16 Effective Tips for Preventing Metals from Rusting
Any metal will rust, including gold and silver, but the process takes longer with some metals than it does with others. The rust can also deteriorate the metal in some cases and only coat the metal in others. In most cases, the best thing to do is to prevent the rust from occurring, and we are about to look at several ways you can do just that.
What is Rust?
Rust occurs when metal or metal alloys combine with oxygen to produce oxide. The most common result is rust, a brown, crumbly material found most often in iron or steel that eats away the metal, but the tarnish seen on some metals results from the same process. The oxidation process will begin any time metal encounters oxygen in the air or water. Salt and heat will increase the speed of the chemical reaction.
Metals Prone to Rusting
Let’s look at the different types of metal and what form of oxidation occurs.
Iron is the fastest oxidizing of all metals. If iron is allowed to get wet, you will be able to see a film of rust in just a few hours. Heating the metal will also increase the rate at which it rusts, and if you were to heat an iron poker or pad and let it cool, you would instantly see a brown film over the surface. The rust will eat into the metal and destroy its structural integrity.
Steel is an alloy created by mixing iron with carbon and other ingredients, and many types or grades are available depending on the ingredients. Some steels are resistant to rusting, and we’ll discuss them shortly. However, most steel will rust almost as quickly as iron if left untreated.
Aluminum doesn’t rust the way that iron or steel does, but it does corrode. The metal will tarnish, losing its shine and forming a hardened layer. Unlike rust, this hard layer will serve as a shield protecting the metal from further damage. It also does not chip or flake as rust does, and it’s quite difficult to remove.
Copper is another metal prone to oxidation. This metal does not rust like iron or steel, but it does corrode like aluminum and is much more noticeable. When copper oxidizes, it turns from a deep brown color to a bright green. Like aluminum, the oxidation forms a protective barrier over the metal that protects it from further damage and so is usually allowed to oxidize. The easiest way to see copper oxidation is to look at the Statue of Liberty, a copper statue that has rusted to be the bright green color we all recognize.
Tips to Prevent Rust and Oxidation
1. Avoid metals that rust
The first thing you can do to prevent rust is to consider it before you make a purchase. Shelving, desks, lawn ornaments, and many other items that use a lot of steel can also use materials that don’t rust. Plastics, wood, and other materials can work just as well in many cases and permanently eliminate rust.
2. Stainless steel
Stainless steel is a type of steel with at least 11% chromium in its ingredients. With the added ingredient, it is extremely resistant to rust and other forms of corrosion. It also makes the steel more heat resistant, and it can stand higher temperatures.
3. Weathering steel
Weathering steel, or Corten, is a steel alloy that does not require painting. It forms a rust-like appearance after several years, but the corrosion does not penetrate the metal. You will often see weathering steel on bridges, power lines, and other items that need to remain outdoors.
4. Galvanized metal
Galvanized metal is usually steel but can be any metal coated in zinc to protect it from rusting. You create galvanized steel by dipping the metal into melted zinc, and you often see it on sheds, buckets, walkways, and more.
5. Stop it before it starts
The best way to prevent rust is to stop it before it starts. We highly recommend using the methods on this list from day one to prevent rust from taking hold. Once it begins, it can be difficult to contain, and it spreads quickly, often unseen, especially on automobiles and other complex machinery.
6. Keep it clean and dry
As we mentioned earlier, metal corrodes faster when it’s wet, so it’s important to wipe it down if it comes into contact with moisture and after handling it. Mud and even dust can absorb moisture and hold it on the surface. Your fingers contain water, oils, and salt.
7. Maintenance routine
The best way to make sure your important metals are always clean and dry is to create a maintenance routine. A routine will help you make sure all of your metals are clean and allows you to reapply any coatings or protections. It also gives you a chance to inspect the metals closely to see if rust is forming.
8. Avoid scratches
Even if the scratch looks shallow, it provides a great place for microscopic moisture to hide and begin the rusting process. Avoid placing steel or iron where it could get scratched, and use cold rolled steel when possible, which is more resistant to scratching and holding moisture.
9. Silica gel
Metals rust and corrode very quickly in the presence of water, and that includes humidity. Never store your tools and important metals in damp places like the basement. Use an airtight container with moisture-absorbing packs when possible to eliminate the moisture.
Bluing is a type of metal stain that turns the metal dark blue, grey, or black and makes it resistant to rust. It’s common on gun barrels as well as ornamental steel, like badges and plaques. Bluing is inexpensive and easy to apply. Its primary downside is that it can wear off, and you’ll need to reapply it after several years.
11. Oil coating
One of the easiest ways to protect your metal from rust while you are storing it is to wipe it down with a thin layer of oil. The oil will create a barrier that the water cannot penetrate and even stops the moisture from entering scratches and cracks. Most experts recommend linseed or tung oil, but you can use anything you have handy, and it will work. Heating the metal will help the oil penetrate and protect it better.
Another simple way to protect your metal from rust is to paint it. Most paints are inexpensive and are available in a wide range of colors, unlike bluing. However, painting might take some skill, you will need to reapply it every few years, and you’ll want to make sure you get a brand that sticks to metal.
13. Powder Coating
Powder coating is a type of paint with additives that make it extremely resistant to scratching and rusting. It often uses vinyl, acrylic, epoxy, and other substances to achieve a strong bond. There are plenty of powder coating kits available, but it’s more common to purchase your items already coated.
14. Dry Coating
Another easy way to protect your metal is to use a dry coating. As the name suggests, dry coatings don’t leave your metals feeling slippery like an oil coating, which means they won’t collect dust. The most common type of dry coating is automotive wax, and while it’s perfect for your car, you can use it on any other metals as well to protect them from rusting.
FOZZ is a metal cleaner and protectant brand that uses an assortment of chemicals to turn rust into a hard substance that you can wipe down. It’s water-based and safe to use on all metals, including etched galvanized steel.
16. Rust Inhibitors
Rust inhibitors can help prevent rust, but they also help to slow the speed of rust once it has begun, and it’s often the best choice in that situation. Rust inhibitors are similar to FOZZ in that they use special ingredients to change the chemical makeup of the rust and turn it into something new that is easier to manage.
We hope you have enjoyed reading over these tips and found them helpful. We recommend preventative measures like regular maintenance to oil or wax your metals, so you don’t need products like FOZZ or rust inhibitors. If you’re painting or powder coating, you will need to regularly inspect them as well to make sure there are no chips or scratches that will allow moisture to have access to the metal. If you have learned something new, please share these 16 effective tips for preventing metals from rusting on Facebook and Twitter.
Featured Image: Alexei_other, Pixabay
- 1 What is Rust?
- 2 Metals Prone to Rusting
- 3 Tips to Prevent Rust and Oxidation
- 3.1 1. Avoid metals that rust
- 3.2 2. Stainless steel
- 3.3 3. Weathering steel
- 3.4 4. Galvanized metal
- 3.5 5. Stop it before it starts
- 3.6 6. Keep it clean and dry
- 3.7 7. Maintenance routine
- 3.8 8. Avoid scratches
- 3.9 9. Silica gel
- 3.10 10. Bluing
- 3.11 11. Oil coating
- 3.12 12. Paint
- 3.13 13. Powder Coating
- 3.14 14. Dry Coating
- 3.15 15. FOZZ
- 3.16 16. Rust Inhibitors
- 4 Summary