Steel wool is such a common term that it is often used to describe a scowering pad even if it is not made from any steel at all. Steel wool is basically a bundle of different thickness strands (depending on the intended use). The very fine steel wool is often used in the finishing and repairing of wood or metal items. The slightly heavier material is used in such things as cleaning pads. SOS pads are a fine example of this. SOS pads are made from steel wool that has been mixed with a cleaning material recipe specifically created for SOS pads. Steel wool is made from such a low carbon content steel that it is very close to plain iron. These pads, if exposed to moisture, rust very quickly and should be kept from this type of exposure. Pads that are used in a cleaning capacity are often kept in plastic bags in freezers, as this retards the rusting process and keeps the pad in useable condition much longer.
Disadvantages of steel wool
Steel wool should not be used on oak because traces of iron that remain after use will react with the tannins in the wood and produce a very undesirable blue or black iron stain. Bronze wool or stainless steel wool is used in connection with oak. When steel wool is heated, it increases its mass. This is due to the burning iron that combines with the oxygen.
Steel wool and rodent control
Another very curious use for steel wool is as a control material for rodents. If a rodent chews a hole in a wall, or other area, the hole can be plugged with a swatch of steel wool. If the rodent comes back to the hole and chews on the steel wool, it will be rewarded with a very sharp pain in its mouth. If this is not enough to deter the animal and it continues to chew, it may ingest the material which will then result in severe internal damage that will eventually lead to the death of the rodent.