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5 Things You Never Knew About Steel

February 29, 2024

The world we live in today would look very different without steel. These five facts about steel will help you reach a better understanding of the role it plays in your life.


Did you know that steel is one of the most frequently recycled products in the world? According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, almost 69% of all steel is recycled each year in North America. This is partly because steel’s magnetic properties make it easy to separate from waste streams. In fact, steel is recycled more than glass, plastic, aluminum and even paper. This helps make steel one of the most environmentally friendly metals.


There are actually four different types of steel: stainless, tool, carbon, and alloy. Stainless steel is among the most popular for kitchen and home appliances due to its resistance to rust. Carbon steel contains 0.05–0.25% carbon, making it more pliable and workable than other types of steel. Alloy steel contains various elements such as manganese, silicon, and nickel, and tends to be more responsive to heat and mechanical treatments than carbon steels. Tool steel is especially hard and resistant to bending and melting, making it useful for drill bits and other tools.


For thousands of years, ancient civilizations relied upon steel for various purposes, such as tools and weapon construction. The ancient imperial armies of China, Greece, Persia, and Rome all relied upon steel to arm their soldiers. Although steel has been used since the dawn of civilization, the first major mass demand for steel came from railroad companies in the 19th century. The unique properties of steel have since enabled the construction of famous buildings such as the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building.


Steel alloys are made from iron, which is believed to be the 9th most common element in the universe. While iron is known as a reliably strong material, steel alloys can be up to 1000 times stronger than iron. One of the reasons steel is so widely used today is because it can be easily alloyed with other materials. This means steel is flexible in its uses.


Since WWII, the steel industry has cut its energy use by 60%. This means less carbon dioxide in out atmosphere. In North America, the steel industry has reduced its waste air and water output by more than 90% in the last ten years alone. This is all thanks to the development of more efficient smelting and refining processes, in addition to an increased effort on behalf of steel companies to responsibly manage their waste.

Between steel’s rich history and its unique chemical properties, there are probably a lot of things you still don’t know about steel. However, these facts can help you understand the important role that steel plays in your life.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading steel tubing suppliers of carbon, alloy and stainless steel pipe, tubes, fittings and flanges.