Galvanized vs. Stainless Steel Pallet Racking

Customers shopping for pallet rack systems often ask about the difference between galvanized vs. stainless steel pallet racking. These pallet rack systems offer many of the same benefits and aesthetic appeal, but some notable differences may influence your decision when choosing between the two.

Galvanized Pallet Racking

Galvanization is the process of coating steel in a protective layer of corrosion-resistant zinc to extend the steel product’s lifespan. Hot-dip galvanization is the process of dipping steel racking into a large bath of molten zinc and allowing it to cool. 

Galvanized pallet racking is more resistant to corrosion and rust than traditional pallet racking and is a common choice for moisture-prone storage environments. However, scratches or damage to the racking may cut through the protective zinc coating, exposing the underlying steel, which can then rust.

Galvanized pallet racking

Galvanization Process

  1. Surface Preparation: In this first step, workers remove dirt, oil, grease, and contaminants from the surface of the steel. 
  2. Acid Bath (Pickling): The cleaned steel components are submerged in a hydrochloric/sulfuric acid mixture to remove any remaining mill scale or oxidation from the steel’s surface.
  3. Fluxing: The steel is rinsed to remove the acid solution before being immersed in a flux bath (a chemical solution to promote the adhesion of the zinc).  
  4. Galvanizing Bath: Fluxed steel is dipped into a kettle filled with molten zinc at around 850-860 degrees F.
  5. Withdrawal and Drainage: Next, the steel is slowly removed from the zinc bath to allow excess zinc to drain off. 
  6. Cooling and Quenching: Zinc-coated components are air-cooled or quenched in water to speed up the process.
  7. Inspection and Quality Control: The components are visually inspected for quality and a uniform zinc coating thickness once the galvanizing process is complete.
  8. Finishing: Upon approval, the galvanized pallet racking can be further processed, including cutting, drilling, and assembling the pallet racking.

Stainless Steel Pallet Racking

Stainless steel pallet racking is made entirely from stainless steel, which is inherently rust and corrosion-resistant. Stainless steel is known for its exceptional durability and corrosion resistance, making it a strong and lasting storage solution for applications in corrosive or moisture-prone areas.

Stainless steel pallet racking has a much more involved manufacturing process than traditional carbon steel pallet racking, requiring more energy and specialized equipment to bend and shape the heavy-duty grades of stainless steel.

Stainless Steel Pallet Racking

Galvanized Vs. Stainless Steel: Side-By-Side Comparison

  • Material Composition:
    • Galvanized Pallet Racking: Galvanized racking is made from steel coated in a protective layer of zinc that stops rust and corrosion from reaching the vulnerable steel below.
    • Stainless Steel Pallet Racking: Stainless steel racking is made entirely of stainless steel, an alloy containing iron, chromium, and other elements. This concoction of ingredients is known for being exceptionally corrosion-resistant.
  • Corrosion Resistance:
    • Galvanized Pallet Racking: Galvanization provides good corrosion resistance and is suitable for indoor and outdoor applications in mildly corrosive environments.
    • Stainless Steel Pallet Racking: Stainless steel racks are exceptionally corrosion-resistant and ideal for environments with significant exposure to chemicals, moisture, and other corrosive elements.
  • Strength and Load-Bearing Capacity:
    • Both galvanized pallet racking and stainless steel racking come in various high-capacity sizes suitable for heavy-duty storage applications. 
  • Aesthetics:
    • Galvanized Pallet Racking: Galvanized steel has a silver-gray appearance.
    • Stainless Steel Pallet Racking: Stainless steel has a polished metallic appearance.
  • Maintenance:
    • Galvanized Pallet Racking: Galvanized pallet racks may require occasional touch-ups to the zinc coating, but minimal maintenance is needed.
    • Stainless Steel Pallet Racking: Stainless steel racking is low-maintenance and requires less attention than galvanized pallet racking.
  • Cost:
    • Galvanized Pallet Racking: Galvanized racks are generally more cost-effective than stainless steel pallet racking.
    • Stainless Steel Pallet Racking: Stainless steel pallet racking is generally more expensive than galvanized pallet racking due to premium materials and enhanced corrosion resistance.

Cost of Stainless Steel Vs. Galvanized Pallet Racking

Both stainless steel and galvanized pallet racking come at a higher cost than traditional steel racking. This is due to the production processes, energy, and raw material required to manufacture these unique rack styles.

Galvanized pallet racking is typically 40-50% (1.5 times) more expensive than traditional painted pallet racking. Stainless steel pallet racking is typically 10-30 times more expensive than painted pallet rack.

Galvanized pallet racking is less expensive than stainless steel because it is still made of carbon steel with only a thin coating of protective zinc. On the other hand, stainless steel racking is made entirely of stainless steel, which is much more expensive and difficult to manipulate in its raw form.

Should I Choose Galvanized or Stainless Steel Pallet Racking?

The choice between galvanized and stainless steel pallet racking rides on several unique deciding factors. Here are some key considerations to help you choose the right pallet rack style for you and your storage application:

  • Storage environment
  • Storage application
  • Budget
  • Aesthetic preference
  • Level of corrosion protection needed

Some common storage applications requiring galvanized or stainless steel pallet racking include food and beverage storage, marine or offshore applications, or chemical storage. For help choosing between galvanized and stainless steel pallet racking for your storage purposes, call 800-722-5908. Using details about your application, environment, budget, and preferences, we can help you make an informed decision and design a custom storage solution to meet your needs!

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About AK Material Handling Systems

We deliver value to our customers by providing the absolute best combination of quality products, helpful customer service and competitive pricing. We specialize in warehouse layout & design, pallet rack systems, engineered sales, mezzaninesmodular offices and completed turn-key warehouse systems. For more information email us or call (800) 722-5908