How Long Does It Take for Stainless Steel to Rust?

Stainless steel is a wonderful material for many common items these days. Whether it be appliances, sinks, kitchen gadgets, or bathroom fixtures, stainless steel is everywhere! However, stainless steel can still rust, despite its name, and it is important to know when and why this occurs. So how long does it take for stainless steel to rust?

Stainless steel will rust in less than a week if exposed to the right conditions, however, rust most often occurs only after the finish on stainless steel has become damaged. Avoid using the wrong types of cleaners and abrasive pads that damage the stainless steel finish.

This is an important factor to keep in mind should you be hoping to prevent rust on your stainless steel finishes. But what specifically causes rust, and what types of stainless steel are most prone to it? Let’s learn more together so that you can protect your various stainless steel items!

What Causes Stainless Steel to Rust?

The main cause of rust on anything depends primarily on its exposure levels to moisture and oxygen. Steel is notorious for rusting, and stainless steel is only rustproof when its protective coating is undamaged or new. 

While stainless steel is less corrosive than other materials due to its protective chromium coating, it can still rust. The following things cause stainless steel to rust the most:

  • Damage to the protective surface, either through scratches or heavy-duty cleaners
  • Exposure to water, whether it be rain, tap water, or saltwater
  • Exposure to salt, such as sea air
  • Exposure to oxygen, if the protective coating has already been damaged or compromised
  • Exposure to heat, such as high outdoor temperatures or various appliance functions
  • Time, especially if your stainless steel is not consistently maintained

While stainless steel can rust, there are types that are more resistant to damage. These types may be good to remember if you are concerned about your future stainless steel purchases rusting. Let’s take a look at those specific materials now.

What Type of Stainless Steel is Most Corrosive Resistant?

There are many types of stainless steel, depending on your planned usage. Some of these types are far more corrosive resistant than others, giving you a more protective coating and longer-lasting shine! So what type of stainless steel is most corrosive resistant?

While you may not always get to choose what stainless steel grade you get on your appliances or other household items, it may be good to learn what grades are better than others. Some grades may be far more powerful than what you need, too!

The following types of stainless steel are more rust-resistant than others:

  • 304– This grade is by far the most used and common stainless steel grade available, found in everything from sinks to appliances. It offers an average amount of corrosion resistance for stainless steel.
  • 316– This is the next most common grade, also known as Marine Grade stainless steel. It is used in surgical tools as well as commercial kitchen applications, and has a much higher corrosion resistance than 304.
  • 420– This stainless steel is often used in cutlery and knives, and is also known as surgical steel. It is a very shiny and easy to maintain stainless steel, with a lot of excellent corrosion resistance.
  • 440- This grade of cutlery steel is even stronger than 420, and is used to produce high quality knives due to its ability to be sharpened with ease. This must be how it got its alternative name of razor steel! 

There are even more types of stainless steel, but these are some of the most common and most rust resistant varieties. But are there some grades of stainless steel that you should avoid? Let’s read on.

What Type of Stainless Steel is Least Corrosive Resistant?

There are indeed types of stainless steel that are far less resistant to corrosion than others. This is usually for a good reason (made for products not often exposed to water or salt), but keep an eye on these grades should you be shopping for a rust resistant stainless steel item.

These are some of the least corrosive resistant stainless steel grades being used today:

  • 408– This grade of stainless steel is quite heat resistant, but not much else. It is usually manufactured with an average of 10% chromium, far less than other stainless steel grades.
  • 409– If you’re looking for an inexpensive grade of stainless steel, you should look at 409. It is the cheapest to make, but that doesn’t say much for its rust resistance…
  • 410– While this grade may be more resistant to scratches or other wear and tear, it is far more susceptible to rust than other higher quality stainless steel grades.
  • 430– This particular type of stainless steel has very little corrosion resistance, suffering far more than 420 when exposed to heat and water. It is often used as decorative trim for automobiles.

Hopefully, you don’t have many stainless steel items that have been made from rust susceptible steel, but you may never know. The most important part of owning any type of stainless steel is knowing how to maintain it! 

If you already have rust on your stainless steel, it isn’t too late to change it. Read on for my best tips on removing rust from your stainless steel items!

How to Remove Rust from Stainless Steel

Removing rust from stainless steel isn’t impossible. In fact, it might be easier than you think, and you can get your stainless steel shining just like it used to be! Here are some tips for removing rust from anything, not just stainless steel:

  • Purchase a high-quality rust remover from your local hardware store. There are many different types and varieties, but you will no doubt find one that can tackle your rust spots. Make sure the packaging recommends use on stainless steel.
  • You can also remove rust using baking soda and water. Form a paste with these two ingredients, and allow the paste to sit for some time on your rust spots.
  • Remove your cleaner of choice from the stainless steel. I recommend using a microfiber cloth or toothbrush, something soft so that you don’t further scratch the stainless steel surface. Never use steel wool or other metal scrubbers on stainless steel!
  • Apply a protective finish to your stainless steel surface. These supplies can also be found at your local hardware store, and will often include cleaning and polishing properties in the same bottle. A protective coating is key to preventing further rust and maintaining your stainless steel!

No matter the grade of your stainless steel, it has the potential of rusting. That is why it is key to build up and maintain a protective finish on your stainless steel, and always clean your stainless steel with care.

Final Thoughts

Stainless steel can indeed rust, contrary to popular belief! However, this metal can indeed resist rusting, depending on the grade and quality of your stainless steel. And you can always remove rust deposits, as well as add protective coatings to your stainless steel items to protect it from further damage.

A rusted stainless steel fixture isn’t ideal for anyone, but hopefully you have found some solutions in this article, including just exactly how long it might take for your stainless steel finish to rust!