Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel: Which is Better

erw carbon steel pipe

Carbon steel vs stainless steel? In engineering and construction projects, the selection of the right steel pipe can ensure the reliability and durability of the system, while playing a crucial role in economic efficiency.

Carbon steel vs stainless steel, are two commonly used pipes, they have their properties, but also suitable for different application scenarios. So carbon steel vs stainless steel, how to distinguish and how to choose, dose carbon steel rust,can be considered from these factors.

Difference Between Carbon steel and Stainless steel

Both stainless steel and carbon steel tubes are ideal for multiple functions, so determining which one is right can be quite difficult. With an in-depth understanding of the characteristics of steel pipes and the basics of application methods, you can more accurately determine which steel pipe best meets your current practical needs.

Carbon Steel Types

How strong is steel? Carbon steel pipes can be classified into two categories: hot-rolled and cold-rolled.

  • Hot rolled carbon steel pipe: hot rolled carbon steel pipe is divided into general steel pipe, geological steel pipe, low and medium-pressure boiler steel pipe, high-pressure boiler steel pipe, alloy steel pipe, stainless steel pipe, oil cracking pipe, and other kinds of steel pipe.
  • Cold rolled carbon steel pipe: In addition to general steel pipe, low and medium-pressure boiler steel pipe, high-pressure boiler steel pipe, alloy steel pipe, stainless steel pipe, oil cracking pipe, and other steel pipes, also includes carbon thin-wall steel pipe, alloy thin-wall steel pipe, stainless steel thin-wall steel pipe, and shaped steel pipe.

Stainless Steel Types

Stainless steel pipes can be classified into various types according to differences in production techniques and shapes.

  • Process: stainless steel seamless steel pipe and stainless steel welded steel pipe (welded steel pipe).
  • Outer diameter shape of steel pipe: round pipe and shaped pipe. Circular steel pipes are widely used, but there are also some other special-shaped steel pipes, such as square, rectangular, semicircular, hexagonal, equilateral triangle, octagonal steel pipes, and so on.
What is carbon steel

Carbon vs Stainless Steel Difference

Analysis of Carbon vs Stainless Steel Pipe

carbon steel vs stainless steel strength/ carbon steel vs stainless steel properties/ is carbon steel stronger than stainless steel


Carbon Steel

Stainless Steel


Alloy of iron and carbon

Alloy of iron and chromium

Corrosion resistance

Can rust

Excellent corrosion resistance

Strength toughness

Ordinary carbon steel is usually less hard than most stainless steels

Softer, slightly less than carbon steel

Application scenario

Building structures, transport pipelines, logistics, manufacturing, water treatment and water supply

Food processing, medicine, petrochemicals and Marine engineering

Cost consideration




Low carbon steel pipe has excellent weldability, high carbon steel pipe needs to take some special welding technology and pretreatment measures

Second only to carbon steel, Consider the specific type and characteristics of the material


It can be machined into different shapes and sizes by a variety of methods such as bending, cutting, and joining

More difficult to process

Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Properties

The main difference between carbon steel vs stainless steel is the ingredients added to the steel to make it achieve its intended purpose.

Normally, the percentage carbon in steel formulations is between 0.2% and 2.1%.

To enhance other properties of the base iron, the mixture may also contain chromium, manganese, or tungsten. Different proportions of these elements produce steels with target values of ductility, tensile strength, and hardness. They can also influence and control the thermal and electrical properties of steel. Carbon steel material is mixed with iron to make an alloy. This batch of materials is designed to maintain the crystal structure of the underlying iron atoms.

Carbon steel is mainly through the presence of carbon to create a durable alloy material. Other elements may be present in carbon steel, such as manganese, cobalt, or tungsten, but the proportions of these elements are not specified. Four different types of carbon steel are listed below:

  • Mild/low — contain very low percentages of carbon
  • Medium — 0.3 to 0.59% carbon by weight
  • High — 0.6 to 0.99% carbon
  • Ultra high — 1.0 to 2.0% carbon

These alloys are capable of withstanding the heat treatment process successfully. In contrast, the steel produced by these formulations is both strong and durable.

However, the specification performance of carbon steel in terms of ductility is not ideal.

In addition, it is also a common problem in most steel formulations, that is susceptible to corrosion. Corrosion is caused by the oxidation of the metal to a more stable molecular state, which reduces the mechanical strength of the base steel. After several years of use, the bridge may show significant corrosion damage. Bridges that had the potential to last 100 years had to be repaired or replaced due to corrosion.

Stainless steel is a unique type of steel that is not easily corroded. It achieves this property by using chromium as a special hardener. Most stainless steels have a chromium content of 10.5% to 11.0%. Through the use of chromium, stainless steel has the characteristics of not rusting in addition to the basic characteristics of steel.

Just like carbon steel, stainless steel reacts with oxygen in the air to form an oxide layer. However, instead of forming a layer of iron oxide, it forms a layer of chromium oxide. Iron oxide is a volatile molecule that continuously contributes to the oxidation process. In contrast, chromium oxide has inert properties. It builds a protective layer to avoid further oxidation.

Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Conclusion

Carbon steel vs stainless steel, the choice depends on the specific needs of the application, each type of pipe has advantages and limitations, and appropriate selection can play the maximum performance advantage of the steel pipe, and extend the engineering life.

Carbon steel pipe is a very popular choice of steel pipe material for a wide range of uses. By selecting the right type of carbon steel pipe and ensuring that it is properly maintained and maintained, they can maintain stable and reliable performance for a long time, to meet the requirements of various engineering projects.

At TUSPIPE, we produce and export high-quality carbon steel pipes. We are a leading manufacturer in China’s steel pipe industry. You can go to our YouTube to watch the steel pipe production process.

Carbon steel pipe vs stainless steel pipe?

Based on the raw material, there are differences in hardness, strength and corrosion resistance between carbon steel and stainless steel pipes.
However, carbon steel pipes are more widely used in large-scale oil and gas transportation. Carbon steel pipe in the cost / mechanical properties / processing, etc. than stainless steel pipe have advantages, although the corrosion resistance is not as good as stainless steel pipe, but carbon steel pipe with a coating, will greatly enhance the corrosion resistance, coupled with the low price / manufacturing fast / excellent performance. Therefore, the general oil and gas transportation are using carbon steel pipe.
Stainless steel is mainly used in: submarine pipelines / refining and chemical processing facilities. The main application is also its good corrosion resistance.

Carbon steel pipes include: ERW/LSAW/SSAW processes, which are also very different in terms of size/performance.

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