Carbon Steel Pipe vs Stainless Steel Pipe – What’s the Difference

carbon steel vs stainless steel

Choosing between stainless steel pipes and carbon steel pipes for a variety of applications can be difficult. If you first understand what steel pipe is and the differences between these pipes, you should be able to better determine which will suit your needs.

Both carbon steel pipes and stainless steel pipes are made of metal, but their metal element content differs, resulting in stainless steel pipes that are more corrosion resistant than carbon steel but cost more to buy. Both are composed of the same fundamental elements, iron, and carbon.

Carbon steel pipe contains at least 10.5 percent alloy, whereas stainless steel pipe contains at least 10.5 percent chromium. Its primary differentiation is based on distinct physical characteristics as well.

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What is Carbon Steel Pipe?

Carbon steel pipe is a long-lasting material made of carbon steel, an iron-carbon steel alloy. Because of its strength and ability to withstand stress, carbon steel pipe is used in a variety of heavy-duty industries such as infrastructure, ships, distillers, and chemical fertilizer equipment. Carbon steel pipe is a common type of iron-carbon alloy steel pipe. It has a higher carbon content, a lower melting point, and greater durability than stainless steel.

Carbon steel is steel with a carbon content ranging from 0.05 to 2.1 percent by weight. Carbon steel can also refer to non-stainless steel; in this context, carbon steel can also refer to alloy steel. The higher the carbon percentage in steel, the harder and stronger it becomes. However, the high carbon content reduces ductility and weldability (regardless of heat treatment) and lowers the melting point of the material. Milling machines, cutting tools, and high-strength wires are all made of high-carbon steel. These are only a few of the uses for high-carbon steel. Finer microstructures are required for these applications, which increases toughness.

What is Stainless Steel Pipe?

Stainless steel is a versatile material composed of a steel alloy and a small percentage of chromium—the addition of chromium increases the material’s corrosion resistance, hence the name. Stainless steel is widely used in a wide range of applications, particularly piping and tubing manufacturing, because it is low-maintenance, oxidation resistant, and does not affect other metals with which it comes into contact.


The alloy stainless steel, also known as inox steel, contains at least 10.5 percent chromium by mass. When exposed to water, stainless steel, unlike ordinary steel, does not corrode, rust, or stain. Stainless steels have enough chromium in them to form a passive layer of chromium oxide, which prevents further surface corrosion by preventing oxygen diffusion to the steel surface and corrosion from spreading into the metal’s internal structure. Only when the chromium proportion is high enough and oxygen is present does passivation occur. Stainless steel is used in situations that require both steel properties and corrosion resistance. How to Select Stainless Steel When choosing stainless steel for a specific application, its fundamental properties should be taken into account.

Difference Between Stainless Steel and Carbon Steel Pipe

The most common carbon steel pipes are Q195 and Q235. Carbon steel is also known as magnet alloy steel because it contains trace amounts of silicon, manganese, sulfur, and phosphorus in addition to carbon and iron. Stainless steel contains metal elements such as chromium, nickel, and copper in addition to carbon and iron. Steel pipe with a chromium content greater than 12.5 percent will form a protective film (passivation film) on the surface, resulting in an anti-corrosion effect. As a result, corrosion resistance is the primary distinction between the two. Carbon steel pipes rust easily, whereas stainless steel pipes resist corrosion.

Stainless steel pipe is lustrous and comes in a variety of grades that can increase the alloy’s chromium content to the point where the steel finish is as reflective as a mirror. The untrained eye can easily distinguish between carbon steel pipe and stainless steel pipe. Carbon steel pipe has the same dull, matte finish as cast iron pots and wrought iron fencing.

Stainless steel is corrosion-resistant steel. Chromium is used as a special hardening agent to achieve this property. Because of the use of chromium, stainless steel has the basic properties of steel with significantly increased corrosion resistance. Stainless steel, like carbon steel, forms an oxide layer when it reacts with oxygen in the air. It forms a chromium oxide layer rather than an iron oxide layer. Iron oxide is a volatile molecule that continues to aid in oxidation, which is the source of the carbon steel problem. In contrast, chromium oxide is inert; it forms a protective layer that prevents further oxidation.


Carbon steel can corrode, whereas stainless steel does not. Carbon steel is frequently used in manufacturing, production, and projects where the steel is mostly hidden from view, whereas stainless steel is used in many consumer products and can be used decoratively in construction.


As we can see, when comparing carbon steel pipe and stainless steel pipe there are clear distinctions within their physical and mechanical properties as well as the purposes they serve. Carbon steel is an economical choice compared to stainless steel that offers increased strength and durability at a much lower cost. Depending on the specific application, either material may be used; however, it’s essential to do your research and weigh up the benefits of each type before deciding on which product to use. Despite their similarities, it’s clear that both materials have unique advantages and drawbacks which should be considered in context of the job at hand. In conclusion, understanding the differences between carbon steel pipe and stainless steel pipe is key for making an informed choice between them.

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