Scrap metal recycling is a big deal for enthusiasts and those who know its value. Newcomers may not immediately be knowledgeable about the ins and outs of scrap metal recycling, especially identifying the different scrap metals. When recycling, it’s important to know the various types of scrap metals to make sorting an easier task and to earn more when selling because your metals can be weighed separately.


Metals fall into two categories, ferrous and non-ferrous. You can identify your scrap metals by putting them in one of the two categories, and one quick way to do this by observing how your metals respond to a magnet. Metals that are attracted to magnets contain iron and are considered ferrous, while non-magnetic metals contain no iron and are classified as non-ferrous. This magnetic test is an ideal way to sort your aluminum, copper, and zinc from your iron, carbon steel, and gold, for example. Granted this test isn’t full proof as some ferrous metals are non-magnetic like stainless steel.

Distinctive Colors

Different metals display distinctive colors that can make it easier to identify them using sight. Common scrap metal colors include copper, brass, silver, and gold. Copper-colored scrap metal could be copper itself or a kind of red brass. Typically, cast or molded metal tends to be red brass and not copper which is a challenge to cast. Brass has a yellow, gold color, while gold looks like brass but features a shiny yellow hue. Identifying metals by color is helpful, but it can also be misleading since some metals can be painted over or rusted.

Weight Test

It can be difficult sometimes to distinguish between two metals that have a similar appearance. Tin and aluminum are two metals that can be mistaken for the other. However, a simple way to go about making the distinction is to test them based on weight. Some metals are lightweight while others are heavy. Aluminum, for example, is an especially lightweight metal and is susceptible to bending. Metals like iron and lead are heavy compared to aluminum. Weight tests can help differentiate between metals and separate them. 

Professional Testing

If push comes to shove and you can’t figure out the type of scrap metal you have in your possession, even after using the magnet, weight, and color methods, professional help maybe your best bet. Professional metal tests, like chemical and spark tests, can be carried out to identify and separate scrap metals. Specialized equipment and know-how are crucial when performing professional metal testing. 

Other Methods of Identifying Scrap Metals

Oxidation and harness are two other ways of identifying your scrap metal. Oxidation gives a hint of the chemical composition of metals. For example, oxidation on iron shows as red rust. Some metals, like stainless steel, are resistant to oxidation.

Middleboro Recycling can help you recycle your scrap metal so that you can get the best value for your money. We can help sort your scrap metals and sell it. Don’t hesitate to call us for more details about how we can help with your scrap metal recycling needs.