Making Steel And Stainless Fastener Choices Easy

Most washers are made of metal. Metal is resilient and very strong, which makes it the ideal material for fastening jobs. 

The function of a washer is to distribute the load of forces when fastening one item to another. To provide this capability, the material a washer is made from must be able to reliably withstand these forces.

Why Steel?

The most common metal used to make washers is steel. Steel is an alloy of iron, carbon, and other elements.

It is a cost-effective material and offers many other benefits when producing various tools, and constructing parts for ships, cars, and heavy equipment. Building elements like beams and brackets are also made using steel. The alloy has a high degree of tensile strength, which makes it long-lasting and reliable.

Steel Vs. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is steel that contains an additional element called chromium. The chromium in stainless steel adds to its strength and makes it resistant to corrosion, which can occur in different forms. 

Chemical exposure and electrochemical reactions are some of the most common causes of corrosion. Liquid corrosion results from exposure to electrolytes such as salt.

The addition of chromium to stainless steel doesn’t mean it will never corrode, however, the corrosion process is significantly inhibited. 

Making The Right Choice Of Washers

The decision to use steel washers or stainless steel washers should be influenced by the nature of the task, as well as the risk of corrosion and exposure to the elements. 

Stainless steel works better for outdoor fastening as exposure to air and moisture speeds up the corrosion process. 

In coastal areas or regions with regular inclement weather, select stainless steel as it is resistant to salt and moisture in the air. Stainless steel is more resistant than normal steel, so its use should be considered for fastenings that will need added endurance in addition to the ability to carry large loads.

Combining Steel And Stainless Steel Nuts, Bolts, And Washers

In theory, you can combine stainless steel fasteners with steel washers and vice versa. The threading of the products is the same. 

This means that, when sizes are accounted for, they will fit together without any modification. Despite this, the practice of combining the two alloys isn’t recommended.

Galvanic corrosion becomes a greater risk when combining bolts with washers made from different alloys. One of the metals will become an anode and corrode more quickly than it normally would.  

The other metal becomes a cathode and corrodes more slowly than it would on its own. The corrosion can threaten the integrity of the fastening and lead to failure. 

Corrosion fatigue results in the fastening no longer being able to hold. Think of the catastrophic effects of corrosion in the bolts that hold bridges together. The bridge would eventually collapse, causing disastrous results.

Corrosion is inevitable, but there are ways to prevent or slow it down.

The replacement of bolts and washers is costly, especially when it must be done ahead of time to preemptively avoid corrosion. Looking at the bigger picture, it makes demands on the world’s limited and non-renewable metal resources. 

One of the by-products of corrosion is pollution. This, too, can be avoided by using bolts and washers correctly. 

Advice For The DIY Enthusiast

Bolts and washers should not be combined when stored. You can use jars or bottles to store and label bolts and washers separately. 

Distinguish between the sizes and materials when labeling them. The containers may take up a lot of space and organizing your bolts and washers is initially quite time-consuming. 

However, the methodical approach pays off in the long-run. It will be easy to locate what you need instead of digging and sorting through one container with everything thrown into it.