When it comes to classifying stainless steel as having magnetic properties, there is not a simple yes and no answer. Instead, the proper response would be to state that it depends. Here is some information about stainless steel that will help to identify situations in which this alloy exhibits magnetic properties, and when it does not.
It is important to understand that stainless steel is not a pure magnetic metal. In fact, stainless steel is really a collective name for a steel alloy that is mixed with other metals in order to give it the properties that make the metal compound so desirable. For instance, the typical stainless steel contains just over ten percent of chromium.
In fact, it is the presence of the chromium that provides stainless steel with the ability to repel permanent stains and keep looking fresh and clean over long periods of time. The chromium essentially creates a protective layer on the alloy that prevents rusting and makes the metal resistant to any real damage. Any scratches to the surface are simply filled in by this protective layer, making it possible to prevent corrosion to occur. It is the introduction of chromium into the mix that we refer to as stainless steel that makes it possible for the alloy to exhibit magnetic properties.
It is important to note that other metals may be introduced into the steel compound as well as the chromium. One of these metals is nickel. Essentially, the addition of nickel to the stainless steel compound helps to strengthen the protective qualities of the chromium. Generally referred to as a 300 series, stainless steel that contains nickel is not magnetic at all. The reason is that the presence of the nickel alters the physical structure of the stainless steel and removes or inhibits any magnetic qualities.
However, magnetic stainless steel does exist. The 400 series, which contains steel and chromium, but without the presence of nickel, does in fact exhibit magnetic qualities. While the degree of magnetic attraction may vary, it is not unusual for items made with the 400 series stainless steel to provide enough attraction to interact with magnets, and in some cases to allow small metal items to adhere to the stainless steel surface. However, magnetic stainless steel in consumer products does not tend to carry a strong magnetic charge, so there are not any practical home uses involving magnetic attraction.