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The Wonder Of Stainless Steel
Anyone with a glass shower will have no doubt about the qualities it offers. On a light spring or summer morning the natural illumination of the sun will shine through, sparkling as it reflects off the water, adding a delightful sense of brightness and warmth that combines with the soap and water to leaves you feeling wonderfully refreshed.
On a dark morning in winter, the same effect is not quite so powerful, but the fact that the glass maximises the amount of artificial light that can reach you in the shower is a welcome fact when there is little or no natural light to rely on.
However, holding all that glass in pace requires something much firmer. Your choices essentially come down to three possible materials: plastic, aluminium and stainless steel.
While plastic is waterproof and can be made very tough, many people love the shiny, stylish look of metal. Of course, the fact that most kinds of metal can corrode in water reduces the choices of what can make up shower hardware parts somewhat.
This is where stainless steel stands out. The term is not used for only one kind of material, but a series of different, but similar alloys. Steel is, after all, itself an alloy combining iron with carbon to give it extra strength. But what makes stainless steel heat and corrosion-resistant is the inclusion of between ten and 30 per cent chromium.
In addition to the qualities of chromium, the corrosion-resistance can be increased further through the inclusion of metals such as aluminium, nickel, titanium and copper, as well as other elements such as phosphorous, selenium, nitrogen and sulphur.
The process of making stainless steel involves initial melting in furnaces followed by refining in another vessel, which lowers the carbon content. Another method is to inject a mix of oxygen and argon into the melted steel to turn carbon into carbon monoxide in a way that prevents oxidisation and the loss of chromium.
All this may sound technical, but the key take-home fact is that stainless steel is made in such a way that enables it to have all the strength of normal steel, but also other qualities that prevents the oxidisation process that causes rust. This makes it useful in numerous ways.
The result of that is that, just as stainless steel cutlery can be washed and dried a thousand times and used over and over, cars can drive through the rain and girders on buildings survive endless downpours, so the stainless steel fixtures and fittings in your shower, from door handles to shower heads, from brackets to u-channels, can all handle every bit of water splashed on them.
Of course, when you are enjoying a lovely warm shower, the names of various elements melted into white-hot steel in a refining plant will be a long way from your mind - unless of course you work in one and have just got home after clocking off. But the qualities of stainless steel fixtures and fittings in your shower are something you will value for many years to come.