Using Stainless Steel in Coastal Areas

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside… but does stainless steel?

Well the simple answer is no, not really. Coastal areas are one of the harshest environments with high levels of airborne salt, high winds and plentiful seagull gifts that when applied to stainless steel products will begin to eat away at the surface and tarnish the finish if not regularly maintained.

Are there different types of stainless that can be used?

Absolutely. The main thing to ensure is that your supplier is using G316 stainless steel (marine grade) and not G304 material that should only be used internally.

There are two main surface finishes of stainless steel; satin (brushed) and mirror (bright) polished.

The satin finish stainless material has a brushed ‘grain’ which will collect salt and contaminants that can begin to deteriorate the steel. Satin polished stainless steel can certainly be used by the coast, as many of our customers do, but simply requires a higher level of ongoing cleaning and maintenance.

Mirror polished stainless however is a smooth finish, without a grain, that offers greater protection against the coastal elements. The mirror polished option is more expensive but would require less maintenance than a brushed finish alternative.

Will stainless material rust in coastal regions?

Stainless steel depends on its passive layer for corrosion resistance. This is a thin chromium oxide layer formed on its surface when chromium is present at 10.5% or above. The underlying metal is not corrosion resistant. The passive layer forms spontaneously on a clean surface but can be damaged by iron contamination, airborne particles and particularly chlorides.

Therefore, it is imperative that stainless metal is subject to an ongoing maintenance and cleaning program. Remember it is stainLESS, not stainFREE.

What kind of cleaning products should be used?

The main focus is to clean off any salt and contaminants from the surface of the steel which can be done with any basic cleaning agent, such as soapy water. More sophisticated, specialist products are available for the cleaning of stainless steel but may only be required if the tea-staining is wide-spread or stubborn to remove.

The basic rule is simple, look after the stainless steel with regular cleaning as prevention is always easier (and cheaper) than the cure.

So would you advise against using stainless metals by the sea?

No, not at all. If budget allows, opt for a mirror polished finish but the main piece of information to be gained here is that you cannot simply buy a stainless product and leave it in place, especially in coastal regions without cleaning it – Just clean it down as often as you clean your windows and doors. Look after your stainless steel and it will look fantastic for many years to come.