Types of Stainless Steel & Where To Find Them

Types of Stainless Steel ScrapSo we have talked to many people about their scrapping habits…and it always seems that they want to learn, learn, learn more about where to find different types of scrap metals. Well……WE DO TOO!

One of the harder metals to really figure out is stainless steel. There are so many grades of stainless that it is tough to look and just know what it is. Hell, you may not have ever known that there were different grades before you read the last few sentences.

Common Types of Stainless Steel Scrap

Before we go into all of the different places that you can find the different grades of stainless steel let’s go into the actual types that are out there and some of the most common stainless grades.

  • 303/304 Stainless Steel: This is the most common type of stainless and 90-95% of the time will be the one that you find in your daily scrapping routines. Why are there two numbers for the stainless being either 303 or 304? Well that is a great question. Depending on what the item was being used for you won’t know exactly which it was. But both of those metals have similar pricing and are made of similar metal percentages so they can get mixed together in your pile.
    • This type of stainless is what you will find in many household appliances such as grills, the outsides of fridges and ovens, and kitchen tools. Also used in coffee makers,
  • 316 Stainless Steel: This is worth more money then 303/304 because of the higher nickel content inside of it. This stainless is generally used in the medical industry because it has an even higher corrosion rate (corrosion=rust or disintegration) and will last longer in an industry that is all about cleanliness. Very rarely will you find 316 stainless in anything related to consumer products inside of your home. Another common place that 316 stainless is used is in the high temperature aviation industry. They generally spare no expense when it comes to anything related to the military or aviation pieces and 316 is often used because of its durability and resistance to heat.

How will you know what type of stainless you have?

Stainless Steel TypesWell, it is not an easy thing to tell what is what. Many scrap yards have something called an XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) analyzer that emits small rays of radiation into the metal and can read what types of metals are inside of that piece that is being analyzed. This normally take 30 seconds to do a full analyzation, but often can quickly get the metal within 2-3 seconds if it is a clear shot.

This analyzers (many people may call them XRF guns, but we prefer the less violent term) are used by scrap yards to learn what types of metals that they are buy from brass content to lead, nickel, and anything else that is metal. Most of these analyzers will let the scrap yards know what to do and how to do it and are very useful tools. While they are expensive…they can help the scrap yards buy the material correctly and often will help YOU sell your scrap even better.

Sometimes stainless steel with be marked with a stamp on it, either physically stamped into the metal or with an ink that was “printed” onto the metal that says what type of stainless it is. It could have the words:

  • SS 304
  • SS 316
  • SS 321

That is not always a trick that will work…but it can help you find the right direction to go in. The analyzers that we talked about earlier can cost tens of thousands of dollars and unfortunately they do not make a cheaper one. The technology is so hard to come up with that you have to pay for all of the research that they put into developing those tools.

Hopefully this sheds some light on how the stainless market works, it is not easy…but it is lucrative if you know what you look out for.

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