Stainless steels are most notable for their corrosion resistance, which increases with increasing chromium content. Additions of molybdenum increase corrosion resistance in reducing acids and against pitting attack in chloride solutions. Thus, there are numerous grades of stainless steel with varying chromium and molybdenum contents to suit the environment the alloy must endure.
Stainless steels are rolled into sheets, plates, bars, wire, and tubing to be used in: cookware, cutlery, surgical instruments, major appliances; construction material in large buildings, such as the Chrysler Building; industrial equipment (for example, in paper mills, chemical plants, water treatment); and storage tanks and tankers for chemicals and food products (for example, chemical tankers and road tankers).
Stainless steels do not suffer uniform corrosion, like carbon steel, when exposed to wet environments. Unprotected carbon steel rusts readily when exposed to the combination of air and moisture. The resulting iron oxide surface layer (the rust) is porous and fragile.
Stainless steel is used as a finish for refrigerators, freezers, countertops and dishwashers. Stainless steel is ideal for food production and storage as it does not affect the flavor of the food. Stainless steel's corrosion resistance is important as some foods, like orange juice, can be acidic.