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Carbon Steel vs Iron: What’s The Difference

Carbon Steel vs Iron

If you’re in the market for a new metal product, you may have seen terms like “carbon steel” and “iron.” What’s the difference between these two materials? Is one better than the other? Read on to find out.

Carbon steel is an alloy made up of iron and carbon. The amount of carbon present in carbon steel can vary from 0.1-1.5%, depending on what properties are desired in the material. Because of its unique makeup, carbon steel has a higher tensile strength (the maximum force it can take before breaking) than pure iron, making it well-suited for applications that require durabilities such as structural beams or knives. It also has good machinability (the ease with which it can be cut and formed into different shapes).

Iron, on the other hand, is an element that exists naturally in nature. It is a part of our planet’s crust and makes up 5% of Earth’s core mass. Pure iron is quite soft and malleable but doesn’t have as much tensile strength as carbon steel because it lacks any other elements to reinforce it. This makes pure iron better suited for applications where flexibility is more important than strength, such as nails or screws.

What is carbon steel?

Carbon steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, and it is one of the most commonly used materials in the world. Carbon steel is made by adding a small amount of carbon to iron, and it is this addition that gives carbon steel its strength and hardness. Carbon steel is classified as either low-carbon steel or high-carbon steel, depending on the amount of carbon present.

What is iron?

Iron is a chemical element that occurs naturally in the Earth’s crust. It is one of the most abundant elements in the world, and it has been used by humans for centuries. Iron is extracted from iron ore, and it can be found in a variety of forms, including cast iron, wrought iron, and pig iron.

Difference Between Carbon Steel and Iron

The main difference between carbon steel and iron is that carbon steel contains a small amount of carbon, whereas iron does not contain any carbon. Carbon steel is stronger and harder than iron, but it is also more brittle. Iron is more ductile than carbon steel.


Carbon steel and iron are both alloys, meaning that they are made by combining two or more chemical elements. However, the main difference between carbon steel and iron is the amount of carbon that is present in each. Carbon steel contains up to 2.1% carbon, while iron contains up to 0.3% carbon.


The higher carbon content of carbon steel makes it harder and stronger than iron. However, this also makes it more brittle, meaning that it is more likely to shatter or break under stress.


Because of its strength and durability, carbon steel is used in a variety of applications, including construction, automotive manufacturing, and shipbuilding. Iron, on the other hand, is primarily used for making pipes and rails due to its malleability.


Carbon steel is generally more expensive than iron because it is a more specialized alloy. However, the price difference between the two can vary depending on the specific grades and types of each metal.

Corrosion Resistance

Carbon steel is less resistant to corrosion than iron. This is because the higher carbon content of carbon steel causes it to form a hard oxide layer on its surface when exposed to air and water.

Benefits of carbon steel

One of the main benefits of carbon steel is that it is incredibly strong and durable. Carbon steel can be used for a wide range of applications, including construction, automotive manufacturing, and shipbuilding. Additionally, carbon steel is easy to weld and can be recycled.

Benefits of iron

One of the main benefits of iron is that it is very malleable, meaning that it can be easily shaped into a variety of different forms. Additionally, iron does not rust as easily as other materials, such as aluminum or copper. Iron is also relatively inexpensive compared to other materials.


When it comes to choosing between carbon steel and pure iron, there are many things to consider, including cost, strength requirements, machinability, and flexibility needs. In general, pure iron is best for applications where flexibility matters most, while carbon steel provides added strength when needed. For those looking for something in-between the two materials, alloyed steels provide a great compromise between strength and flexibility at an affordable price point. For website owners or SEO newbies who need help determining which material is best for their project, Metric Marketing can help you understand your options, so you make an informed decision about your metal products purchases.

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