If you’re looking at doing some Metal recycling in Melbourne, then it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with the types of metal you’re recycling and what each of their qualities are. This blog will also help you identify metals so you can easily figure out what type of scrap metal you actually have. Differentiating between different types of metals is a useful skill to have in general as well.

A metal is a compound, alloy or element that holds various types of mechanical, electrical and physical properties. Identifying metal can be difficult to do when relying on just sight, so, in today’s blog, we’re going to have a look at some ways you can differentiate between effectively.


Iron is one of the most common metals on Earth. Its pure, raw form is very rarely seen however as it mixes with oxygen quite quickly, making it hard to mine in its pure form. The iron that we think of is actually combined with other alloys to create things such as steel. Pure iron has a silvery-white appearance but is most commonly seen as having a reddish/brown colour. 

This is due to the fact that iron corrodes and rusts quite heavily in moist air. Iron conducts both heat and electricity extremely well and is highly magnetic. This is why the North and South pole exist – because the Earth’s core is made up of so much iron. The best way to test if your metal is iron or not is to put a magnet to it – if attraction occurs then you have yourself an iron alloy. You can also try a spark test if you have a grinding wheel and compare the sparks to a classification chart.


Steel has various physical appearances depending on the alloy. Steel cutlery will have a shiny silver look whereas carbon steel – which is commonly used in piping – has a darker brown colour.

Steel has some magnetic properties and is also a very good heat conductor – less so with electricity but still a little conductive. It is also resistant to corrosion as well as heat and wind. It is these qualities that make it one of the most durable metals out there. Because steel is mostly made out of iron, you can tell if it is steel by testing magnetic attraction. You can differentiate between iron and steel because they do look physically different.


Copper is commonly used in wiring and is one of the few metals that has a natural colour of bronze – as opposed to silver. Pure copper actually looks more on the red side and only has a tarnished look when it is exposed to air. The biggest characteristic of copper is the fact that it’s highly conductible when it comes to both heat and electricity. It is because of this that it is used in things such as wiring and radiators. Copper does not corrode at all and is highly ductile – meaning that it can be twisted, bent and reshaped without losing its strength and integrity. It is also a non-magnetic alloy. 

Because of their physical similarities, copper is often mistaken for brass – but there are other ways that you can tell. Obviously putting a magnet to copper will yield no attraction as copper is not magnetic. When cleaned, copper will show a pink tone – just like when it is exposed to oxygen or water it can show turn green or black in some spots. If you tap copper, it will make a deep, mellow sound in comparison to brass – which lets off a high-pitch tone.


Aluminium is the third most abundant element in the world behind oxygen and silicon. It makes up approximately 8% of the Earth’s crust based on mass alone. Aluminium is a material that is used in excess around the world. Tins, foil and airplane parts are just a few of the examples of things that use aluminium. The physical appearance of aluminium is usually silver but can be dull grey as well and anywhere in between the two.

Because of its fantastic reflective properties, it’s an ideal candidate to be used for solar technology. It’s also non-corrosive and conducts heat and electricity excellently. Some of its other attributes include the fact that it’s lightweight – making it easier to produce and transport – and it is also ductile and non-magnetic. The easiest way to test if aluminium is aluminium is with a magnet.

Interesting in metal recycling in Melbourne?

Metal Men Recycling is a Melbourne metal recycling company that will buy your scrap metal and recycle it appropriately. We offer a variety of services that make metal recycling in Melbourne easy to do for yourself or your business.

If you would like to know more about metal recycling in Melbourne, then please give us a call on 03 5941 6677 or send us a message through our website.