Stainless steel countertops are generally tough kitchen structures. Their main component is stainless steel and it is naturally resistant to scratches, cuts, corrosion, and rust. This is because of the protective chromium and oxide layer it has on its surface. This protective coating is formed by a process called passivation, a metallurgical phenomenon that occurs when chromium is exposed to oxygen. In passivation, oxygen causes the chromium in stainless steel to form a thin, invisible film on the surface. This shiny layer protects stainless steel from the negative effects of oxygen-rich air and water.
However, stainless steel cannot always be corrosion-resistant. It can slowly corrode when exposed to various elements such as saltwater, too much or too little oxygen, high temperatures, acidic substances, hydrogen sulfide gases, and even minute particles that can be embedded on the surface.
Once exposed to these elements, stainless steel can begin to corrode which can start the rust formation on its surface. Some of the different types of corrosion in stainless steel are weld decay, pitting corrosion, intergranular corrosion, rouging, stress corrosion cracking, crevice corrosion, galvanic corrosion, sulphide stress cracking, and contact corrosion. When stainless steel begins to have these types of corrosion, then stainless steel countertops can begin to rust and eventually crack.
Cracks in stainless steel countertops
Pitting corrosion happens when stainless steel countertops are deprived of oxygen. However, this type of corrosion hardly happens because stainless steel kitchen countertops are found in oxygen-rich home environments. Weld decay and intergranular corrosion occurs when the countertops are exposed to very high temperatures during welding. This can cause the stainless steel to erode during the manufacturing process. Stainless steel countertops can get stress corrosion cracking when the stainless steel is continually exposed to saltwater. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide gases or liquids causes sulphide stress cracking on stainless steel countertops.
Cracks in stainless steel countertops hardly occur under normal circumstances. It is only under extreme instances like too much exposure to acidic substances, hydrogen sulfide gases, extremely high temperatures, and saline water that they corrode, rust, and crack. Such circumstances commonly occur in highly-industrialized settings and not in ordinary home kitchens.
Residential stainless steel countertops normally do not crack. Most of them can last many years and only begin to accumulate scratches, scuffs, and cuts because of normal exposure to food preparation activities. However, when stainless steel countertops are continually exposed to acidic substances like vinegar or wine, crevice corrosion can form. Rouging can also occur when stainless steel countertop surfaces are repeatedly scratched and scuffed by sharp knives or heavy kitchen equipment with wheels and rollers. These two types of corrosion can start the formation of rust on stainless steel countertops and eventually make them crack.
How to prevent stainless steel countertop cracking
You can prevent your countertops from rusting and eventually cracking by avoiding acidic substance spillage. Wine or vinegar that comes into contact with your countertop surface can prevent the protective coating from forming and corrode your countertop from the inside out. Also, avoid using sharp knives or dragging heavy equipment across the surface to prevent the protective coating from stripping off. Remember that corrosion can damage your stainless steel countertop from the inside, making it brittle and easy to crack.