Can Stainless Steel Be Magnetic?

Stainless steel is a universal material in our daily lives, used in nearly every application. This alloy has become integral to our surroundings, from kitchenware to medical equipment and appliances. The iScrap App team always stresses the importance of having a magnet when sorting scrap materials. Having one can be invaluable for sorting between ferrous and non-ferrous material. That being said, one question often arises: “Is stainless steel magnetic?” In this blog, we’ll explore the magnetic properties of stainless steel, where it can be found, and why it is generally non-magnetic.

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How Does a Steel Become Classified as Stainless?

Stainless steel is graded differently than standard heavier steels and light iron as it involves alloying iron with chromium and other materials. The added chromium enhances resistance to oxidization.

The primary benefit of stainless steel lies in its ability to resist corrosion, but its advantages extend beyond this characteristic. Stainless steel also possesses the following qualities:

  • Resistance to high and low temperatures
  • Ease of fabrication
  • Strength and durability
  • Simple cleaning and maintenance
  • Longevity, resulting in a low lifecycle cost
  • Aesthetic appeal
  • Environmentally friendly and recyclable

Why Stainless Steel is Usually Not Magnetic:

The most common forms fall under the category of Austenitic Stainless Steels. Typically, these Steel forms contain nickel, which renders them non-magnetic. They usually have the highest corrosion resistance and are not hardenable by heat treatment. Commonly scrapped forms of this are the range of 300 Series Stainless Steels:

  • 304 – Commonly found in machine shops, kitchenware, and exhaust systems.
  • 310 – Seen in furnace parts, oil burner parts, and welding filler wire.
  • 316 – Used in food preparation equipment, boat fittings, water filtration screens, and springs
  • 321 – Commonly used for aircraft exhaust manifolds, furnace parts, and spiral welded tubes for burner pipes.

Varieties of Stainless Steel That Are Magnetic:

While most stainless steel is non-magnetic, there are exceptions. Some varieties contain higher amounts of iron, making them magnetic:

Ferritic Stainless Steel – a less common type found when scrapping, this family of Stainless handles heat exceptionally well, making it a standard for heat transfer applications such as induction cookers, sinks, and dishwashers.

Martensitic Stainless Steel – The most common type of scrap in this grade is 410 Stainless Steel. Commonly found in blades and kitchen utensils, has a variety of other applications.

Common Places to Find Stainless Steel Scrap

Based on the above information (if you’ve been following along), there are some relatively safe and apparent places you can find Stainless Steel scrap:

  1. Kitchenware: Whether from a restaurant (targeting the commercial sector) or from homes around your area, nearly every kitchen has its fair share of materials that match this description: countertops, old cutlery, appliances, and pans, to name a few.
  2. Medical Equipment: Hospitals and healthcare facilities rely on stainless steel for hygiene, easy sterilization, and rust resistance.
  3. Buildings/Recent Renovations: Look around your neighborhood for contractors or homeowners who have finished recent renovations. Or during the spring when people clean out the garage or the backyard. Items like pool steps, ladders, benches, railings, and door handles are great examples of stainless steel hiding in plain sight.

Finding Stainless Steel Scrap Prices

Before heading to your local scrap yard, inquire about their current stainless steel prices. Stainless steel comes in various types, each with different prices based on the nickel percentage it contains. The higher the nickel content, the more money you will make. Identifying the specific type of stainless steel might be challenging, but ask if the yard has an XRF analyzer to determine the alloy type accurately.

Once you’ve located a scrap yard through the iScrap App in your vicinity, be proactive in reporting the scrap price you received from the yard you visited. Additionally, stay informed by checking the app for updated prices on other metals and comparing rates offered by different yards. This ensures you make the most informed decisions about recycling your stainless steel scrap.