Are stainless steel fasteners magnetic?

A common misconception is that stainless steel is non-magnetic. There are five classes of stainless steel, and only one is non-magnetic. However, it just happens to be that the most widely used type (austenitic) is the one that is not magnetic.

Class Magnetic? Common Types
Ferritic Yes 430,442
Austenitic No 304,316
Martensitic Yes 410,416
Duplex Yes 2205, 2507
Precipitation Hardening Yes 17-4, 17-7

Magnetism has more to do with the steel’s grain microstructure than with its chemical make-up, so whether or not your stainless will be magnetic will depend on not only its microstructure, but also how it was manufactured or processed.  The most common stainless steels, 304 and 316, have an austenitic microstructure and start out life non-magnetic. However as they are manufactured from raw steel to fasteners, they go through several cold forming processes (drawing, roll threading, heading) which changes the microstructure from austenitic to martensitic, thereby making the material more magnetic.  The more cold forming, the more its microstructure is changed to martensite, and subsequently the more magnetic the fastener is likely to be.

If magnetism in austenitic stainless is not wanted, steps can be taken to limit it. Manufacturing processes can be chosen that do not cold form, i.e. cut threading vs roll threading. Alternatively, the finished fastener can go through an annealing treatment which will restore the microstructure to its original austenitic state.

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8 comments

    @Brian- 18-8 is a stainless family that encompasses many of the 300 series austenitic steels, among them 303, 304, 302 and a few others. For the purposes of this FAQ, we could lump 18-8 in with 304 stainless.

    @Tauseef- We are not aware of any fastener specific ASTM standards that include Duplex 2205, but the raw material is covered in ASTM A276 type S32205.

    Good Afternoon Dane,

    Wonder if you could help me, we purchase NON- MAG Stainless Hardware
    lately when it comes in it is magnetic, so inspection rejects the parts. I
    see it noted in your information you talk about Annealing of parts.
    Where would I have this done ? Why do you think this is happening more
    and more when my orders come it.
    Any information will be helpful.
    Kind Regards,
    Carol

    @Carol- Annealing can be done at any heat treat facility, and is a relatively simple procedure. As for why you are just now experiencing this issue, we cannot be sure. Perhaps your supplier changed manufacturers, or the manufacturer changed something about their process, it is hard to say.

    I bought the rawl bolt type fasteners that are attracted by magnets. I plan to use it underwater in my pool. will they remain rust free?

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