Know about Cast Iron: Properties, Production, Types, Uses, Pros and Cons


Cast iron is a metal that has mixed more than 2% of carbon with steel. Cast iron is a hard metal with a 260 Brinell scale due to the mixed carbon. Cast iron includes Silicon to improve wear resistance, and Manganese and Nickel are included to improve corrosion resistance and hardness.

Cast iron has both chemical and physical properties.  The chemical properties of cast iron improve the durability and rust resistance of the applications. Cast iron is hard and wear resist due to high physical properties.

Cast iron is made by mixing iron, steel, limestone, and carbon in higher temperatures (1,400° to 1,500° C) in the blast furnace. The produced pig iron is mixed with various percentages of carbon, silicon, manganese, magnesium, and nickel to make different types of cast iron. The most used cast iron types are grey cast iron, white cast iron, malleable cast iron, and ductile cast iron. 

Due to the higher hardness,  wear resistance, and thermal conductivity, cast iron is used in these 3 industries such as automotive, construction, agricultural, and home improvements. You can cut the cast iron using a diamond grit saw blade and carbide-tipped saw blade efficiently. You can use a cobalt drill bit for efficient drilling.

Although cast iron is a hard, wear-resistant and well thermal conductive metal, there are pros and cons. More weight, higher brittleness, slow heat distribution, and acidic reactivity are the cons of cast iron, and higher durability, corrosion resistance, excellent heat retention, and versatility are the pros of cast iron. 

Cast iron is used in many projects in the world. Those are the Eiffel Tower, Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale, Capitol Dome, Washington D.C., Cast Iron Buildings in SoHo, New York City, and Pont Alexandre III, Paris.

Cast Iron is not a toxic metal. But you should not cook acidic food in cast iron pans. Acidic food will decay the steel in the cast iron pan, and it will affect the health badly.

What are the Chemical Properties of Cast Iron?

Chemical properties are the characteristics observed during a substance’s interaction with other matter, causing it to change its chemical composition. The significance of chemical properties are the ability to predict how a substance can behave under different conditions or when combined with others.

The chemical properties of cast iron greatly contribute to its durability and rust resistance, qualities that make it desirable for several applications.

Chemical PropertiesValues and Description
Iron (Fe)95% Provide the fundamental metallic properties.
Carbon (C)2.1% – 4% This imparts hardness and strength to the cast iron. However,
high carbon content can also make the material brittle.
Silicon (Si)1-3% Silicon enhances cast iron’s resistance to wear and improves its ability
to resist oxidation.
Manganese (Mn)0.5% – 1% This element aids in the hardenability and strength of the material.
Phosphorus (P)0.02% – 1% Phosphorus can increase fluidity when cast iron is melted, but high
levels can make it brittle.
Sulfur (S)0.02% – 0.8% Sulfur is known to control the melting temperature of the material
and enhance machinability, but high levels can also make it brittle.
Trace elements<0.01% – Elements like chromium, molybdenum, and nickel may be present in tiny amounts, often added to create different types of cast iron with enhanced properties.

What are the Physical Properties of Cast Iron?

Physical properties refer to the qualities that can be observed or measured without changing a substance’s chemical identity. These properties play a critical role in determining the applicability of a material. They major physical properties of a metal are color, hardness, density, and melting point.

Cast iron has a unique set of physical properties that make it a reliable material choice for various projects. Here’s a table to help visualize:

Physical PropertiesValues and Description
Density7.2 g/cm³, 
ColorPredominantly dark grey, but can vary depending on the specific type of
cast iron. White cast iron is white or light grey and ductile cast iron can
be silver in color.
Melting PointBetween 1260 to 1480°C
Hardness5.5 on the Mohs scale
183 – 234 Brinell Scale
Compressive Strength600 MPa
Tensile Strength150 to 200 MPa. 
Thermal Conductivity55 W/mK
Specific Heat Capacity460 J/kg.K

How to Make Cast Iron?

The Iron ore is melting in the blast furnace between 1,400° to 1,500° C temperature by making the pig iron. Pig Iron is the main ingredient in cast iron production. Pig iron has 3.8 – 4.7 % of carbon and silicon, which are essential for cast iron. Then pig Iron is re-melting by adding substantial quantities of iron, steel, limestone, and carbon (coke).

Coke is used to for getting carbon, and limestone is used as a purifying agent, reacting with impurities present in the iron ore to form slag. Therefore the slag can be removed easily. The controlled addition of carbon and silicon to the iron forms cast iron. The carbon content is 2–3.5%, and the silicon content 1–3%. The amount of carbon will harden the cast iron and silicon can improve the wear resistance of the cast iron.

The blast furnace is the common method to produce cast iron even in modern technology. But it is used newer techniques, such as the use of electric induction furnaces are gaining traction. This furnace can control the temperature over the process and composition, leading to higher-quality cast iron.

What are the 4 Types of Cast Iron?

cast iron types

1. Grey Cast Iron

  • Mixed Metals: Contains approximately 2.5 – 4% carbon and 1-3% silicon by weight.
  • Strength: Known for excellent machinability and vibration damping.
  • Usage: Often used in engine cylinder blocks, pipes, and cookware.
  • Hardness: 260 Brinell scale

2. White Cast Iron

  • Mixed Metals: Contains silicon approximately (0.7%) and carbon (3.4%) by weight. Carbon and silicon are more than Grey Cast Iron, resulting in a white crystalline structure.
  • Strength: Noted for its high hardness and wear resistance.
  • Usage: Commonly used in abrasive wear applications such as grinding mill liners and cement mixers.
  • Hardness: 450 Brinell scale

3. Malleable Cast Iron

  • Mixed Metals: Approximately 2.5-4% carbon and 1-2% silicon.
  • Strength: After a heat treatment process called “annealing,” it becomes more ductile and less brittle than White Cast Iron.
  • Usage: Ideal for heavy-duty electrical fittings and farm equipment due to its strength and ductility.
  • Hardness: 130 Brinell scale

Ductile (Nodular) Cast Iron

  • Mixed Metals: Contains approximately 0.4% of Manganese, 1% Nickel, 0.4% Magnesium, and Carbon 3.4% by weight.
  • Strength: It exhibits strengths, ductility, and shock resistance that rival those of steel.
  • Usage: Typically found in gears, axles, and automotive suspension components.
  • Hardness: 170 Brinell scale

What are the Usages and Equipment of Cast Iron?

Cast iron is mostly mainly in these industries such as automotive, construction, agricultural, and home equipment. Cast iron is used in these industries due to its higher density and high heat resistance applications. According to the Brinell scale, Cast Iron has a higher hardness (183 – 234).

  • Cookware: Cast iron pans, pots, and griddles are highly sought after for their superb heat retention and even distribution, making them perfect for a variety of cooking methods.
  • Stove and Fireplace Components: Cast iron’s heat-resistant quality makes it an ideal material for wood-burning stoves and fireplace backs, where it efficiently radiates heat into the room.
  • Automotive Parts: Due to its excellent strength and durability, cast iron is often used in engine blocks, brake rotors, and disc brake calipers, where it withstands high stress and heat.
  • Piping and Plumbing: The strength, durability, and corrosion resistance of cast iron make it suitable for underground water lines, drain pipes, and sewage systems.
  • Furniture: Outdoor and patio furniture often use cast iron for its robustness and resistance to weathering, lending a classic touch to the designs.
  • Construction Industry: In construction, cast iron provides strength and durability to structural elements like I-beams and foundations, bearing heavy loads over time.
  • Agricultural Tools: The durability of cast iron means it’s ideal for making heavy-duty farming tools and machinery, able to withstand harsh outdoor conditions.
  • Railways: Cast iron finds application in railways for tracks, engine parts, brake shoes, and more, as its strength and durability ensure long life and low maintenance.
  • Manhole Covers: Cast iron is commonly used for manhole covers due to its weight, which prevents them from being displaced accidentally or by water pressure in the sewer system.
  • Weight Training Equipment: Cast iron’s density and durability make it an excellent choice for weightlifting equipment like dumbbells and weight plates, where its mass-to-volume ratio is a key consideration.

Read More About – How to Drill Cast Iron: 7 Step Guide

What are the 5 Pros and Cons of Cast Iron?


Pros of Cast Iron

  • Excellent Heat Retention: Cast iron cookware, notably, is known for maintaining heat well, ideal for slow cooking and frying.
  • Higher Durability: Cast iron’s robustness makes it a popular choice for applications requiring long-lasting materials, such as automotive parts or construction beams.
  • Corrosion Resistance: Thanks to its protective oxide layer, cast iron has good resistance to rust, particularly when painted or coated.
  • Cost-Effective: Relative to other metals with similar properties, cast iron can be cheaper to produce and purchase.
  • Versatility: Its durability, heat resistance, and machinability make cast iron versatile for various applications, from cookware to construction.

Cons of Cast Iron

  • More Weight: Cast iron is heavier than many other materials, which can make installation, transportation, or handling challenging.
  • Higher Brittleness: While durable, cast iron is also brittle and can crack under stress or when dropped, unlike steel or other ductile metals.
  • Slow Heat Distribution: While it retains heat well, cast iron can take a while to heat evenly, a factor to consider in cooking or other thermal applications.
  • Acidic Reactivity: When used in cookware, cast iron can react with acidic or alkaline foods, possibly altering the flavor or color.
  • Regular Maintenance: Cast iron requires regular seasoning (in the case of cookware) or protective coatings to prevent rusting.

Read More About – Know About Titanium: Properties, Production, Grades, Types, and Usage

What are the 5 Popular Cast Iron Projects In the World?

  1. Eiffel Tower: Eiffel Tower is not entirely made of cast iron. It is made by mixing cast iron and steel. This iconic structure is in Paris, France. This is an example of the early use of cast iron in large-scale construction.
  2. Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale: Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale is located in across the river Seven in Shropshire, England. The bridge was made of cast iron, and it was completed in 1781.
  3. Capitol Dome, Washington D.C.: The dome of the United States Capitol building is an impressive structure made of 8,909,200 cast iron grids. The dome was completed in 1866, and it is a symbol of the United States and its government.
  4. Cast Iron Buildings in SoHo, New York City: The SoHo neighborhood in Manhattan is renowned for its cast-iron architecture. Cast iron was used in the construction of many buildings there in the late 19th century. The Haughwout Building and the E.V. Haughwout and Company Building are notable examples for cast iron architecture..
  5. Pont Alexandre III, Paris: A beautiful and elaborately decorated cast iron bridge spanning the River Seine in Paris, completed in 1900.

Is Cast Iron Toxic Metal?

Cast iron is not a toxic metal. But acidic foods should not cook in cast iron pans. Because cast iron can react with iron, and it will be toxic to humans. Before using a cast iron pan you should properly seasoned and maintain it because it can rust. The rust is not good for health. 

Finally, some vintage or antique cast iron cookware might have been made with processes that included harmful substances. For example, lead was sometimes used in the casting process. If you are considering using antique or second-hand cast iron, it may be a good idea to test for lead.