Differences Between Steel and Plastic Nozzles

Selecting the right spray nozzle for your application is not always a simple task. From nozzle size and type to material, a dozen variations exist, purposefully designed for distinct functions.

In the following content, we provide a starting point for selecting the best spray nozzle for your application. Specifically, we compare steel and plastic nozzles, two of the most common spray nozzle materials. Let’s dive in!

What Factors Should I Consider When Looking Choosing Nozzle Material?

Before diving into steel vs plastic nozzles, we need to define a few important factors to consider when selecting nozzle material: temperature, corrosion, abrasion, and cost.

1. Temperature

The environment within which your nozzle will be operating will help narrow down your options. First, consider temperature. Every material will begin to soften or melt at specific temperatures. However, some are better suited to withstand intensive temperatures, like extreme heat.

If your spray nozzle will be operating in an environment with intense temperatures, this will be extremely important to keep in mind.

2. Corrosion

Over time, corrosion is common. For example, the type of media sprayed can quicken the corrosion process. However, certain nozzle materials are corrosion-resistant, ideal for highly-corrosive environments.

3. Abrasion

Abrasion-resistance is especially important when chemicals like acids, alcohol, or oxides are being sprayed. In these environments, your nozzle material must be strong enough to withstand the abrasive effects of powerful chemicals, and certain materials are better suited for these circumstances.

4. Cost

Cost almost always plays an initial role in the selection of spray nozzles. However, choosing the most inexpensive option is usually not cost-effective in the long run. For example, materials that are corrosion resistant often cost more, but they won’t need to be replaced as often – ultimately saving time and money.

Steel vs Plastic Nozzles

Steel Spray Nozzles

First, we will take a look at steel nozzles as they fit into each of the four categories explored above.

  • Temperature: Stainless steel nozzles are excellent for hot environments. Common among hard materials, steel nozzles are suitable for above 285 degree temperatures. Thus, if your environment is extremely hot, a stainless steel nozzle may be the best solution.
  • Corrosion: however, stainless steel nozzles are not known for being extremely corrosion resistant. Though they will last for some time, if your environment is prone to corrosion and does not require extreme temperatures, another material may be better.
  • Abrasion: On its own, stainless steel is not particularly abrasion resistant. However, once hardened, steel is an excellent option for abrasive applications.
  • Cost: Finally, for the right environment, stainless steel nozzles can be cost-effective.

Plastic Spray Nozzles

Next, we will examine plastic nozzles as they fit into the aforementioned categories.

  • Temperature: As one would assume, plastic nozzles are not suited for extremely hot environments. Plastic will melt and deform in severe temperatures. Once again, in this circumstance, stainless steel is the better option.
  • Corrosion: However, plastic nozzles are particularly corrosion-resistant. This is perhaps the most attractive feature of plastic nozzles, more corrosion resistant than most common metal materials. In a particularly corrosive environment, a plastic nozzle is an ideal option.
  • Abrasion: Plastic nozzles are not suited for extreme abrasion and can wear down quickly in abrasive applications.
  • Cost: Plastic nozzles are a cost-effective option in particularly corrosive applications. However, they do not provide notable savings in a variety of other circumstances, such as extreme heat or abrasion.

What About Other Nozzle Materials?

Stainless steel and plastic are not the only nozzle materials available. A plethora of other metals and exotic materials can be used to craft spray nozzles, each suited for a unique application.

Although this article does not go in-depth on each available spray nozzle material, we will briefly touch on brass and silicon carbide, two extremely common materials.

What about brass?

Like steel, brass is suitable for high temperatures. However, it is not often chosen for corrosive or abrasive chemicals.

What about silicon carbide?

Silicon carbide is also suitable for high temperatures. Additionally, silicon carbide is often used to spray abrasive chemicals and can provide cost savings.

How Can I Extend the Life of My Nozzles?

We provide extensive research on extending the life of your spray nozzles. Proper nozzle use can prevent significant quality problems, eliminate profit loss, and extend the life of your nozzle before performing regular nozzle maintenance. Our first guideline for extending nozzle life promotes choosing the right nozzle material! 

If your application regularly utilizes corrosive chemicals and your nozzles are steel, consider switching to plastic. Alternatively, if your application requires abrasive chemicals and you are utilizing plastic, consider stainless steel. Choosing the best nozzle for your specific application will extend the nozzle's life and allow the nozzle to perform as it was intended.

Lechler: Spray Nozzles For a Variety of Environments

At Lechler, we offer an extensive variety of nozzle materials, from stainless steel and plastic to brass and a variety of exotic materials. Whatever the application, we have the nozzle – the Lechler portfolio is diversity at its best.

If you are interested in learning about the variety of Lechler’s custom engineered spray solutions, we would love to guide you through our portfolio. You can get in touch with a member of our team at (800) 777-2926 or complete our online contact form. A spray nozzle specialist will be in touch with you shortly.