Why is Galvanized Steel Magnetic? (+ 3 More Things to Know)

Yes, galvanized steel is generally magnetic. It is magnetic because it is primarily made of iron, which is a ferromagnetic material. 1 The process of galvanization involves coating the steel with a layer of zinc, 2 which does not affect the magnetic properties of the underlying iron.

Well, this was just a simple answer. But there are few more things to know about this topic which will make your concept super clear.

So let’s dive right into it.

Key Takeaways: Why is Galvanized Steel Magnetic?

  • Galvanized steel is magnetic because it contains iron, which is a ferromagnetic material.
  • The galvanization process involves coating steel with zinc, but the magnetic properties of the underlying iron are retained.
  • Temperature affects the magnetic behavior of galvanized steel, and it loses its magnetic properties beyond the Curie temperature.

Explanation: Why is galvanized steel magnetic?

Galvanized steel is magnetic due to the presence of iron in its composition. The process of galvanization involves coating steel with a layer of zinc, which enhances its corrosion resistance. 3 However, the underlying steel retains its magnetic properties since zinc is non-magnetic.

Galvanized steel’s magnetic nature originates from the fact that it is primarily composed of iron. Iron is a ferromagnetic material, meaning it can be magnetized and attracts magnets. 

During the galvanization process, steel is coated with a layer of zinc to protect it from rust and corrosion. 4 While zinc itself is non-magnetic, it does not significantly affect the magnetic properties of the underlying steel.

Thus, the galvanized steel maintains its magnetic characteristics due to the retained presence of iron in its structure.

This combination of corrosion resistance and magnetic properties makes galvanized steel widely used in various applications where both properties are desirable, such as in construction, automotive manufacturing, and household appliances. 5

How does the magnetic strength of galvanized steel compare to other magnetic materials?

The magnetic strength of galvanized steel is relatively weaker compared to certain other magnetic materials, such as pure iron or steel alloys with higher iron content. This is because the galvanizing process introduces a layer of non-magnetic zinc on the surface of the steel, which somewhat reduces its overall magnetic properties.

Galvanized steel’s magnetic strength is influenced by the presence of zinc coating, which creates a barrier between the underlying steel and external magnetic fields.

While the core of galvanized steel remains ferromagnetic due to its iron content, the zinc layer’s non-magnetic nature acts as a magnetic insulator, leading to a slightly weaker magnetic response compared to materials with a higher iron concentration. 

In contrast, pure iron or steel alloys with higher iron content have a stronger magnetic attraction due to the absence of a non-magnetic barrier.

As such, the magnetic strength of galvanized steel is sufficient for many practical applications but might not match the performance of materials optimized for high magnetic permeability.

How does temperature affect the magnetic behavior of galvanized steel?

Temperature can significantly affect the magnetic behavior of galvanized steel. As the temperature increases, the magnetic properties of galvanized steel tend to weaken or even disappear. This phenomenon is known as the Curie temperature or Curie point. 6

The Curie temperature is the temperature at which a ferromagnetic material, such as galvanized steel, loses its ferromagnetic properties and becomes paramagnetic.

When galvanized steel is heated beyond its Curie temperature, the thermal energy disrupts the alignment of the atomic magnetic dipoles, causing the material to lose its magnetic characteristics. At this point, galvanized steel will no longer exhibit a significant magnetic attraction or response to magnetic fields.

The Curie temperature of galvanized steel depends on its composition, particularly the percentage of iron present. Different alloys and grades of galvanized steel may have different Curie temperatures.

For example, the Curie temperature of pure iron is around 770°C (1,418°F), 7 while for galvanized steel alloys, it may range from a few hundred to several hundred degrees Celsius. It’s essential to consider the Curie temperature when selecting or using galvanized steel in applications where temperature variations or high temperatures are expected.

Further reading

Is Tungsten Magnetic?
Is Pyrite Magnetic?
Is Light a Matter?
Is Energy a Matter?
Is Heat a Matter?

About author

Jay is an educator and has helped more than 100,000 students in their studies by providing simple and easy explanations on different science-related topics. He is a founder of Pediabay and is passionate about helping students through his easily digestible explanations.

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  1. Ferromagnetism | Definition, Cause, Examples, Uses, & Facts. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/ferromagnetism
  2. Galvanization – Wikipedia. (2019, November 10). Galvanization – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galvanization
  3. Ozturk, F., Evis, Z., & Kilic, S. (2017). 3.12 Hot-Dip Galvanizing Process. Comprehensive Materials Finishing, 178–190. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-803581-8.09175-x
  4. Galvanizing | Hot-dip, Zinc Coating, Corrosion Protection. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/technology/galvanizing
  5. Hot-dip galvanization – Wikipedia. (2013, November 1). Hot-dip Galvanization – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot-dip_galvanization
  6. Curie temperature – Wikipedia. (2020, January 21). Curie Temperature – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curie_temperature
  7. Umich.edu https://mse.engin.umich.edu/internal/demos/curie-point-of-iron

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