Stainless Steel 201 vs 304: The Difference Explained

1. Differences between stainless steel 201 and 304

How to distinguish 201 and 304 stainless steels?

This article will help you sort out the differences and distinguishing methods between stainless steel 304 and 201:

Differences and resolution methods between 201 and 304 stainless steels


Contrast item




Nickel content (Ni)





About 7 yuan/kg

About 14 yuan/kg


Liquid medicine reaction

Low Ni measuring solution (201), electrified and oxidized for 2-5s, showing rose red

Ni8 measuring solution (304), which lasts for 5-8 seconds after being electrified and oxidized, is red, that is, 304 or the material with more than 8% nickel content


Grinding spark status

Sparks are relatively scattered

Continuous long spark


Color sense

Compared with 304201 cold-rolled stainless steel plate, the surface is white

Compared with 201304 cold-rolled stainless steel plate, it is gray (the actual observation is not obvious, but the difference can still be seen)


Surface tactility

Compared with 304,201 cold-rolled stainless steel plate, the surface is more slippery; Slightly fold a corner of 201 cold-rolled stainless steel plate. After release, it will basically remain in its original state. If it is 304, it will have relatively obvious bending deformation


1. It is not expected to purchase 304 stainless steel at the market price of 201 stainless steel;

2. Select enterprises with good reputation for procurement.

Not only through the verbal commitment of suppliers, but also through actual behavior to judge their credibility.

2. Chemical composition difference between 201 and 304

The following is a detailed analysis of the differences and identification methods between 201 and 304.

First, we will understand the chemical composition of stainless steel 201 and 304:

304 stainless steel is a stainless steel material grade produced according to American ASTM standards.

304 stainless steel is a common stainless steel material, and the national standard is 06Cr19Ni10.

In order to maintain the inherent corrosion resistance of stainless steel, 304 stainless steel must contain more than 18% chromium (Cr) and more than 8% nickel (Ni).

201 stainless steel belongs to 200 series stainless steel, which was used as a substitute for 300 series stainless steel during World War II.

The nickel content of 201 stainless steel is much lower than that of 304 stainless steel.

The price of 201 stainless steel is also much lower than 304 stainless steel.

201 stainless steel is mainly used for decorative tubes, industrial tubes and some shallow stretched products.

At present, there is no corresponding national standard for 201 stainless steel.

First, the brand of 201 stainless steel is 1Cr17Mn6Ni5N, and the actual production standards of 201 stainless steel vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

It should be noted that nickel can improve the toughness, heat resistance and corrosion resistance of stainless steel.

3. How to quickly distinguish 304 and 201 stainless steel?

1. Judgment of dropping liquid medicine

When purchasing stainless steel, it is necessary to identify the stainless steel material.

There are many ways to distinguish 304 and 201 stainless steel.

The most common way is to drop liquid medicine on the stainless steel surface, and judge whether the material is 304 or 201 according to the color change of the liquid medicine.

This method is convenient, but sometimes it is not applicable.

2. Judgment of grinding spark status

The second is to polish the stainless steel material, and identify 304 stainless steel or 201 stainless steel by the spark shape.

This is a common material inspection method for waste recycling personnel.

304 material sparks will form long sparks, while 201 material sparks are relatively scattered.

3. Tested by the authority

If you want an authoritative quality inspection report, you need to go to a third-party organization for chemical composition analysis.

It takes a long time and costs the most for professional institutions to detect the results.

In case of dispute, such quality inspection report is the only test method adopted by the court.

4. Spectrometer detection

The other is the spectrometer detection method, which is relatively scientific, simple, direct and commonly used for companies that purchase materials in large quantities.

The spectrometer will immediately read the element content of stainless steel, which can judge whether the material is 304 or 201, and its reliability and authority are close to the chemical analysis method of a third-party national testing center.

5. Judge whether there is magnetism

In daily life, we also use the method of magnet adsorption to judge the material.

201 material is magnetic, while 304 material is generally nonmagnetic.

Of course, some 304 materials will be magnetic due to different production processes.

Therefore, it is not recommended to distinguish 201 and 304 by the presence or absence of magnetism.

6. Judge by unit price and supplier reputation

It is not easy to distinguish 304 and 201 stainless steel by the inner eye.

When purchasing stainless steel, we suggests to first judge whether it is 201 or 304 according to the price (unit price).

Generally, 304 is about twice as expensive as 201 stainless steel.

Secondly, choose reputable merchants

The above methods can basically avoid purchasing unqualified stainless steel products.

4. Which is better, 304 or 201 stainless steel?

1. The unit price of 201 stainless steel is lower and the purchase cost is lower.

When the requirements for corrosion resistance and toughness are not high, 201 stainless steel is better.

2. 304 stainless steel has a wider scope of application and high comprehensive cost performance.

304 stainless steel is preferred when there are certain requirements for toughness, strength, corrosion resistance and durability.

3. 304 stainless steel can be used as food-grade material, while 201 stainless steel is not recommended as food-grade material.

If the corrosion resistance and the cost of later maintenance are not given priority, 201 stainless steel can be used as structural parts, decoration, nonfood contact container inner and outer liner materials, etc.

Generally, 201 stainless steel will not be used for insulation cups, kettles, etc.

However, various low-cost (made of 201 stainless steel) insulation cups, kettles, etc. are common in various roadside stalls, small shops, online stores, even shopping malls, supermarkets, etc.

When purchasing stainless steel products, please pay special attention to the material, user reputation, brand awareness and other factors of the corresponding products to avoid buying forged, low-quality, or even harmful products.

5. Procurement risk of 201 and 304 stainless steel

Fully understanding the difference between stainless steel 201 and 304 can help us better avoid procurement risks.

At present, some businesses use 201 stainless steel as 304 for transactions, which not only violates business ethics and laws, but also brings great hidden dangers to the safety of projects and equipment.

Different grades of stainless steel have different characteristics, different application scenarios, and different environmental limits.

How to identify 304 or 201 stainless steel? I hope you have already understood.

Again, I remind you to be clear-eyed and judge from all aspects to avoid being obsessed by superficial prices.

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