With the growing popularity of unique, online shopping venues for your pet, people are being given the opportunity to customize their animal's leashes and collars, and this includes choosing your own hardware. What is usually looked at as a fairly uncomplicated and aesthically-driven decision -- silver, gold or black? -- might deserve more consideration than you previously thought.
In Part One of this blog series, we will discuss the pros and cons of the most commonly seen metal types: stainless steel, brass, and plated hardware.
Examples of stainless steel hardware
Stainless steel (SS) is silver in color and known for its strength, durability, resistance to rust, and low maintenance attributes. SS is significantly more expensive that other types of alloys or plated hardware.
The general perception is that stainless steel cannot ever rust, and that is simply not true. Stainless steel is highly resistant to rust. By properly caring for your hardware and choosing a shop that utilizes a quality grade of stainless steel, chances are rust will never be a problem.
There are different grades of stainless steel, the most common being 304 and 316. Grade 316 SS is considered marine grade and has the addition of molybdenum, which increases its resistance to chloride (found in salt water and de-icing salts). We only use grade 316 stainless steel here at Sloppy Chops Co., and that, combined with our lifetime warranty, should provide you with a good deal of peace of mind.
To properly care for your hardware, rinse with freshwater after exposure to salt water; don't use wire brushes or wool pads to clean your hardware; and do not leave your dog gear outdoors in the rain. When compared to other metals and alloys, stainless steel is extremely resistant to corrosion and regarded as low maintenance.
Examples of brass hardware
Brass hardware is gold in color and because of its composition -- a combination of copper and zinc -- it is impossible for brass to rust (fun fact: an alloy must contain iron in order to rust. Brass will, however, tarnish/patina/antique (whatever you want to call it) over time. This tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion that forms over the brass as the outermost layer undergoes a chemical reaction. It often appears as a dull gray or verdigris (bluish-green) film on top of metal. Tarnish is a surface phenomenon that is self-limiting, unlike rust. Only the top few layers of the metal react, and the layer of tarnish seals and protects the underlying layers from reacting. If you would like to remove this tarnish, you can use several techniques to do so: lemon juice, a combination of lemon juice and baking soda, or a combination of lemon juice and salt; allow it to sit on the hardware for a few minutes, then rinse off to help restore brass' shine.
Because of the unavoidable patina that forms on brass, there are a few important things to be aware of, especially if you own a white dog. The tarnish that forms on brass can discolor your dog's white neck fur. This is most commonly seen from brass martingale chains or dog tags. It will wash off, but some owners resent the extra maintenance involved. The patina on brass can also cause some discoloration on light-colored biothane. This discoloration almost completely disappears with soap & water, but can be further lightened with the ol' lemon juice trick mentioned above. If you are obsessive about keeping your white dog or your dogs' gear pristine, keep this in mind when choosing your hardware.
Here at Sloppy Chops Co., we only use solid brass hardware. Much of the brass hardware seen on pet products is simply brass-plated (see below), meaning that there is a thin layer of brass over a steel or zinc base. Brass-plated hardware will have a much shorter lifespan than solid brass, and will deteriorate over time.
Pertaining to cost, brass usually comes in just under the cost of stainless steel. Brass is a beautiful, durable option, but if you have a white dog or you find the patina that forms on brass to be bothersome, it can be considered by some to be high maintenance. In our experience, people seem to absolutely love brass...or not.
Examples of plated and powdercoated hardware
Plated hardware is extremely common in the dog industry. It is comprised of a base metal (usually steel, but sometimes brass) that has a plating of another metal on top of it. Most commonly you will see: steel that is plated with nickel, brass, zinc, or an "antiqued" metal (such as copper, brass, nickel, etc.); brass that is plated with chrome or nickel; or even a fancy plating such a rose gold.
Plated hardware has its benefits. These are most commonly cost, aesthetics, and that it is lightweight. Plated hardware resists corrosion, but is definitely more apt to rust/corrode than stainless steel and brass. If your pup's hardware will frequently be exposed to the elements, plated hardware is likely not the best choice for you.
Another subsection of this plated category also includes powdercoated hardware. This is our black hardware, which is a steel base plated with nickel, and the powder-coated to obtain the black finish. The powder coating is applied electrostatically and then cured under heat which causes it to form a kind of black “skin” atop the plated hardware. This black powdercoat will wear when abraded and show the underlying metal's color (silver). The pros and cons of powdercoated hardware is the same as all other plated hardware.
The Bottom Line
- Durable; very resistant to rusting
- Low Maintenance
- Most costly
- Silver in color
- Cannot Rust
- Gold in color
- Potentially high maintenance
- Can discolor white dog fur
- Can achieve a variety of unique finishes
- More apt to rust/corrode than stainless steel or brass
I hope this information was helpful to you, will assist you in choosing your next style of hardware, and maybe even taught you something new. If you have any additional questions on finding the best hardware for you and your dog's lifestyle, feel free to contact me at email@example.com -- Laura