Tips For Separating Metal Scrap By Type

One of the most popular ways that many people are making extra money these days is by gathering scrap metal to recycle with the local metal recycling facility. Since these facilities pay by weight for metal, the more you collect, the better. However, you need to be able to identify the type of metal you're dealing with, because some are worth more than others. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to help you identify what type of metal you're dealing with.

What Does It Look Like?

The first thing to consider is just what the metal looks like. For example, lead is fairly heavy with a dull grey finish. Stainless steel, on the other hand, has a shiny light grey finish and is moderately heavy. Steel can be pretty heavy as well, and is either dark grey or finished with enamel. Aluminum is light grey and is very light in weight.

Where Did You Get It From?

Next, think about where you got the metal from. Sometimes that alone can tell you exactly what kind it is. For example, if it's brown or slightly red and it's in a wire sheath or part of a plumbing fixture, it's most likely copper. Similarly, if you're looking at an appliance or lawn mower, it's most likely steel. Food cans, storm doors, household gutters, and similar items are typically made from aluminum, while most car parts, railings and the like are made from stainless steel. You'll also find some metal that resembles brass in high-pressure fittings.

Is It Magnetic?

Trying to tell the difference between steel and aluminum can be challenging. If you're not sure which is which, the easiest way to determine it is by using a magnet. Ferrous metals, like steel, will stick to magnets. Aluminum is a non-ferrous metal, so it does not have any magnetic properties to it.

Some metal scrap recycling facilities will only take ferrous or non-ferrous metals for their recycling process. Make sure you know what your local facility accepts before you start sorting things out. You may need to visit more than one to sell all of the scrap metal that you collect. It can even be helpful to keep a list of which location accepts what type.

How Does It Spark?

If you have a small grinding wheel, you can also determine what kind of metal you have based on how it sparks. For example, nickel creates deep red sparks while titanium usually generates bright white ones. Iron typically produces yellow sparks. If it doesn't spark at all, that tells you the metal you've found is non-ferrous, which helps narrow it down for you. Long spark streams often result from alloy steel, though tungsten and similar metals will generate very short spark streams.

When you do this test, always be cautious about the sparks. Don't get in the way of the spark trail so that you don't risk getting burned. Just touch the grinding wheel to the surface of the metal briefly. That way, you can see the spark result without damaging the metal you want to get paid for.

Many places reduce what you earn if they have to separate the metal, because they will weigh it all together under one flat price per ounce instead of calculating individual metal rates. That's why it's always best to separate the metals before you go, making the pricing process easier. Knowing what you're looking at will help you ensure that you can separate your metals properly and stand a better chance of getting more money for your scrap metal collection efforts.