Differences Between Aluminum and Stainless Steel, Part 1

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Differences Between Aluminum and Stainless Steel, Part 1

differences aluminum stainless steel

As two of the most common metal forms out there, stainless steel and aluminum can sometimes be confused for each other. They look similar to the untrained eye, and in some cases may have mutual applications or uses as well.

At Wasatch Steel, we can tell you that there’s actually a very big difference between aluminum and our stainless steel and other types. These various differences can be found across several elements of the metals, plus in their applications and common uses. In part one of this two-part blog series, we’ll go over some of the primary differences that you might want to consider if you’re looking at these two metal types for your next project.

Strength-to-Weight Ratio

One of the most important factors in any metal-related project is the strength and the weight of the metal. These two areas are so important, in fact, that they’re often measured or expressed together.

When it comes to aluminum versus stainless steel, there’s some give and take for both. Stainless steel is the far stronger product, meaning it should be the priority if strength is all you need, but aluminum generally checks in at about one third of stainless steel’s weight. This is why you see projects where weight is a big factors, such as aircraft production, primarily use aluminum instead of stainless steel.

Corrosion Resistance

One area where the two metals show huge differences is within the world of corrosion resistance. Stainless steel is specifically designed for this purpose, with chromium added to the metal as a protector against all rust and other forms of corrosion. On top of this, stainless steel is naturally non-porous, meaning it already resists corrosion.

Aluminum, on the other hand, is highly susceptible to oxidization and resulting corrosion. It has a passivation layer that can lead to easy oxidization, which will in turn make the surface white and can even cause pitting. In extremely acidic or basic environments, aluminum corrosion can have dangerous results.


Generally, aluminum is cheaper than stainless steel. However, these benefits are often made up for and them some when it comes to steel’s practical benefits.

Thermal Conductivity

In many projects, how well your metal conducts heat is a very important factor. Think about automobile manufacturers, for instance, who have to create several components that interact with major heat extremes – from radiators to air conditioner units and everything in between.

For this area, aluminum has the slight advantage. It’s known to be better at conducting heat, which again is a big reason why it’s part of the manufacturing process for so many vehicles and aircraft.

For more on the differences between aluminum and stainless steel, or to learn about any of our steel services or buy steel online, speak to the staff at Wasatch Steel today.