What are the differences between stainless steel 201 and stainless steel 304? Which one is better?

Stainless steel refers to steel that is resistant to weak corrosive media such as air, steam, and water, as well as chemical corrosive media such as acid, alkali, and salt, and is also known as stainless acid-resistant steel. 304 and 201 are common materials for stainless steel decorative pipes. Many consumers can only distinguish between these two types of stainless steel by their price. So, besides price, what are the differences between 304 and 201 stainless steel? Which one is better?

What is 304 stainless steel?

304 stainless steel is a common material in stainless steel, with a density of 7.93 g/cm³. It is also called 18/8 stainless steel in the industry, meaning it contains over 18% chromium and over 8% nickel. It is heat resistant up to 800℃ and has good processing properties and high toughness, widely used in the industrial, furniture decoration, and food and medical industries.

What is 201 stainless steel?

201 stainless steel has certain acid and alkali resistance, high density, polished without bubbles or pinholes, and is a high-quality material for producing various watch cases, watchband bottoms, and other products. It is mainly used for decorative pipes, industrial pipes, and some shallow drawing products.

Although it is difficult to distinguish, there are a few points to consider:

There is a clear difference between the two on the surface. In comparison, the surface of the 201 material is duller due to the presence of manganese elements, while the surface of the 304 material is smoother and brighter due to the higher chromium content and the absence of manganese elements. Surface differentiation is somewhat limited since stainless steel pipes are subjected to surface treatment during production, so this method is only suitable for distinguishing some untreated stainless steel raw materials.

Due to different chemical properties, 201 stainless steel is more prone to rust than 304 stainless steel. Therefore, 201 is generally only suitable for use in dry environments such as buildings, industry, railways, and vehicles. 304, on the other hand, has a greater advantage due to its corrosion resistance and acid and alkali resistance, with a wider range of applications, even beyond decorative applications.

304 is widely used in the production of equipment and components that require good comprehensive properties. It can withstand general corrosion in buildings, resist food processing media corrosion, and resist organic compounds, dyes, and a wide variety of inorganic compounds. Type 304L (low carbon) has good resistance to nitric acid and is durable at moderate temperatures and concentrations of sulfuric acid. It is widely used as a liquid gas storage tank, low-temperature equipment (304N), instruments, other consumer products, kitchen equipment, hospital equipment, transportation, and wastewater treatment facilities.