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HANDBOOK THE CARE AND
O F S TA I N L E S S
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION .............................................. 1
WHAT IS STAINLESS STEEL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
ALLOY TYPES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
FORMS AND FINISHES ....................................... 2
CLEANING OF STAINLESS STEEL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Types of surface contaminants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
TYPES OF CLEANERS AND METHODS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
EFFECTIVE CLEANING METHODS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
CARE OF STAINLESS STEEL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
LISTING OF STAINLESS STEEL PIPE
AND TUBE MANUFACTURERS ............................ 6
The Specialty Steel Industry
of North America (SSINA)
acknowledges that this new
handbook contains information
originally published by the
Committee of Stainless Steel
Producers, American Iron and
The Specialty Steel Industry of the North
Steel Institute, which no longer
America (SSINA) and the individual
exists. Current SSINA member companies it represents have made every
companies were represented effort to ensure that the information
on that committee. presented in this handbook is technically
correct. However, neither the SSINA nor its
The SSINA wishes to member companies warrants the accuracy of
the information contained in this handbook
acknowledge the contributions
or its suitability for any general and specific
of the Nickel Development use. The SSINA assumes no liability or
Institute and its consultant, responsibility of any kind in connection with
Technical Marketing Resources the use of this information. The reader is
advised that the material contained herein
(Pittsburgh, PA) for help in
should not be used or relied on for any
preparing the contents of specific or general applications without first
this handbook. securing competent advice.
INTRODUCTION WHAT IS STAINLESS STEEL
Cleanliness and stainless steel are Stainless steel is not a single alloy, but rather the name applies to a group of iron-based
closely related and, in many applications, alloys containing a minimum 10.5% chromium. Other elements are added and the
each is dependent upon the other. In
chromium content increased to improve the corrosion resistance and heat resisting
the handling of food, chemicals,
properties, enhance mechanical properties, and/or improve fabricating characteristics.
pharmaceuticals and in the use of
stainless steel as a construction material There are over 50 stainless steel grades that were originally recognized by the American
(roofs, wall panels, entry ways, signs, etc.), Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). Three general classifications are used to identify stainless
stainless steel provides the degree steel. They are:
of corrosion resistance that is necessary
1) Metallurgical structure.
to prevent product contamination or
2) The AISI numbering system (200, 300 and 400 series numbers).
surface rusting. However, stainless steel
performs best when clean -- cleanliness 3) The Unified Numbering System, which was developed by the American Society
is essential for maximum resistance for Testing Materials (ASTM) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to apply
to corrosion. to all commercial metals and alloys.
This handbook describes various
The various types of stainless steel are detailed in a designer handbook, "Design
practices for cleaning stainless steel
Guidelines for the Selection and Use of Stainless Steel," available from the Specialty
during manufacture and in use. This
includes methods for removing free-iron Steel Industry of North America (SSINA). Several other publications are also available,
contamination on stainless steel surfaces including: "Stainless Steel Fabrication," "Stainless Steel Fasteners," "Stainless Steel
that may have been picked up from Finishes," "Stainless Steel Specifications," and "Stainless Steel Architectural Facts,"
metalworking tools; and for removing
to mention a few.
general accumulation of dirt, grime and
surface stains that occur during normal
handling and exposure to the elements.
The reader should keep in mind 304 is the basic chromium-nickel 316 offers more corrosion-resistance
that there are few specific rules for a austenitic stainless steel and has through the addition of molybdenum.
cleaning procedure. Accordingly, the been found suitable for a wide range This grade is desirable where the
methods discussed in this handbook of applications. It is the most readily possibility of severe corrosion exists,
are suggestions. Each manufacturer or available in a variety of product forms. such as heavy industrial atmospheres
user, after obtaining competent advice This grade is easy to form and fabricate and marine environments.
with respect to their individual with excellent resistance to corrosion.
316L is the low carbon version of 316.
requirements, should select methods
304L is the low carbon version of
appropriate to those requirements. 430 is a straight chromium ferritic
304. It is sometimes specified where
stainless steel with lower corrosion
extensive welding will be done.
resistance than the 300 series. It is
principally employed for interior use.
FORMS AND FINISHES Table 1 CLASSIFICATION OF STAINLESS STEEL PRODUCT FORMS
Item Description Dimensions
Sheet, strip, plate, and bar forms are shown in Thickness Width Diameter or Size
Table 1. Sheet finishes are shown in Table 2. Sheet Coil and cut lengths:
Bar product conditions and finishes are Mill finishes Nos. 1, 2D & 2B under 3/16" (4.76mm) 24" (609.6mm) & over --
Pol. finishes Nos. 3, 4, 6, 7 & 8 under 3/16" (4.76mm) all widths
shown in Table 3; Plate is shown in Table 4.
Strip Cold finished, coils or cut lengths under 3/16" (4.76mm) under 24" (609.6mm) --
In addition to the common mill and polished Pol. finishes Nos. 3, 4, 6, 7 & 8 under 3/16" (4.76mm) all widths
finishes, there are numerous special finishes Plate Flat rolled or forged 3/16" (4.76mm) & over over 10" (254mm) --
used for architectural applications. Some of Bar Hot finished rounds, squares,
the more delicate finishes require special octagons and hexagons -- -- 1/4" (6.35mm) & over
precautions when cleaning and the advice Hot finished flats 1/8" (3.18mm) to 1/4" (6.35mm) to --
8" (203mm) incl. 10" (254mm) incl.
of the supplier should be obtained.
Cold finished rounds, squares,
The most common special finishes are octagons and hexagons -- -- over 1/8" (3.18mm)
shown in Table 5. Cold finished flats 1/8" (3.18mm) to 3/8" (9.53mm) to --
4 1/2" (114mm) 4 1/2" (114mm)
Wire Cold finishes only: (in coil)
Round, square, octagon,
hexagon, and flat wire under 3/16" (4.76mm) under 3/8" (9.53mm) --
Pipe & Several different classifications, with differing specifications, are available. For information on standard
Tubing sizes, consult your local Steel Service Center or the SSINA.
Extrusions Not considered "standard" shapes, but of potentially wide interest. Currently limited in size to
approximately 6 1/2" (165.1mm) diameter, or structurals.
Table 2 STANDARD MECHANICAL SHEET FINISHES
Unpolished or Rolled Finishes:
No. 1 A rough, dull surface which results from hot rolling to the specified thickness followed by annealing
No. 2D A dull finish which results from cold rolling followed by annealing and descaling, and may perhaps get
a light roll pass through unpolished rolls. A 2D finish is used where appearance is not of primary concern.
No. 2B A bright, cold-rolled finish resulting in the same manner as No. 2D finish, except that the annealed and
descaled sheet receives a final light roll pass through polished rolls. This is the general-purpose cold-rolled
finish that can be used as is or as a preliminary step to polishing.
No. 3 An intermediate polish surface obtained by finishing with a 100-grit abrasive. Generally used where a
semifinished polished surface is required. A No. 3 usually receives additional polishing during fabrication.
No. 4 A polished surface obtained by finishing with a 120-150 mesh abrasive, following initial grinding with coarser
abrasives. This is a general-purpose bright finish with a visible "grain" which prevents mirror reflection.
No. 6 A dull satin finish having lower reflectivity than No. 4 finish in a medium of abrasive and oil. It is used for
architectural applications and ornamentation where a higher luster is undesirable, and to contrast with
No. 7 A highly reflective finish that is obtained by buffing finely ground surfaces but not to the extent of completely
removing the "grit" lines. It is used chiefly for architectural and ornamental purposes.
No. 8 The most reflective surface obtained by polishing with successively finer abrasives and buffing extensively
until all grit lines from preliminary grinding operations are removed. It is used for applications such as mirrors
Table 3 CONDITIONS & FINISHES FOR BAR CLEANING OF
Conditions Surface Finishes* STAINLESS STEEL
Hot worked only (a) Scale not removed (excluding spot conditioning) Stainless steels need to be cleaned for
(b) Rough turned**
(c) Pickled or blast cleaned and pickled aesthetic considerations and to preserve
Annealed or otherwise (a) Scale not removed (excluding spot conditioning)
corrosion resistance. Stainless steel is
heat treated (b) Rough turned protected from corroson by a thin layer of
(c) Pickled or blast cleaned and pickled
chromium oxide. Oxygen from the
(d) Cold drawn or cold rolled
(e) Centerless ground atmosphere combines with the chromium
(f) Polished in the stainless steel to form this passive
Annealed and cold worked (d) Cold drawn or cold rolled chromium oxide film that protects from
to high tensile strength*** (e) Centerless ground
further corrosion. Any contamination of the
surface by dirt, or other material, hinders
* Surface finishes (b), (e) and (f) are applicable to round bars only. this passivation process and traps corrosive
** Bars of the 4xx series stainless steels which are highly hardenable, such as Types 414, 420, 420F, 431, 440A,
440B and 440C, are annealed before rough turning. Other hardenable grades, such as Types 403, 410, 416 and agents, reducing corrosion protection. Thus,
416Se, may also require annealing depending on their composition and size. some form of routine cleaning is necessary
*** Produced in Types 302, 303Se, 304 and 316.
to preserve the appearance and integrity of
the surface. Stainless steels are easily
Table 4 CONDITIONS & FINISHES FOR PLATE cleaned by many different methods. They
Condition and Finish Description and Remarks actually thrive with frequent cleaning, and,
Hot rolled Scale not removed. Not heat treated. unlike some other materials, it is impossible
Plates not recommended for final use in this condition.* to "wear out" stainless steel by excessive
Hot rolled, annealed Scale not removed. Use of plates in this condition is generally confined cleaning. The effect of surface/pattern
or heat treated to heat resisting applications. Scale impairs corrosion resistance.*
roughness, grain/pattern orientation, and
Hot rolled, annealed or Condition and finish commonly preferred for corrosion resisting and
designs that allow for maximum rain cleaning
heat treated, blast cleaned most heat resisting applications.
or pickled (exterior applications) should be considered.
Hot rolled, annealed, descaled Smoother finish for specialized applications.
and temper passed Types of surface contaminants
Hot rolled, annealed, descaled Smooth finish with greater freedom from surface imperfections Dirt - Like any surface that is exposed to
cold rolled, annealed, descaled, than the above.
the environment, stainless steel can get dirty.
optionally temper passed
Dirt and soil can consist of accumulated
Hot rolled, annealed or heat Polished finishes: refer to Table 2.
treated, surface cleaned dust and a variety of contaminates that
and polished come from many sources, ranging from the
wind to everyday use. These contaminates
* Surface inspection is not practicable on plates which have not been pickled or otherwise descaled.
will vary greatly in their effect on
appearance and corrosivity and ease of
Table 5 SPECIAL STAINLESS STEEL FINISHES removal. While some may be easily
Finish Description removed, others may require specific
Selective Polishing Selective polishing of unprotected areas to produce patterns cleaners for effective removal. It may be
Swirl Swirl patterns obtained with grinding wheels or stainless steel wire brushes necessary to identify the contaminate or
Engine Turn Rings, circles, or overlapping circles created with a CNC-operated machine experiment with various cleaners.
Distressed Random scratch pattern covering entire surface
Frequently, warm water with or without a
Angel Hair Finer random scratch pattern
gentle detergent is sufficient. Next in order
Abrasive Blast Matte, uniform, blast media choice determines appearance
are mild non-scratching abrasive powders
Selective Etching Etching of selected surface areas to obtain a pattern
such as typical household cleaners. These
Embossing Raised patterns pressed into the stainless by rolling
can be used with warm water, bristle
Electrochemical Applied to cut sheets, numerous colors (also called INCO or light interference coloring)
Epoxy Paint Applied to coils, full range of colors brushes, sponges, or clean cloths.
Sputtering Thin layer of a colored material applied to surface
Plating Electroplating with colored and/or precious metals
Perforated Designs Simple or elaborate patterns 3
Ordinary carbon steel brushes or steel Shop oil and Grease - Shop oils, which may not a problem on dull finishes, or those
wool should be avoided as they may leave carry grease, grit and metal chips, surfaces finished with a coarse polishing
particles embedded on the surface which commonly produce surface soiling after grit. The best preventative measure is to
can lead to RUSTING. many shop operations. Greases and other avoid using abrasive cleaners unless
For more aggressive cleaning, a small contaminates may also soil surfaces in food absolutely necessary. When abrasives are
amount of vinegar can be added to the preparation and many other household and needed, first experiment on an
scouring powder. commercial situations. These soils may be inconspicuous area. A "soft abrasive," such
Cleaning should always be followed by corrosive in themselves or may not allow the as pumice, should be used. Abrasives can
rinsing in clean hot water. surface to maintain passivity, and so permanently damage some colored and
When water contains mineral solids, periodic removal is a necessity. Initially, highly polished finishes. Advice should be
which leave water spots, it is advisable to soap or detergent and water may be tried or obtained from the finish supplier when
wipe the surface completely with dry towels. a combination of detergent and water plus a cleaning special finishes. Many cleaners
Fingerprints and Stains - Fingerprints and mild solvent. The removal of oil and grease from contain corrosive ingredients which require
stains resulting from normal use in stainless steel parts by immersion in thorough post-clean rinsing with clean
consumer and architectural applications are chemical solvents is frequently used with water; however, thorough rinsing is
the most common surface contaminates. cold-formed or machined parts that are recommended for all cleaning procedures.
Fortunately, these usually affect only laden with lubricants. This process, in its Clean Water and Wipe - The simplest, safest,
appearance and seldom have an effect on simplest form, consists of bringing liquid and least costly method that will adequately
corrosion resistance. They are easy to solvent into contact with the surface to be do the job is always the best method.
remove by a variety of simple cleaning cleaned and allowing dissolution to take Stainless surfaces thrive with frequent
methods. Fingerprints are probably the place; for example, washing a surface with cleaning because there is no surface
most troublesome marks to remove from the trichloroethylene or similar liquid or stirring a coating to wear off stainless steels. A soft
surface of smooth polished or bright batch of small parts in a container of cloth and clean warm water should always
finished stainless steel. Fortunately, they solvent. Non-halgenated solvents, such as be the first choice for mild stains and loose
can be removed with a glass cleaner or by acetone, methyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol, dirt and soils. A final rinse with clean water
gentle rubbing with a paste of soda ash methyl ethyl ketone, benzene, isopropyl and a dry wipe will complete the process
(sodium carbonate) and water applied with alcohol, toluene, mineral spirits, and and eliminate the possibility of water stains.
a soft rag. Once again, this should be turpentine work well. Solvent Cleaning - Organic solvents can be
followed by a thorough warm water rinse. Many of these solvents are widely used to remove fresh fingerprints and oils
There are several special surface finishes used as individual cleaners, but there are and greases that have not had time to
where fingerprints present special problems: thousands of blended or compound cleaners oxidize or decompose. The preferred
polished No. 6, etched, some abrasive on the market. Users are advised to contact solvent is one that does not contain chlorine,
blasted finishes, and light electrochemical suppliers of solvents for information on their such as acetone, methyl alcohol, and
colors applied over satin or brushed finishes. applications on stainless steel. mineral spirits. There are many
compounded or blended organic cleaners
(NOTE: there are several special finishes
TYPES OF CLEANERS that are commercially available and attempt
designed to withstand fingerprints: AND METHODS
to optimize both cleanability and safety
embossed, swirl patterns, lined patterns, etc.). General Precautions
attributes. Cleaning can be accomplished
In selecting cleaning practices, consider the by immersing smaller articles directly into
possibility of scratching and the potential for the solvent, wiping with solvent-impregnated
post-cleaning corrosion caused by cloths, or by sophisticated vapor or spray
incompletely removed cleaners. Scratching methods. The wiping technique sometimes
can occur on a bright mirror finish by leaves a streaked surface.
cleaners that contain hard abrasives, or
even by "grit" in wash water. This is usually
EFFECTIVE CLEANING METHODS CARE OF STAINLESS STEEL
Job Cleaning Agents* Comments The cleaner stainless steel can be kept
while in storage, being processed or during
Routine Cleaning Warm Water, Soap, Ammonia, Detergent Apply with sponge or soft cloth.
Can be used on all finishes. use, the greater the assurance of optimum
corrosion resistance. Some tips on the care
Fingerprints and Smears 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish, Provides barrier film to minimize
Arcal 20, Lac-O-Nu, Lumin Wash, O'Cedar fingerprints. Can be used on all finishes. of stainless steel are listed below:
Cream Polish, Stainless Shine
1) Use paper or other protective
wrapping on the surface of the
Stubborn Stains 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish, Rub lightly, using dry damp cloth, in
stainless steel until processing
and Discoloration Allchem Concentrated Cleaner, Samae, the direction of polish lines on the
Twinkle, Cameo Copper Cleaner, Grade FFF stainless steel. is complete.*
or Grade F Italian Pumice, Whiting or talc,
2) Handle stainless steel with clean
Liquid Nu Steel, Copper's or Revere Stainless
Steel Cleaner, Household Cleaners, Lumin gloves or cloths to guard against
Cleaner, Zud Restoro, Sta-Clean, Highlite,
stains or finger marks.
Allen Polish, Penny-Brite, Copper-Brite
3) Avoid the use of oily rags or greasy
Grease and Blood Scotch-Brite Power Pad 2001, Easy-Off, Excellent removal on acids, all finishes.
cloths when wiping the surface.
Burnt-on or De-Grease-It, 4% to 6% hot solution Particularly useful where rubbing
Baked-on Foods of such agents as tri-sodium polyphosphate, is not practical. 4) Do routine cleaning of exposed
5% to 15% caustic soda solution
surfaces. Buildings with window
Grease and Oil Any good commercial detergent or Apply with sponge or soft cloth in washing systems can utilize this
caustic cleanser. direction of polish lines.
method to clean exterior panels.
*NOTE: Use of proprietary names is intended only to indicate a type of cleaner and does not constitute an endorsement. 5) Where possible, after cleaning,
Omission of any proprietary cleanser does not imply its inadequacy. All products should be used in strict accordance
with instructions on package. rinse thoroughly with water.
6) Cleaning with chloride-containing
Household Cleaners - Household cleaners fall or low in chloride. The cleaning method detergents must be avoided.
into two categories: detergent (non-abrasive) generally employed with these cleaners is to 7) Even the finest cleaning powders
and abrasive cleaners. Both are effective for apply them to the stainless surface and can scratch or burnish a mill-rolled
many mild dirt, stain, and soil deposits, as follow by cloth wiping, or to wipe directly finish. On polished finishes,
well as light oils such as fingerprints. The with a cleaner-impregnated soft cloth. In all rubbing or wiping should be done
abrasive cleaners are more effective but cases, the cleaned surface should be in the direction of the polish lines,
introduce the possibility of scratching the thoroughly rinsed with clean water and NOT across them.
surface. However, the degree of wiped dry with a soft cloth if water streaking 8) DO NOT USE SOLVENTS in closed
abrasiveness will vary greatly with the is a consideration. spaces or while smoking.
particular product, and some brands will Commercial Cleaners - Many commercial
produce noticeable scratching on only the cleaners compounded from phosphates, *Many adhesive-backed papers and plastic
most highly polished and some colored sheets or tape applied to stainless steel for
synthetic detergents, and alkalis are
protection "age" in fairly short periods of time
surfaces. All of these cleaners vary widely available for the cleaning of severely soiled
and become extremely difficult to remove.
with respect to their acidity and the amount or stained stainless surfaces. When used Manufacturers should be contacted
of chloride they contain. A neutral cleaner with a variety of cleaning methods, these regarding information as to how long
low in chloride is preferred unless the user is cleaners can safely provide effective protective films or paper can be left in place.
assured that the surface can be thoroughly cleaning. Manufacturers should be
rinsed after cleaning. The fact that the label consulted and their recommendations
states "for stainless steel" is no guarantee followed whenever using cleaners of this
that the product is not abrasive, not acidic, kind. The general precautions stated above
also pertain to these cleaners.