Galvanized Steel or Stainless Steel, What’s the Best Choice?

Galvanized steel and stainless steel are both strong and durable. However, they are not without a number of flaws.  The two types of steel are common materials in the construction industry have nearly the same appearance but when it comes to composition, strength, and weight they are quite different.

This article explores the various factors that set them apart from each other, and which one makes the best choice overall.

Differences Between Galvanized Steel and Stainless Steel

As opposed to regular steel made of iron, galvanized steel is coated in zinc making it corrosion resistant. Hot-dip galvanizing is the most common galvanization method, and is geared to ensure the steel holds well and that it does not rust when exposed to various elements.

Galvanized steel is commonly used in different kinds of fasteners including nails and bolts. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is made by adding chromium to regular steel in a molten state.

Chromium makes stainless steel strong and highly resistant to rust.  It is tolerant of water whether fresh or salty – this sets it apart from galvanized steel.

While stainless steel retains its anti-corrosive properties longer than galvanized steel, it is not the best material to use in places where it is exposed to chlorine, such as swimming pools. It is, however, a great option for making working parts of tools like saw blades.

Galvanized steel is less expensive than stainless steel. Because of its cheaper price, it is extensively used in areas where there is less damage or risks like constructing pipes and fittings in homes. You’d want to settle with it if you are looking for materials to use for small-budget projects.

Hot-dip galvanizing ensures that zinc touches every part of the steel. It, therefore, means that galvanized steel offers total protection to both external and internal surfaces of the steel against rust and corrosion. This is unlike other processes that do not reach inaccessible areas.

Moreover, galvanizes steel is easier to maintain as it normally doesn’t shrink or crack. Zink envelopes steel in an impervious layer just like a paint job. However, scratching the steel may expose the inner layer making it susceptible to corrosion.

While galvanized steel may not provide protection against rust for as long as stainless steel, it also has self-healing properties. Namely, even as the zinc corrodes, it sacrifices itself to protect the steel because the corrosion products are deposited on the steel.

Galvanized steel is not only affordable in terms of the initial investment, but it is also more cost-effecting in the long run. This can be attributed to the fact that it needs less maintenance and lasts longer compared to most other protective coatings.

Is Galvanized Steel Safe?

There has been a lot of questions about galvanized steel and whether it is safe or not especially when in contact with food and water. In finished form, galvanized steel products are not toxic and do not pose any risk to human beings, plants, and animals.

Unless it gets in contact with acidic foods, galvanized steel is 100 percent food-safe. Acidic foods react with zinc, and when absorbed by the body could make you sick. The same applies to water; galvanized pipes are safe for transporting drinking water. There may, however, be health concerns if the water supply is corrosive.

How to Maintain Galvanized Steel

Here are a few tips to help you maintain galvanized steel products:

  • Don’t store galvanized products in damp areas for long.
  • Don’t expose any galvanized steel product in an environment with pH below 6 or above 12.
  • Don’t allow direct contact of the galvanized steel product with metals like copper and brass especially in corrosive areas.
  • To remove rust, you need to repair this area to prevent it from returning when galvanized steel is exposed to moisture.

What To Choose Between Galvanized and Stainless Steel

The material to choose between the two will depend largely on the application. When you are shopping for hinges, screws, fasteners, and other fitting accessories, galvanized steel products would be a better choice as they are normally cheaper. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is ideal for high-risk of applications as it is stronger.

While stainless steel is stronger and generally more expensive, it offers virtually the same level of protection against rust and corrosion as its galvanized counterpart. Galvanized steel is also easier to maintain as it doesn’t shrink or crack. So, overall, galvanized steel makes the best choice as stainless on beats it when it comes to strength.


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