kitchen faucet

Faucets Guide: What’s the best faucet material?

Faucets can be made of any material that will hold water, including wood, glass, plastic, ceramics, bronze, copper, brass, stainless steel, and zinc alloys. Brass and stainless steel are the most common. Plastic faucets are produced for the low-end market with a low budget. Some manufacturers use brass for the faucet body and zinc alloy for the handle to keep costs down. Let’s dive into the features of each faucet material.

faucet material

Most common faucet material: Brass

kitchen faucet 1 Faucets Guide: What's the best faucet material?

The most commonly used material for faucets is brass, an alloy of copper and zinc with small amounts of other metals. Adding lead to brass makes it easier to form, but it is hazardous to health. Now the maximum lead content in a faucet is 0.25%. To comply with the restrictions on lead, people have made great efforts to eliminate lead from faucets, replacing it with other additives like bismuth.

Adding aluminum makes the brass more durable and corrosion-resistant for applications in salt-rich environments.

When exposed to water, brass loses zinc over time, making the remaining brass fragile and full of wholes. Adding Tin can counter this process, which is called dezincification.

The copper in brass is anti-microbial. Even though no one knows how it works, the fact is it kills bacteria. Many fungi (mold) and most bacteria cannot survive in the presence of copper. In a test done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on E. coli colonies, 99.9% of the colonies were killed two hours after exposure to brass.

Brass is an excellent material for faucets, featuring excellent corrosion resistance, relatively low melting point, easy to cast, ability to be well treated with chrome plating and other surface treatments. And it is easy to recycle.

brass bars Faucets Guide: What's the best faucet material?
brass bars

Excellent faucet material : stainless steel

kitchen faucet

Stainless Steel is also an excellent high-grade material for manufacturing faucets.

Steel is more difficult to cast and process than brass because it’s harder than brass and has a higher melting point. However, it does not contain lead, which is a big plus in today’s regulatory environment.

 The 304 or 316 stainless steel used in faucets contains 18% chromium and 8-10% nickel. Nickel gives steel a unique crystal structure, thereby increasing its strength and ductility. Chromium helps steel resist corrosion. A small amount of molybdenum (2-3%) is added to 316 steel to improve acid resistance. Both of these alloys are austenitic steels, which means they are low-magnetic or non-magnetic.

So far, 304 stainless steel is the most commonly used alloy for producing faucets. However, 316 stainless steel, known as marine-grade stainless steel, has excellent resistance to pitting, corrosion, and staining, especially in acid or salt environments. It is considered a better material for manufacturing kitchen faucets, but it costs more. Only a few manufacturers use it for producing faucets.

Even more confusing is that 304 stainless steel has two commonly used grades. More generally, it is 18/8, which represents the ratio of chromium to nickel in the alloy: 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Stainless steel faucets are usually made of 18/8 stainless steel. However, some stainless steel faucets are made of 18/10 stainless steel, a slightly better grade with 10% nickel. It is used to make knives, delicate cookware, and tableware. And restaurant’s quality sink. The added nickel makes the alloy harder and can take a higher degree of polish.

less expensive faucet material: zinc alloy

Cheaper faucets are usually made of zinc alloys called ZAMAK or ZAMAC, where zinc is combined with aluminum, magnesium, and copper.

Zinc is usually used to manufacture die-casting parts such as children’s toys, train models, locks, cabinet handles and knobs, zippers, and plumbing fixing devices. Faucets included. Zinc is a unique metal, dull and gray, but can be chrome-plated or other finished metal, making it indistinguishable from an all-brass faucet.

Most faucets made with zinc/ZAMAK will indicate on the packaging, sometimes indirectly.

The phrase “all-metal” on the box tells you that some parts of the faucet contain at least some zinc. If it is all brass, the package will say “all brass.” However, some companies will get tricky. For instance, “all brass body and spout” means that the handle may be zinc. “Brass construction” almost always means that some parts are zinc, rather than “all brass construction.” “All-brass faucet” is another way of saying it. Sometimes it means that the faucet is made of all brass, but it can also mean that the body of the faucet is made of brass, while some parts are not

Another sign is the weight. ZAMAK faucets are much lighter than all brass or stainless steel faucets.

However, we found that the best way to check for ZAMAK is to look inside the faucet. To quickly observe the inside of the casting, move the handle away from the connection between the casting and the valve stem. If it is gray metal, the casting is ZAMAK; if it is “coppery,” it is brass. Glancing up the spout may also help reveal the composition of the faucet without any disassembly. A penlight is handy here. A dark-gray spout is ZAMAK. If it is brown, green, or “brassy,” then it is brass.

Not all zinc and zinc alloys are bad. Auxiliary parts such as the handle and bottom plate can be made of zinc alloy without affecting the faucet’s quality. These parts do not require the strength of brass, and zinc can be used to keep the costs down. However, we don’t recommend using zinc and ZAMAK for the faucet body or spout, as they are subject to water pressure year after year. 

cheap faucet material: Plastic

Plastic is not a good material for manufacturing faucets, especially faucet bodies and spouts. Plastic is just not sturdy enough for a faucet to withstand the water pressure. Moreover, there is no reason to buy a plastic faucet because, for a few more dollars, you can always find a suitable metal faucet—maybe not all brass, but at least ZAMAK, which is much better than plastic.

However, PEX, one form of plastic, does work and works well in faucets. For more than 20 years, PEX has achieved good results in replacing copper water pipes and has been recognized as a material suitable for waterways by all national pipe codes. In many ways, it is better than copper because it is much cheaper, easier to install, and less likely to burst due to freezing.

It has only recently begun to be used in faucets, mainly in response to the low-lead requirements in the Safe Drinking Water Law that came into effect in January 2014. Because brass contains a small amount of lead, one way to reduce lead in drinking water is to replace the brass parts in the faucet that come in contact with water with something other than brass. Copper and stainless steel may be the best choices, but more and more faucet companies are using PEX’s water channels in their faucets to replace conventional brass channels.

what do you think?

What do you think is the best faucet raw material? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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