What two metals make stainless steel


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Metals are chemical elements or their mixtures (alloys). They have a high conductivity for heat and electricity and have a metallic sheen. In the household, elemental metals are usually not used, but alloys. Mixing different metals can influence their properties.

Commonly used metals

  • steel
  • aluminum
  • Brass
  • silver


Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon and, in some cases, other elements such as nickel, chromium, silicon and manganese. Steel is used for a variety of purposes in the home. Enamelled steel and stainless steel are often used in large companies and households.

Enamelled steel

When enamelling, enamel powder or powder is melted in one or more layers onto steel and thus firmly bonded to one another. A glass-like protective layer is created on the metal. This is very easy to clean because the surface is less sensitive to scratches. However, enamel can easily flake off. Examples of the use of enamelled steel are baking trays, stove tops and cookware.


Enamelled steel can be cleaned with detergent, scouring milk or saponified steel wool. In the case of stubborn soiling, the objects should be soaked (as far as possible).

stainless steel

Stainless steel is a steel with a very low phosphorus and sulfur content or steel alloys with, for example, chromium, nickel, molybdenum and / or titanium. Stainless steel doesn't have to be rust-free. Stainless steel contains at least 10.5 to 13% chromium. The best-known stainless steel alloy commonly used in households is that with chromium and nickel (Figures 1-4). Stainless steel is often used in large kitchens because of its hygienic properties. Stainless steel has a hard surface that is insensitive to disinfectants and food acids. Knives, cutlery, bowls, pans and pots are also made of stainless steel.
However, stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, which is why stainless steel pots and pans require an additional base made of a thermally conductive material, such as copper or aluminum (sandwich base).

Figure 1: Stainless steel with a chromium content of 18% and without nickel (chromium steel)

Figure 2: Stainless steel 18-0 is also marked as rustproof

Figure 3: Stainless steel with a chromium content of 18% and 8% nickel

Figure 4: Stainless steel with a chromium content of 18% and 10% nickel
(Designation according to DIN EN 10088-3: 1.4301)


Alkaline, neutral or acidic → cleaning agents can be used to clean stainless steel. The use of vinegar cleaner is often recommended in large kitchens. For heavier soiling, special stainless steel cleaners and scratch-free → cleaning sponges can be used. Vienna lime can be used as an alternative to stainless steel care. If very oily and greasy soiling cannot be removed with a commercially available cleaning agent, you can use alcohol-based cleaning agents and solvents such as isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol), spirit or acetone. Then the items have to be used thoroughly clear water rinsed and dried.
For removing fingerprints and other contaminants structured stainless steel surfaces Cleaning cloths impregnated with special oil are offered for household appliances and the like. First clean the surfaces and then treat the surface with the cloth. There are also stainless steel cleaning cloths that are suitable for both cleaning and polishing. Depending on the product, it is finally recommended to wipe with a dry, lint-free → cloth. Please note the information on the packaging or in the → safety data sheet as to whether the products are also suitable for surfaces on which food is processed.
Suitable textiles for cleaning stainless steel are → cloths made of cotton, microfiber, fleece, natural or synthetic leather and non-scratching → cleaning sponges (polyurethane). Stainless steel scraper sponges can be used for the inside of the pot, afterwards the pot must be rinsed thoroughly with clear water. Cleaning with high pressure (→ high pressure cleaner) or steam jet (→ steam cleaner, → steam vacuum cleaner) is also possible.


Aluminum is very light and is often used for camping cookware and inexpensive baking trays. The advantage of aluminum is that it conducts heat very well. Unfortunately, it is very sensitive to scratches. The abrasion resistance and dimensional stability are also not very high. Aluminum objects are very difficult to clean.


Aluminum cookware can be cleaned with washing-up liquid and a soft cloth. The problem with aluminum is that it quickly turns gray and blotchy with use and is at the same time very sensitive to scratches. In the case of stubborn dirt on baking trays, the only thing that helps is to use saponified steel wool, but then you have to be able to live with the scratched surface. Cookware made of anodized aluminum is less sensitive.


Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, the zinc content must be higher than 18%. For example, door plates, candlesticks and lamps are made of brass. Brass objects have the property of tarnishing over time and looking brownish and dull.


Polishing pastes that are also equipped with tarnish protection are available for cleaning brass. With regular care, brass has a noble shine for many years.


Silver is one of the precious metals that are usually processed in an alloy with copper because pure silver would be too soft. The fineness indicates the proportion of chemically pure silver in the alloy. Sterling silver has the highest degree of purity with 925 parts of fine silver of 1000. In some European countries an alloy with 800 parts of fine silver and 200 parts of copper is called "real silver". Real silver can be recognized by the imprinted fineness (800 or 925 for sterling silver).

→ Cutlery or silver candlesticks are often silver-plated, i.e. a thin layer of silver is applied to a less noble metal. Silver tarnishes in the air and gets a black coating. By wrapping in aluminum or transparent film (Figure 1 + 2), tarnishing can be slowed down considerably.


Silver can be cleaned with special silver immersion baths or silver care products such as silver polishing foam, silver care cream or silver cleaning cloths. A house recipe is to put aluminum foil in a bowl, add 2 tbsp → salt and fill up with 1 liter of hot water. Dip the silver in the solution so that it touches the aluminum foil. After a minute or two you can see how the silver shines again. Then rinse the silver with clear water. The covering can also be removed mechanically, e.g. B. with toothpaste, but this way some silver is always removed, which is not recommended for silver-plated cutlery.

Figure 5: Silver cutlery cleaned, photo from June 18, 2012

Figure 6: Comparison of the pieces of cutlery: The top spoon was in silver foil, the middle one in cling film
wrapped, the fork unpacked. Photo from 3.1.2013

Interesting links

Stainless steel surfaces
Stainless steel information point (ISER)
The program with the mouse - saucepan


German Email Association: Email production. Accessed on October 11, 2016
The cleaning of stainless steel, 1995
Inorganic experimental lecture silver, 2004
Amefa Stahlwaren GmbH: Frequently asked questions (FAQ). Accessed on October 11, 2016
Justus Brenger & Co: Material science. Accessed on October 11, 2016
Code crackers: stainless steel. Accessed on October 11, 2016
CHEMIE.DE Information Service GmbH: Stainless steel. Accessed on October 11, 2016
gaerner GmbH: Stainless steel - a raw material that offers many advantages. Accessed on October 25, 2016
Voelkner - directly cheaper: Bosch stainless steel cleaning cloths impregnated with special oil. Accessed on May 19, 2017
Josef Steiner: Instructions for cleaning stainless steel. Accessed on May 19, 2017
Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG: stainless steel cleaning cloth. Accessed on May 22, 2017
Schmitz-Bonn GmbH: Product information "Schmitzol's" Wiener Kalk. Accessed on July 24, 2018
Prof. Dr. A. Beythien and Ernst Dreßler (HG), Mercks Warenlexikon, 1920
Anna Knon, Das Manustriptum Budget Book, 2002
D. Simpfendörfer, S. Klug: Housekeeping as a Service, 2010

Detailed references

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