Stainless Steel Comparison
304 and 316 are comparable in appearance, chemical makeup, and characteristics. Both steels are durable and provide excellent resistance to corrosion and rust. The most basic difference between the grades of steel is the presence of molybdenum in 316 stainless. Molybdenum is a chemical element used for the strengthening and hardening of steel. Its main function in 316 stainless is to help fight off corrosion from chlorides (i.e. salt).
304 Stainless Steel vs. 316 Stainless Steel
Grade 304: Usually consists of 18% chromium and 8% nickel. It is the most versatile and widely used stainless steel in the world, due to its corrosion resistance. It is also cheaper in cost compared to 316, another reason for its popularity and widespread use. If your application is indoors or is not subject to salt exposure, 304 is a perfect choice.
Grade 316: Usually consists of 16% chromium, 10% nickel and 2% molybdenum. It is more expensive because it provides higher corrosion resistance, especially against chlorides and chlorinated solutions. This makes it more desirable in applications where salt exposure is a concern. If you have an application with powerful corrosives or chlorides, the extra cost of 316 is highly recommended. In such applications, 316 will last longer than 304, providing you with extra years of life and usage.
*Note: 316 may have a longer lead time to purchase materials and will incur additional costs over 304.