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How to Tell If A Metal is Stainless Steel or Aluminium?

Stainless steel and aluminium are two types of metals that are ever present in our daily lives. From the car that you drive to the pot in your kitchen, stainless steel and aluminium are everywhere. For most people, it is difficult to differentiate between stainless steel and aluminium due to their similar appearances. Stainless steel and aluminium each have distinct characteristics and properties, therefore being able to tell apart one metal from another can be essential. Below are a few useful tips on how to tell the difference.

stainless steel aluminium kitchenware
Stainless Steel vs Aluminium Kitchenware

Eye Test

A straightforward way to tell the difference between aluminium and stainless steel is based on their appearances. Aluminium are generally grey in colour with a dull texture. On the other hand, stainless steel is relatively shiny, and often has a tint that is more silver than grey. In most cases, stainless steel will look brighter and shinier than aluminium. However, the appearances of aluminium and stainless steel may change under conditions like time and weather.


Weight Test

The weight test is relatively subjective and might require some experience to be able to tell the difference between stainless steel and aluminium. For the same volume of material, aluminium is generally lighter than stainless steel. In fact, the same volume of stainless steel weighs more than two times heavier than aluminium.


Key Test

The key test is a fast and easy test that can be done anywhere, without any specialized tools. Simply hold the key down and drag it along a flat surface of the aluminium or stainless steel. If it is aluminium, the key will scratch fairly deeply without much pressure due to aluminium being softer than stainless steel. Stainless steel will still leave a scratch mark, but scratching it will require more effort, and the scratch will not be as deep as compared to aluminium.


Spark Test

The spark test is a fast, economical and convenient way to identify the difference between aluminium and stainless steel. This is done by holding the piece of metal against a grinding wheel. Stainless steel will produce orange sparks, while aluminium produces no visible sparks. The orange sparks come from the carbon present in steel, which burns brightly when oxidized.


Magnet Test

The magnet test is a simple test which requires a strong magnet. Aluminium is non-magnetic and will not be attracted to a magnet. On the other hand, the same magnet will have a small magnetic attraction to stainless steel. Do bear in mind that the magnet test is not definitive as there are some types of stainless steel which are non-ferrous (do not contain iron) and therefore non-magnetic.


With the above tests, you are now better equipped to differentiate between aluminium and stainless steel. For more information about aluminium and stainless steel, you can contact us or visit our website.

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