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Stainless Steel 304 vs 304L – What’s the Difference

Stainless Steel 304 vs 304L

Stainless steel is an incredibly useful metal alloy with a wide range of applications. From kitchen appliances to medical equipment, it is used in a variety of industries and products. When it comes to stainless steel, two of the most popular alloys are 304 and 304L. On the surface, these two alloys may look identical, but there are some important differences that you need to be aware of. Let’s explore what sets them apart.

Differences Between Stainless Steel 304 and 304L


The difference between these two alloys lies primarily in their composition. While both contain roughly the same amount of chromium and nickel, they differ in their carbon content. In particular, 304L has a lower carbon content than its counterpart, which gives it a slightly lower carbon footprint as well as improved weldability compared to 304 stainless steel. This makes it ideal for applications where welding is required, such as food processing and brewing equipment.

Uses for Each Alloy

The differences between these two alloys also affect how they can be used in various applications. For instance, while both grades of stainless steel can be used in food processing equipment, 304L is often preferred due to its improved weldability compared to 304 stainless steel. On the other hand, because of its higher carbon content, 304 stainless steel is better suited for situations where heavier gauge parts are needed or where higher temperatures will be encountered during service conditions than those experienced by 304L-grade material.

Additionally, for outdoor and coastal environments where corrosion resistance is more important than weldability, grade 316 or 316L (which has even lower carbon levels) might be preferred instead of either grade 304 or 304l depending on the specific application requirements.

Chemical Composition

One of the key differences between 304 and 304L stainless steel is the composition. 304 stainless steel contains chromium, manganese, silicon, and carbon, while 304L stainless steel includes chromium, manganese, silicon, carbon, and low levels of phosphorus and sulfur.

Mechanical Properties

Another difference between 304 and 304L stainless steel is its mechanical properties. 304 stainless steel is typically harder and stronger than 304L stainless steel. However, both alloys are non-magnetic and can be cold-worked to achieve a wide range of properties.

Corrosion Resistance

Both 304 and 304L stainless steels offer excellent corrosion resistance due to their high chromium content. However,304L stainless steel is slightly more resistant to corrosion than 304 stainless steel. This increased resistance is due to the low levels of phosphorus and sulfur in 304L stainless steel.


Weldability is another key difference between 304 and 304L stainless steel. Both alloys can be welded using all standard welding methods, but 304L stainless steel is easier to weld than 304 stainless steel. This increased weldability is due to the low carbon content in 304L stainless steel.


The final key difference between 304 and 304 stainless steel is the cost. Due to the lower carbon content and improved weldability, 304L stainless steel is typically more affordable than 304 stainless steel.


In summary, each type of stainless steel offers unique advantages over the others depending on how it will be used and what conditions it will experience during service life. It’s important to understand the differences between them so that you can choose the right material for your particular application needs! To help you make an informed decision when choosing between grade 304 vs grade 304l stainless steel materials for your project or product design needs, contact Metric Marketing today! We can provide essential information about each alloy’s properties as well as provide guidance on which one would best suit your specific requirements!

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