Carbon Steel Pipe vs Stainless Steel Pipe: Which is Stronger?

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Steel is a metal which is widely used in the manufacturing and construction industry. This is due to its strength and versatility among other metals. Usually, steel contains 99% iron and 1% carbon.

There is a large number of grades of steel available. But the most essential which have great applications are carbon steel and stainless steel. Both carbon steel and stainless steel have the same basic composition. However, they contain some other alloying elements.

But people usually ask “What is carbon steel?” and “What is stainless steel?” So, the answer is carbon steel contains an amount of chromium less than 10.5%. On the other hand, stainless steel contains a chromium percentage of more than 10.5%.

In this article, we will provide you the information about their difference in their physical characteristics, different applications, and economics.

Physical Characteristics of Carbon Steel Pipe Vs. Stainless Steel Pipe

Physically, both carbon steel pipe and stainless steel pipes are very reliable for piping and fabrication. Carbon steel pipe vs. stainless steel pipe comparison depending upon their physical characteristics is given below.

1. Strength Comparison

Strength is one of the key features that are observed in a pipe when working with high-speed fluids and materials.

In the carbon steel pipe vs. stainless steel pipe comparison, one can easily tell that the mechanical strength of carbon steel is higher than that of stainless steel pipes. They can easily bear high-pressure and high-temperature situations. Stainless steel pipes are not that hard due to their high ductile property and low content of carbon available.

Also, carbon steel has more yield strength and a lower tensile strength than stainless steel. That is why carbon steel pipes are preferred while working with high-temperature and pressure situations.

2. Density and weight

Piping and fabricating projects are very much dependent on the weight of the material used.

It is obvious in the case of stainless steel and carbon steel pipes that carbon steel pipes are lesser in weight as compared to stainless steel pipes. So whenever a less dense and less weight structure of pipes is needed carbon steel pipes are given preference.

That does not mean that stainless steel pipe is not capable of working in less dense and less-weight environments. They are as much as capable of working in these scenarios as well.

3. Corrosion resistance

In every piping job, the main factor that is kept in mind is that the pipes do not corrode easily. Corrosion can damage any piping structure and leaking can be started from them. So every manufacturing industry should keep in mind that the material should be corrosion-resistant.

In this regard, stainless steel is much preferred as it is highly corrosion resistant even in a damped environment as well. Carbon steel can get corroded in a damped environment because it contains a percentage of carbon in it.

Also, carbon steel rusting can easily occur. So when working with corrosion-resistant and low-maintenance materials products stainless steel is given edge.

Applications of Carbon Steel pipe vs. Stainless steel pipe

Carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipe’s applications are numerous. Every industry looks for its specifications and working environment to ensure the usage of pipe quality for their products. But most industries prefer only these two types of pipes like stainless steel pipes and carbon steel pipes.

Engineering problems like fabrication and piping are heavily solved by using stainless steel and carbon steel pipes. When it comes to heavy chemicals passing through pipes for transportation, there is a debate of carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipes. The main reason behind that is some chemicals are highly reactive and the pipes can easily get melted or corroded.

Similarly, when it comes to submarines working underwater it should use such pipes that are not corroded underwater. Food preservation and making involves the high use of piping for transferring food with care from one place to another. Hence stainless steel pipes and carbon steel pipes are used for these purposes.

The medical field is the one that uses very delicate and optimized instruments and equipment for operation and surgery. These two kinds of piping material are helpful in the medical industry as well.

1. Construction and engineering

A major part of every Construction of any small or large building is piping. In small buildings, pipes are used for the transportation of water to one or other floors while in larger buildings firefighting pipes are also used in fire extinguishers.

Welded pipe is a durable and economical choice for transporting fluids and gases in pipelines and structural applications. In both cases, there is debate about carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipes.

Carbon steel pipes are hard and provide more strength and hence are preferred when a large volume of complex pipes is used. When there is a need for flexible and ductile material passing through pipes, stainless steel pipes are preferred.

2. Chemical industry

Chemicals are used and kept with great care in industry and in laboratories. For their transportation from place to place, pipe quality should be high to keep them from flowing over.

Some chemicals have high temperatures and some flow with high pressure. So there is a need to use such piping material which can easily bear high temperature and high pressure.

Carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipes are both quite capable of providing these features in piping.

3. Marine applications

Water is the main reason which causes corrosion of materials. But in the case of marines, such materials cannot be used which can easily get corroded.

Carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipes comparison is used to contrast between pipe materials for the marine industry. Underwater, these pipes are quite capable of being corrosion-resistant.

But an edge is given to stainless steel pipes as they are more effective against corrosion. Their alloy nature makes it the first choice for manufacturers to use these pipes underwater.

4. Food industry

The basic human need for survival on earth is food. To keep food fresh and clean it has to pass many piping systems. Carbon steel pipes’ strength is the main feature of serving in high-quality and strong places. While in places where corrosion resistance and toughness are needed stainless steel pipes are highly recommended. Piping of these materials is easy and long life as compared to other piping materials.

5. Medical Industry

The Pharmaceutical and medical industries use very delicate and intricate parts in their surgical and operation equipment. To obtain these high qualities the manufacturer has to decide between carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipes.

When there is a need for high-strength material and pipes carbon steel pipes are preferred. Similarly when there is a possibility of pipes and material getting corroded stainless steel pipes are given preference.

Stainless steel pipes are easy to maintain because carbon steel pipes can easily corrode in a damped environment. When a shiny surface finish is required in equipment stainless steel pipes are used.

Carbon steel pipe vs. stainless steel pipe: Cost and sustainability

Selection between carbon steel pipe and stainless steel pipe is greatly influenced by their cost value and the quality of carbon steel pipe suppliers.

But the main characteristics are the cost-effectiveness when we are talking about high-level production of pipes. Even though this factor cannot be neglected luxury comes with a price. But still, as a manufacturer and producer cost-effectiveness is highly recommended for large-volume production.

Carbon steel pipes can easily corrode under different working environments hence they require more maintenance which increases the cost of the material.

So stainless steel pipes are the first choice when pipes can get corroded. A comparison of cost and environmental sustainability is given below for carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipes.

1. Cost Comparison

In this highly inflated world keeping the cost down for products has become a major concern for small as well as big industries.

A cost comparison of carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipes shows that carbon steel can corrode and hence needs maintenance after some time. But stainless steel has the quality of not easily corroded making it more useful in corrosion-affected environments.

But when it comes to prices, carbon steel pipes for sale are much cheaper as compared to stainless steel pipes.

2. Environmental sustainability

The environment is a very critical factor involved in choosing carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipes. In damped and underwater environments stainless steel is commonly used for piping of product assembly and fluid transmission. But when high strength is needed for piping schematics carbon steel pipes are given preference.

Similarly, when utensils and shiny surface products are manufactured stainless steel is the first choice for the company.

It is 100% true that environmental factors play an important role in choosing the best material for piping material. The sustainability of material can be checked by keeping it under severe environmental conditions and the decision is made after deducting results from that experiment.


This article is a comparison of carbon steel pipes vs. stainless steel pipes. The advantages and disadvantages of both the materials are provided to check which better choice is.

According to this whole study saying that one is better than the other is not justified at all.

However, according to the evidence, it is obvious that when the strength of the piping structure is the desired output then carbon steel pipes should be used. But when a shiny material surface and corrosion-free material is required then stainless steel pipes should be used.