IntroductionStainless Steel is by far the most corrosion resistant metal widely available for use in Cable Management Systems, with varying grades that offer different levels of overall protection. However, contrary to popular belief, Stainless Steel can rust if not maintained or installed correctly.
We are Electrix International, the world’s leading manufacturer and stockist of Stainless Steel Cable Management Solutions. Existing customers and prospective buyers regularly ask us to offer advice on a wide range of subjects relating to their projects.
In this blog post we aim to give you a good understanding of Stainless Steel and how best to maintain a corrosion free installation. The following blog post is compiled partly from our own knowledge, and partly from information originally developed by the British Stainless Steel Association and Packer Engineering (an independent testing laboratory).
Stainless Steel – A Brief Overview
Most other metals are very susceptible to corrosion, recognized quickly on mild steel and iron as unsightly orange/yellow rust. Metals like these are “active” because they actively corrode when their atoms react with oxygen, which can quickly form rust.
Stainless Steel is known as a “passive” metal because it contains other metals that stabilize the atoms (Chromium and Nickel in the case of 304 – 1.4301 – V2A and 316 – 1.4404 – V4A grades). During the manufacture of the steel, a small amount of the Chromium in the alloy reacts with oxygen to naturally form a passive Chromium-rich oxide layer on the surface of the steel. This invisible layer protects the steel, and is self-renewing. When this layer is intact the metal is passive and therefore “Stainless”, offering excellent levels of corrosion resistance. When this layer is broken, although it is very quick to self-renew, there is a small window of opportunity when the surface is said to be in the “active” state that could allow unwanted irritants to make contact with the steel underneath and start the corrosion process.
There are several best practices to follow to avoid corrosion issues occurring with your installation.
The Four Enemies Of Stainless Steel
1. Chlorides / Chlorine - Chlorides are found in some industrial and household cleaners, and of course, chlorine is commonly found in environments such as swimming pools. The use of chlorides in cleaning, or the proximity of Stainless Steel to chlorine, can break down the protective “passive” layer but there are best practices to follow to reduce the risk of such occurrences.
2. Mechanical Abrasion - i.e. Things that will scratch the surface of the steel, such as wire brushes, steel pads and scrapers. Soft cloths and plastic scouring pads are recommended as a safe alternative.
3. Hard Water - Hard water is water that is considered to have high mineral content. This can be found all over the world, with the mineral content of water changing from one place to the next. Hard water may leave spots on Stainless Steel and, when heated, leave deposits behind that if allowed to remain, will break down the passive layer and rust Stainless Steel.
4. Other Deposits - Other deposits from food preparation and service must be properly removed. This is not really relevant to the use of Stainless Steel in Cable Management, but worth noting nonetheless.
Best PracticeNone of the information on the previous page should be considered a reason not to use Stainless Steel in your cable management installation. After all, it is far superior in corrosion resistance, finish and aesthetics to other metals and plastics. The best practice set out below should go a long way to ensuring that your installation remains in pristine condition for many years.
5. Keep your food processing equipment clean - Use alkaline, alkaline chlorinated or non-chloride cleaners at their recommended strength. Clean frequently to avoid build-up of hard, stubborn stains. If you boil water in Stainless Steel equipment, remember the single most likely cause of damage is chlorides in the water. Heating cleaners that contain chlorides have a similar effect.
If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d also highly recommend visiting the British Stainless Steel Association’s website www.bssa.org.uk for further background information.