?

18/0 stainless steel is only alloyed with chrome and is nickel-free. It is rust-resistant but more prone to acid damage and is therefore not suitable for highly acidic or salty foods. However, the alloy is an alternative to the nickel-containing stainless steel cutlery.

18/0 stainless steel lacks the nickel component that gives cutlery the absolute dishwasher resistance. Cutlery made of chrome steel is marked with "18/0‚ÄĚor ‚ÄúStainless Steel 18/0" or just ‚Äúrustproof‚ÄĚ

18/0 Stainless steel is perfect for people who are suffering from nickel allergy.



Low-Quality Stainless Steel

There are less corrosion- and acid-resistant stainless steels grades available (14/4 or 13/0), but are not recommended for food.



Stainless Steel Cutlery

Cutlery knives are often made of the same stainless steel as the forks and spoons that go with them.


Recommended: Flatware vs Silverware: What Are The Differences?

Kitchen knives for food preparation, on the other hand, are made from other steel alloys that allow a higher degree of sharpness.

Typical knife steel contains up to 15% chromium, 0.5 to 0.8% molybdenum, and 0.1 to 0.2% vanadium. It is nickel-free, but not as resistant to acids as stainless steel containing nickel.

It is therefore advisable not to put sharp knives in the dishwasher, but to clean them by hand.


What is Stainless Steel Made Of?

Chemical Composition of 304 Stainless Steel (1.4301)

 Element Percentage
 Carbon (C) 0.07 
 Silicon (S) 1.00
 Manganese (Mn) 2.00
 Phosphorus (P) 0.045
 Sulfur (S) 0.015
 Chromium (Cr) 17.5 - 19.5
 Nickel (Ni) 8.0 - 10.5
 Nitrogen (N) 0.1
 Iron (Fe) Balance


304 Stainless Steel Composition

There are no visual differences between the alloys - they are all grained, polished and finished in the same way. The only chance to find out differences is to look at the mill test report (MTR).

304 stainless steel consists of 18% chromium and 8 - 10.5% nickel. The material stainless steel (AISI 304) is used in the most versatile ways and is able to combine a large number of physical requirements. This makes it the ideal material for everyday objects such as flatware.



Advantages of Nickel & Chromium

Both metals make the steel more resistant. Chromium is rust-free and nickel is acid-resistant.

For this reason, the 18/8 & 18/10 stainless steel is not only used at your private home but is also often used in food processing.

Due to the cold rolling and hardening process, the so-called austenitic steel can become magnetic, even if the chrome-nickel steel is not initially magnetized. That is why some cutlery made of stainless steel have ‚Äúattractive‚ÄĚ properties.



Is Stainless Steel Safe?

Yes, stainless steel is food-safe and completely harmless to health! A big advantage of stainless steel is also that the material is 100% free of BPA and BPS.

Here are some more features and advantages of stainless steel:


#1 - Environmental Friendliness

A big topic - environmental protection. In contrast to harmful single-use products, stainless steel achieves a 100% high recycling rate. In addition, the material does not rust and still looks good even after many years of use. If you accept small scratches and dents, products made of stainless steel can theoretically be used for a lifetime.


#2 - Neutral Taste

The great thing about stainless steel is that it neither absorbs nor emits odors, dyes or the taste of liquids.


#3 - Easy Cleaning

The longer a product is used every day, the more important it is to clean it thoroughly on a regular basis. Residues from liquids such as tannins or limescale can be gently and completely removed from the stainless steel. The good thing about it: everyday objects keep their cleanliness and always remain 100% ready for use.


#4 - Light Weight

Compared to other materials such as glass, stainless steel is extremely light. Those who rely on this lightness are making the right choice with cutlery made of stainless steel.

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