While many materials can be cast, including several types of metals and synthetics, iron and steel are typically the best and most popular. Iron and steel feature excellent mechanical properties for a wide range of applications. While the two might seem similar, they have distinct differences. Let’s take a look at the difference between steel castings and iron castings.

Carbon Content

Iron and steel are both ferrous metals comprised of primarily iron atoms. Carbon composition is the main distinction between cast iron and steel. Cast iron typically contains more than 2% carbon, while cast steel often contains between 0.1–0.5% carbon. The carbon in the castings allows the material to be hard enough to be useful.


Cast iron is relatively easy to cast, as it pours easily and doesn’t shrink as much as steel. This flowability makes cast iron an ideal metal for architectural or ornate ironwork structures such as fencing and street furniture. Pouring steel is much more difficult. It is less fluid than molten iron and more reactive to mold materials. It also shrinks more when it cools, meaning more molten material needs to be poured.

Impact, Corrosion, and Wear

While steel is better when it comes to withstanding sudden impacts without bending, deforming, or breaking, iron has better corrosion resistance. Cast iron typically has better resistance to mechanical wear than steel, especially in friction-wearing situations.

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