Why 304 Grade Stainless Steel is Awesome for Outdoor Furniture

It's that time of year. The pool is open, the grill is on, and your outdoor furniture is ready to be useful again! But before you start inviting people over for your fancy shmancy garden party, you might want to make sure your neglected furniture doesn't look THAT neglected. Especially if it's made of metal.

Rusty, neglected outdoor chairs that are not made of stainless steel. From Outsiders Within

Behold! Chairs of the Undead... So if you're anything like me and you're looking to acquire outdoor furniture that's shiny, durable, and worth the investment, you might find that stainless steel is the way to go.

Wide array of stainless steel products ranging from boilers to stools.

From  Seamless Link

Now, before we get into it, I should let you know that "stainless steel" has many brothers, sisters, and cousins. It's a catch-all term that encompasses over 150 grades and 57 recognized alloys, which don't include all the other proprietary types that are out there. So for the purposes of this post, I'm going to mainly refer to the 304 grade stainless steel because it is the most commonly utilized grade for this type of application. 

So what makes this stainless steel so awesome for outdoor use?

1. It is corrosion resistant 

Unlike its hearty-but-not-as-cool cousin, mild steel, stainless steel has a higher resistance to corrosion and can better weather the elements. This is largely due to the chromium levels in the stainless steel chemical makeup. In order to qualify as stainless steel, the alloy must contain at least 10.5% chromium (though the numbers sometime differ depending on the source). The 304 Grade has at least 18% of chromium in its composition, which makes it that much more durable against rain, sleet, and snow.

Helpful visual of chromium oxide layer that protects stainless steel from corrosion caused by air or water. 

From  School Science

When the chromium binds with the oxygen in the atmosphere, it creates a thin, invisible layer that protects the material from rusting (a.k.a. oxidation). What's great about this this imperceptible sheath is that it can re-form even if the surface is damaged. Of course, that's not to say that you don't need to clean it up once in a while.     

2.  Even if it gets rust, you can fix it

From:  Blog.Chron.com

I wish I could say that stainless steel never needs any maintenance and anything made from it will stay as strong and shiny as the first day you got it. But even Superman, the Man-of-Steel himself, wasn't completely invulnerable. [Double negative intended] Any substance with chlorine, particularly bleach, or iodized salt can be like Kryptonite to stainless steel. It will weaken the chromium-oxide layer and expose the vulnerable ferrous (iron-containing) steel underneath to oxygen, causing it to stain with rust.

But it's okay! You can still save it! 

I won't cover the how-to steps here...BUT eHow UK has a really great video on cleaning stainless steel sinks using simple household products. It's my fave because they make it super simple, but, seriously, there's a bajillion ways to clean and maintain your stainless steel

If you're looking to add  a little bit of shine while cleaning, there are a lot of stainless steel cleaning solutions out there. For other alternatives, you can spray a little WD-40 or spread some olive oil and wipe it down. Some online advisers even claim that baby oil works just as well. I personally never tried it, but, hey, it's got to be true if it's on the internet right? 

No matter what your method, just make sure to avoid using steel wool or anything abrasive enough that can permanently damage the surface. Stainless steel is "self-healing" and can re-form that protective chromium-oxide layer as long as the surface is intact, but once the surface is scratched off, there is little hope thereafter. ½) 

Personal Pref: I like the sleek, modern look of stainless steel This chair is so modern that it's from the future! 

Image of Riemann chair in mirror polished stainless steel that looks very modern and futuristic. 

From  1stdibs

This is a half reason because it is totally subjective and you may not dig with I dig. What I call modern, some may call sterile and humorless, evocative of a dehumanized, industrialized cultural wasteland. Potayto. Potahto. I understand that there are many other attractive options to bedeck your backyard like all-weather wicker, wrought iron, aluminum, teak, plastic, etc. Each one wonderful in its own way, just not my way. I just prefer the sleek, silvery look of stainless steel. It virtually goes with any color and the frames are much more durable than other silvery metals (here's looking at you aluminum). What do you do for outdoor decor? By Ha Kim