Steel wool, also known as wire wool or wire sponge, is a bundle of strands of very fine soft steel filaments. It is used as an abrasive in finishing and repair work for polishing wood or metal objects, cleaning household cookware, and sanding in light painting.
Steel wool is made from low-carbon steel (low enough to be close to plain iron). It is not made by drawing "steel wool wire" through a tapered die, but rather by a process more like broaching where a heavy steel wire is pulled through a toothed die that removes a thin wire shaving.
Steel wool is commonly used by woodworkers and craftsmen working with paint, lacquer and varnish.
Steel wool should not be used on oak, because remaining traces of iron may react with tannins in the wood to produce blue or black iron stain. Bronze wool or stainless steel wool may be used to avoid the scenario described above that occurs with oak.
Steel wool is often used for professional cleaning processes, not only on wooden surfaces, but also on glass, because it is softer than these materials. For household cleaning use in many countries, steel wool is sold under various trade names as soap-impregnated pads.
Another use for steel wool is in rodent control. Small holes are plugged with coarse grade steel wool, which, if gnawed on by rodents, causes extreme pain in the mouth and, if ingested, severe internal damage leading to death.
When steel wool is heated it increases in mass due to the combination of burning iron with oxygen.
Very fine steel wool is sometimes carried for use as tinder in emergency situations, as it burns even when wet and can be ignited by fire, a spark, or by connecting a battery to produce joule heating.
In Europe, steel wool products are supplied in a range of grades from the coarser grades 5 and 6 to the very fine grade 0000. Rust-free (stainless) steel wool is also available.
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- Jessica Elzea Kogel; Nikhil C. Trivedi, James M. Barker, Stanley T. Krukowski (2006). Industrial Minerals & Rocks (7th ed.). SME. p. 156. ISBN 9780873352338. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- "Steel wool: low-cost, do-everything home and shop material". Popular Science (Bonnier Corporation) 208 (5): 124. May 1976. ISSN 0161-7370. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- Trade names for soap-impregnated steel wool pads include Brillo Pad, Chore Boy, S.O.S Soap Pad
- Seymour E. Freedman (1970). The book of Kashruth: a treasury of Kosher facts and frauds. Bloch Publishing Company. p. 148. Retrieved 2009-07-21.