When you go shopping for stainless steel sinks, you will hear or see “18 gauge” and “18/10″ are mentioned together and you may be confused by the number 18 in both. OK, let’s make it clear this time…
Basically GAUGE refers to the thickness of the stainless steel sheet used for the fabrication of sinks. It has nothing to do with the chromium/nickel contents in the stainless steel.
Technically speaking, the gauge number refers to the number of times the stainless steel material has to go through a series of narrow gaps. Each subsequent gap is smaller. So a lower gauge number indicates the sheet is thicker.
Typically 18 gauge is used to fabricate most standard sinks. 16 gauge or lower is used for square or apron-front sinks. 20 gauge is often used for small bar sinks which do not require a thick material to stay strong enough.
Chromium/nickel contents are mentioned almost always together. 18/10 steel means that chromium content is about 18% and nickel about 10%, which is usually the case for T304 steel that is used for almost all the sinks out there on the market. The chromium content controls the lustre, durability and corrosion protection properties of the steel, while the nickel content affects the hardness and strength of the steel. For more information on Cr/Ni contents, please click here.
Note that T304 steel is surgical grade which should last a life time if you do not intentionally subject the steel to harsh chemicals for a prolonged time. That is why most stainless steel sink manufacturers or suppliers can offer at least 15-year warranty if not lifetime warranty. If you know the skill, you can literally restore the freshness and lustre of any stainless steel sink to its original state. That explains why stainless steel sinks are superior to sinks made of other materials, including the increasing popular Silgranite or Moenstone.
Best of all, stainless steel is chemical free and much safer than any other materials that are made with resin. Remember the fact that all stainless steel sinks are made of T304 steel which is surgical grade? If you want to stay away cancer, stay with stainless steel and away from silgranite or acrylic materials.