Stainless Steel: Characteristics and Maintenance

by: Mario Durocher

    Stainless steel is used to make most of the large equipment found in institutional pools. It is ideal for manufacturing lifeguard chairs, diving towers, lane reels, ladders and starting platforms because it is solid, durable and esthetically pleasing.

    This equipment represents valuable investments, and our clients, with reason, are concerned with their maintenance and durability. We are often asked about the characteristics and maintenance of stainless steel. The following text answers our most frequently asked questions.

What is Stainless Steel?
    When stainless steel is presented, it must first be considered as a steel derived from a composite consisting of metal, magnesium and carbon. Chrome and nickel are then added to create a new alloy. To warrant the term “stainless”, it must include 10.5% chrome and about 8% nickel.

    Stainless steel can be divided into 5 large families and over 30 categories. The stainless steel used at pools is the “AUSTENTIC” 300 series, mostly notably category 304. Although used almost exclusively by the pool industry, stainless steel category 304 is also used in kitchen sinks, appliances, handrails, etc… Due to its various qualities, stainless steel category 304 totals almost 50% of the world’s stainless steel production.

    Every now and again, we are asked about the category 316 stainless steel. This category is a lot like category 304, but 2% of molybdenum has been added. This steel provides greater protection against corrosion in particular situations. For example, some boats (such as cruise-liners), because of the salt water, will use category 316 stainless steel for various mechanical equipment that are completely submerged, whereas bridge parts are made with category 304 steel because they can easily be cleaned. As for the pool industry, major manufacturers have had great success in using category 304 stainless steel.

What makes Stainless Steel corrosion-resistant?
    Ordinary steel tends to rust unless they are completely shielded from the elements. We know only too well the brown film and flaky metal oxide that eats away at the surface and, with time, loses its utility.

    Stainless steel also rusts but, instead of a destructive and unappealing metal oxide film, a chromium oxide film forms onto the surface, invisible, making it resistant and highly protective. It is formed once the oxygen molds together with the chrome. This extremely thin film naturally adheres to the stainless steel and self-repairs when oxidized.

Prevention and Maintenance
    When you’ve received your new equipment, it is important to develop a maintenance schedule to prevent the chromium oxide film from becoming inefficient. An unclean surface can often be your worst enemy. Dirt, grease and deposits due to evaporation, must be cleaned away by washing the surface with fresh water (not pool water) and drying it with a cloth. An every 2 to 4 week cleaning is usually enough.

    Equipment installed onto new pool construction, often air-tight with high humidity levels, seem to need special attention. Make sure to clean those hard-to-reach places such as underneath diving boards, starting platforms and lifeguard chairs.

    If your equipment already shows signs of dirt deposits, you must clean them away to allow natural oxygen to come into contact with the chrome in the stainless steel to form the chromium oxide protectant. Cleaning with a nylon pad and fresh water is usually enough. Wipe a little harder if the dirt deposits are hard to remove. Do not use an abrasive pad as it can damage the protective film and its shiny finish. Never use a scouring pad. You run the risk of contaminating your stainless steel with metal deposits from the pad.

    To ensure success with your stainless steel, there is only one thing to do: clean, clean, clean. Stainless steel is an excellent product, but it must be kept clean in order to keep its stainless property.

1. Clean every 2-4 weeks
2. Use a pad and fresh water
3. Wipe dry with a cloth

    If, after using these steps, you are still having problems maintaining your stainless steel, contact your supplier, they should be able to help.

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