Difference Between Ferrous and Nonferrous Metals

Main Difference – Ferrous Metals vs Nonferrous Metals

Ferrous and nonferrous are two important classifications of metals. The term ferrous, derived from Latin ferrum, is used in metallurgy to indicate the presence or absence of iron. Thus, the main difference between ferrous metals and nonferrous metals is their iron content; ferrous metals contain iron as a component whereas nonferrous metals do not contain iron.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Ferrous Metals
      – Definition, Properties, Uses
2. What are Nonferrous Metals
      – Definition, Properties, Uses
3. What is the difference between Ferrous and Nonferrous Metals
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Alloy, Aluminium, Brass, Corrosion, Ferrous, Lead, Metal, Nonferrous, Steel

Difference Between Ferrous and Nonferrous Metals - Comparison Summary

What are Ferrous Metals?

A ferrous metal is a metal that contains iron as an element. Ferrous metals are less corrosive resistant due to the presence of iron; iron component can be oxidized and rust may be formed on the metal surface, which results in corrosion of the metal. Although they are less resistant to corrosion, ferrous metals are used in many applications due to their durability and strength. The skyscrapers and longer bridges of the world are made of ferrous metals due to their durability. Most ferrous metals also have magnetic properties and are used in electrical applications. Ferrous metals are less expensive than nonferrous metals because they can be found all over the world.

Types of Ferrous Metals

Mild steel is used for building skyscrapers and bridges due to their durability. Stainless steel is corrosion resistant and no rust formation occurs due to their chromium content. Wrought iron actually does not exist in reality since all metals may have impurities.

Main Difference - Ferrous vs Nonferrous Metals

Figure 1: A bridge made of Ferrous Metals

What are Nonferrous Metals?

Nonferrous metal refers to any metal which does not contain iron as a component. It can be a pure metal or an alloy (a mixture of metals and other elements). Nonferrous metals are more expensive than ferrous metals due to their reduced supply.

The properties of nonferrous metals include low weight, corrosion resistance, a high degree of electrical conductivity, etc. These nonferrous metals are resistant to corrosion due to the absence of iron. Due to their low weight, nonferrous metals are used in making body parts of aircraft. The main advantage of nonferrous metals over ferrous metals is their malleability. Most nonferrous metals are non-magnetic. So they are used in wiring applications.

Types of Nonferrous Metals

  • Aluminium – This exists as an alloy of aluminium, copper, and manganese. Due to its light weight, aluminium is used in aircraft manufacturing.
  • Copper – This is a very good electrical conductor, and is used in the production of wires.
  • Lead – This metal is heavy and malleable. It can avoid corrosion in moist environments.
  • Brass – Brass is mainly made of copper and zinc. But there can be other metal or non-metal components too. It is used for decorative purposes.
Difference Between Ferrous and Nonferrous Metals

Figure 2: Nickel is also a nonferrous metal.

Difference Between Ferrous and Nonferrous Metals


Ferrous Metals: Ferrous metals are metals that contain iron as one of their components.

Nonferrous Metals: Nonferrous metals are metals that do not have iron in their composition.


Ferrous Metals: Ferrous metals essentially contain iron and other metal or non-metal elements.

Nonferrous Metals: Nonferrous metals essentially lack iron and are composed of other metal components.

Corrosion Resistance

Ferrous Metals: Ferrous metals are always corrosive except for stainless steel.

Nonferrous Metals: Nonferrous metals are non-corrosive.

Magnetic Properties

Ferrous Metals: Ferrous metals show magnetic properties.

Nonferrous Metals: Nonferrous metals do not have magnetic properties/ they are non-magnetic.


Ferrous Metals: Ferrous metals are not that much expensive due to higher supply.

Nonferrous Metals: Nonferrous metals are expensive due to reduced supply.


Ferrous Metals: Most of the ferrous metals are heavy weight metals.

Nonferrous Metals: Nonferrous metals are low weight metals.


All metals can be grouped into two groups as ferrous metals and nonferrous metals based on their iron content. Thus, the main difference between ferrous metals and nonferrous metals is that ferrous metals contain iron as a component whereas nonferrous metals do not contain iron. These metals also have different properties based on this iron content, as well as, different uses based on these properties.


1.”Ferrous & Non-Ferrous Metals and their Uses.” Castle Metals. N.p., n.d. Web. . 15 June 2017. 
2.LeBlanc, Rick. “The Basics of Metal Recycling.” The Balance. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2017. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Hot Metal bridge, Pittsburgh” By Staticshakedown – Own work via
2. “Nickel kugeln” by Von René Rausch – Eigenes Werk via

About the Author: Madhusha

Madhusha is a BSc (Hons) graduate in the field of Biological Sciences and is currently pursuing for her Masters in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry. Her interest areas for writing and research include Biochemistry and Environmental Chemistry.

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