Stainless steel fasteners are the most popular choice for many applications and it’s easy to see why. Most importantly, stainless steel fasteners are highly resistant to corrosion and are 100% recyclable. They also have a long life-cycle, are environmentally friendly, have great load-bearing capabilities and offer excellent resistance against extreme temperatures. But as with all components under stress, if not used properly or cared for correctly, they can be prematurely damaged. Here is a short guide on the dos and don’ts when using stainless steel fasteners.
Do: Select the Right Grade
First and foremost, always check the grading of the steel. The two most common stainless steel grades are 304 and 316, both offering better resistance to corrosion than other grades on the market. The rule-of-thumb is that if a fastener is in an environment that is highly susceptible to corrosion, (near the coast for example) 316 stainless steel is the better choice, offering better resistance against metal oxidation and discolouration.
Don’t: Allow Galvanic Corrosion to Occur
It’s vital that you investigate your equipment and tools to ensure that there is no possible risk of galvanic corrosion. This kind of corrosion occurs when two different metals come into contact (electrical) with each other and cause a reaction, resulting in severe corrosion. Using tools made from stainless steel is recommended, otherwise isolating the metals using nylon washers will help to keep the metals apart.
Don’t: Contaminate the Surface
Contaminating the surface of exposed stainless steel can lead to rust and internal decay. The most common form of contamination is when iron filings from grinding steel are blown into the environment, stick to the stainless steel and cause corrosion. The simple solution is to cover the exposed stainless steel (plastic wrap works well) until the operation is complete, protecting it from iron filings.
Do: Select a Smoother Surface Finish
Stainless steel fasteners come with a variety of different finishes. Some have a brushed or ‘rough’ finish and others, a smoother, more polished finish. Rough finishes are more likely to trap dust or salt particles which can damage the steel’s protective layer and cause corrosion. The smoother the finish, the better it is at resisting corrosion and the easier it is to clean.
Do: Follow Proper Cleaning Schedules
To increase the lifespan and maintain the visual quality of stainless steel fasteners it’s important that they are cleaned regularly. If contaminants are left to settle, it becomes very difficult to clean them off and they can eventually distort the steel’s appearance. Exposing the stainless steel to rainwater helps to wash away contaminants and restore the steel’s protective layer.
Don’t: Select Low-Nickel Stainless Steel
It’s well known that the 200 series (high-manganese) low-nickel stainless steel fasteners are chromium deficient, making them unsuitable for resisting rust and more susceptible to corrosion.