What’s the Difference Between Galvanized Steel and Stainless Steel?

a pile of steel pipes

Plain carbon steel has been modified in many ways throughout the years to enhance its effectiveness, resulting in the creation of galvanized and stainless steel. These varieties have many advantages over normal steel, leading to their use in a wide range of products and appliances.

While the two can be hard to distinguish at a glance due to their similar appearances, they have several differences that set them apart. However, which is better: stainless vs. galvanized? To answer that question, here’s an overview of how they’re made and the many ways they differ from one another.

What Is Galvanized Steel?

Galvanized steel is covered with a zinc coating, which is one of the most commonly used metals throughout history. Molten zinc is typically added after the steel has already been manufactured and acts as a protective coating against rusting and corrosion.

The reason why zinc makes such an effective barrier is because of its anti-corrosive properties. Not only does the zinc layer prevent moisture from coming into contact with steel underneath, but it is much more reactive to oxygen than iron. As a result, rust is less likely to form on the steel.

What Is Stainless Steel?

When steel is made with at least 10% of chromium, it becomes stainless steel. The chromium alloy is added to the molten steel during the melting process. Sometimes, there are other elements added as well, meaning there are several different types of stainless steel.

Adding chromium helps prevent steel from rusting, and the more of the alloy there is, the more resistant it will become. This resistance is possible because the chromium combines with oxygen to create chromium oxide, which helps deter the creation of iron oxide, more commonly known as rust. However, stainless steel is not outright immune to rust; only resistant.

Galvanized Steel vs. Stainless Steel: Which Is Better?

As demonstrated, stainless and galvanized steel are both durable and more resilient to corrosion than regular steel. However, in a stainless vs. galvanized steel contest, which would come out on top? The answer depends largely on the situation, as their traits lend themselves better to different circumstances. If you’ve been thinking about the galvanized vs. stainless steel debate, here are some pros and cons to narrow down the best option for your circumstances:

Special Water Conditions

While both types of steel fare well in environments with high moisture levels, there are some kinds of water they are not resistant to. For example, galvanized steel can resist water well but not salt water. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is unaffected by salt water, making it better suited for projects by the ocean. However, stainless steel is affected by chlorine, so avoid using it in swimming pools.


If you’re having trouble with the stainless vs. galvanized steel debate, consider pricing. Compared to stainless steel, galvanized steel is far more cost-effective than adding chromium to molten steel, and is also more readily available. These traits make it a great choice for projects working with a tight budget.

Resist Rusting After Damage

Because the outer zinc layer is responsible for keeping the underlying steel safe, any damage can expose the steel to moisture. Stainless steel doesn’t have this problem and can remain corrosion resistant even after it’s been damaged.


Stainless steel is much easier to work with after it has been manufactured. 


Stainless steel products can weld together if they generate friction with one another. In cases like this with frequent friction, galvanized steel is better suited for the job.


If you have to weld steel, then it shouldn’t be galvanized. Otherwise, it would harm the protective layer of zinc on top. This means the answer to the stainless vs. galvanized steel debate should be obvious; when it comes to welding, stainless is better.


Although this is not a functional benefit, the shine of stainless steel is much more aesthetically pleasing than galvanized steel.

If you’re searching for stainless steel wire suppliers near you, reach out to Wickwire Warehouse. We offer numerous high-quality products, including our bailing wire. Call us today for more information.