Scrap Metal Ferrous And Non Ferrous Metals

There are two types of metal, ferrous and non-ferrous

There are two types of scrap metal that are commonly referred to: Ferrous and Non-Ferrous. This article will explain the main differences between the metals and how you can determine them for yourself.

Ferrous Metals

We’ll first discuss ferrous metal. The most common uses of ferrous metal are machinery, cars, motors and farm implements. Most lawn mowers are made of a mixture of ferrous and nonferrous metals. The motors of smaller push mowers are generally made of aluminum (a nonferrous metal); however the deck and handle assembly is made from ferrous metals.

How do you determine if the metal you are looking at is ferrous?

These are two of the best ways you can tell if a piece is made from ferrous metals. If it is an older piece, is it rusty?

Will a magnet stick?

Iron, also known as iron ore, is the main ingredient in ferrous metal. It is magnetic and a strong material. A magnet is a great way to instantly determine if a piece of metal you are carrying is ferrous. There are exceptions to every rule. Stainless steel, another non-ferrous, is one such exception. Iron is the main ingredient in steel making. However, stainless steel of high quality has a high level of nickel (another nonferrous metal). A magnet won’t stick to it.

Does it have rust?

If you can see any rust on the item, this is the second and most common way to tell if the metal is ferrous. Rust is more likely to be found in areas that touch the ground. As a rule, rust will be more prevalent on old pieces of ferrous metal that have been exposed to the elements. Non-ferrous metals don’t rust. However, they can oxidize occasionally. This will be discussed later in the article.

Scrap Metal Buyers Must Always Have a Magnet

Non-ferrous metals, which there are many to mention, usually don’t contain iron or very little. They therefore do not make a magnetic field. A magnet is a great friend if you’re interested in scrap metal recycling, or if you plan to start a scrap metal business. A magnet that’s on a chain and has a strong magnetic charge is a good idea. This is what you will see at the scrap yard. Sometimes a weak magnet can fool you. If you’re strong and the magnet is weak you can quickly touch it and pull it off quickly. You may think you have found non-ferrous metal, but in reality it is ferrous metal. This is why I recommend that you hang your magnet from a chain. Simply waving the magnet in front a ferrous metal piece will cause it to “sway” or “be influenced” in some way.

Nonferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals do not rust, unlike their ferrous counterparts. However, some non-ferrous metals do oxidize. An oxidized metal is one that has a layer of metal on its outside. Aluminum is one of the metals that tends not to rust but oxidizes. It is a similar process, but the metal lacks iron, so the oxidation appears whiter and flaky rather than reddish-colored and porous.

Here’s a list non-ferrous metals that are most frequently found:


  • Copper
  • Aluminium
  • Stainless Steel
  • Brass
  • Lead
  • Platinum


Where can you find copper?

Copper is usually found in plumbing and refrigeration applications like refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners. Copper tubing can be found in small air conditioners, such as window units.

Around 2009, during a recession, there were a lot of thefts. One doctor had his air conditioner units stolen twice, according to me. After the units had been stolen once, the second time they were taken was right after they were replaced and installed. It was a huge problem, so scrap yards were forced to stop accepting aluminum/copper radiators (ACR) without any written evidence of their origin or how they were obtained, if you wanted to bring them in for scrap metal.

Where can I find aluminum…

Aluminum cans, aluminum siding, aluminum trim, and aluminum doors are some of the most common aluminum products. It was very popular in the 60’s and 70s to use aluminum for window replacements, but vinyl started replacing them. There are still people with aluminum windows and doors that need to be replaced. Be on the lookout today for scrap aluminum opportunities.

Aluminum can be used in many other areas, but motors are the best. Many components underneath a car’s hood are made of aluminum. Aluminum is used in most radiators and air conditioning condensers. Aluminum is used in the casings of the alternator and intake manifolds. Anchoring hardware can also be attached to the engine.

Lawn mower engines are another rich source of aluminum. The parts of a lawn mower engine may not all be made of aluminum. This is why it’s called “irony aluminium”.

Some car manufacturers are now using aluminum to make parts such as hoods, doors, or truck tailgates. It is a good idea to attach a magnet to the parts of your car when you bring it in for scrap metal recycling. This will allow you to see if they stick or not.

Where can I find Stainless Steel?

Restaurants and the food industry are my best sources for stainless steel. Restaurants must use stainless steel due to its cleanliness and germ-free environment. Stainless steel is also in high demand in the health care industry.

In the first half of 2012, I was selected to haul away scrap metal from about 90 Burger King restaurants across North Carolina. They were installing new drink fountains. The old soda fountain machines were to be removed by us. We hauled loads of copper, brass, and huge amounts of stainless steel from the machines.

When dealing with stainless steel, you should be cautious. Sometimes, the metal can look exactly like stainless steel but it does not contain enough nickel to make it stainless. A magnet will stick to it. This is why you must have a magnet if you plan to buy scrap metal or sell it to a scrapyard. Without a magnet you will either pay too much or look stupid.

Brass Resources…

The most common use for brass is plumbing fixtures. This includes drains, faucets and some pipes. Other good options for brass are pumps and valves. We brought many brass fittings, valves, and pumps to the scrapyard, as a result of the Burger King jobs.

How do you find Lead?

Batteries are the best source I know of to find lead.


  • Car batteries
  • Golf cart batteries
  • Backup computer batteries
  • Batteries for forklifts
  • Large diesel truck batteries


You should see the picture. Batteries contain large amounts of lead.

Because there is “battery acids” in many batteries, you need to be careful when handling them. Batteries are not accepted by many scrap yards. To be able to bring your scrap car in, you must remove the battery.

I Thought That Platinum Was Used For Jewelry?

Although platinum can be used to make jewelry, it’s not the only use for platinum. Platinum is most commonly found in catalytic converters.

The law makers needed to take action and create laws that would govern who can recycle and scrap catalytic convertors. There were for a time car dealerships who had catalytic converters removed from their cars, sometimes dozens at a moment, right on the lot.

Law enforcement agencies and lawmakers had to act quickly before more cars were stolen. There are now laws that prohibit scrap yards from purchasing catalytic convertors unless there is documented proof. Sometimes, even the best documented proof is not enough. The law makers took this case seriously to protect business owners against criminals, as catalytic converters can be very costly to replace. They can also be very expensive to replace if you have the proper documentation.

Here’s a complete report on scrap metal, the differences between ferrous metals and non-ferrous metals, how to distinguish them and where to find the most valuable.

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