What makes stainless steel stainless ?

Stainless steel must contain at least 10.5 % chromium. It is this element that reacts with the oxygen in the air to form a complex chrome-oxide surface layer that is invisible but strong enough to prevent further oxygen from “staining” (rusting) the surface. Higher levels of chromium and the addition of other alloying elements such as nickel and molybdenum enhance this surface layer and improve the corrosion resistance of the stainless material.