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Ceramic vs Stainless Steel Knives: Don’t Let Rust Hurt You!

Yellow-handled box cutter with a rusty blade, displayed horizontally
A rusty box cutter can harm employees and your company’s bottom line.

When it comes to comparing ceramic vs stainless steel knives for industrial cutting tasks, there’s more to consider than the price of the tools. Your choice doesn’t have to be a tradeoff between employee safety and your company’s bottom line. If you understand the fundamental difference between ceramic and stainless steel, you’ll understand how to meet both goals.

The Difference Between Ceramic vs Stainless Steel Knives

Is there any significant difference between ceramic and stainless steel knives? Absolutely! Engineered ceramics are much harder than stainless steel. This major difference results in the greatest safety hazard posed by stainless steel knives. Can you guess why?

Stainless steel is a softer material that dulls rapidly under typical industrial use. Stainless steel blades are sharpened excessively when they are manufactured in an attempt to extend their useful cutting life. This makes a new stainless steel blade much more likely to cut you, unless you handle it very carefully.

Not all ceramic knives are created equal. Ceramic kitchen knives, for example, are also excessively sharpened so that they can easily slice produce such as tomatoes, that has hard-to-pierce skin. In fact, a ceramic kitchen knife can be even sharper than a similar knife with a stainless steel blade, so there’s no safety advantage to this kind of traditional ceramic knife.

Because Slice® ceramic knives are made from zirconium oxide, and ground using a finger-friendly® proprietary process, they are much harder and will hold their edge 11.2 times longer than stainless steel. More importantly, they’re safe to the touch, unlike any other blade on the market.

Line graph comparing Slice ceramic, high carbon steel and stainless steel blade sharpness, over time, with repeated use
Slice ceramic blades last an average of 11.2 times longer than steel blades.

Can Stainless Steel Rust?

Another critical difference between ceramic vs stainless steel knives? Ceramic knives will not rust. Ever.

The main ingredient of all steel is iron. The actual composition of the steel determines the likelihood of rust. Sometimes, steel is coated with another metal, such as zinc. The zinc sacrifices itself and rusts in the presence of oxygen, keeping the steel underneath from reverting to iron ore and eventually crumbling into dust.

Iron is commonly mixed with nickel and chromium to make stainless steel. If less than ten percent chromium is used, the resulting steel is subject to rust. Chromium also acts as a sacrificial metal and rusts on the surface, protecting the iron underneath.

Chromium doesn’t crumble apart the way the iron does as it rusts in the presence of oxygen. Instead, it forms a protective film over the iron. Nickel helps bind the layer of rusting chromium to the iron.

Because these three metals are thoroughly mixed, stainless steel is somewhat self-healing. Even if it becomes scratched or cut, a new layer of chromium rust constantly re-forms over the iron. So, not only can stainless steel rust, but it is actually in a constant state of chromium-based rust.

How Can Rust Hurt Your Organization?

Safety officer sitting at computer screen showing title of “Work Injury Claim” and showing costs of injury on screen
Injuries cause physical harm to employees and negatively impact the company’s bottom line.

Contrary to the old-wives’ tale, rust does not cause tetanus! Tetanus is caused by a bacterium, Clostridium tetani, that is most often found in dust, soil and feces. When a substance rusts, it becomes pitted with crevices and holes which collect these carriers, making a perfect environment to host bacteria. C. tetani cannot exist in the presence of oxygen, so puncture wounds are especially susceptible to tetanus infections.

Because you cannot see the layer of chromium rust, an employee may not take a minor cut from a stainless steel knife blade seriously, delaying treatment, which can result in an infection.

Cellulitis is a type of infection caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria entering an opening in the skin. It can result in severe tissue damage or even tissue death (gangrene). Cellulitis can quickly spiral out of control, spreading to an employee’s blood, bones, heart, nervous, or lymph systems. This massive systemic infection can result in shock, amputation of the affected limb, or even death.

An employee could be absent from work for one to three weeks, or longer, while being treated for an infection. Not only does your employee endure pain, suffering and potentially severe health consequences, the bottom line of your organization is going to take a big hit from what might have started out as a minor injury.

Your company may incur some level of direct costs (workers’ comp payments, medical expenses, and legal costs), but the largest impact to your bottom line will be the indirect costs:

  • training/retraining replacement employees
  • investigation of the accident
  • implementation of corrective measures as a result of your investigation
  • lost productivity
  • repairs to company equipment/property
  • costs of lowered employee morale, including...
  • absenteeism following the accident by uninvolved employees

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration calculators, a single workplace incident that results in an infection incurs $23,518 in indirect costs. But even more shockingly, it takes $783,933 in additional sales to recoup those indirect costs!   

What’s Better, Ceramic or Stainless Steel?

If you are slicing tomatoes at home in your kitchen, an ultra-sharp ceramic knife may work best, but it will still be just as dangerous as an overly-sharpened stainless steel knife. For industrial applications, you really need a safe knife, one that is only as sharp as it needs to be to accomplish the cutting task.

This is where Slice tools will give you a competitive edge. They are made from zirconium oxide ceramics, which will never rust. The most important difference is in the proprietary grinding process that results in a finger-friendly cutting edge. The double angle creates a shorter Initial Cutting Zone. This results in less risk to the user.

Graphic showing cross sections of Slice and traditional blades to illustrate the shorter Initial Cutting Zone that keeps users safer.
Slice blades have a shorter Initial Cutting Zone that helps keep users safe.

If you can avoid cuts or punctures in the first place, there is zero possibility that invisible, rust-borne bacteria will enter the wound and cause costly infections that hurt both your employees and your bottom line. If your main concern is maintaining a safe and productive workplace, while at the same time keeping costs under control, then Slice safety blades are not only the best choice, they are the only choice. When it comes to ceramic vs stainless steel knives, Slice tools have the only truly safe blades on the market.  

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