Rust: Old Habits Die Hard

RUST is the byproduct of IRON and MOISTURE.

Unless iron is placed in a vacuum – an atmosphere containing literally 0% moisture – it will rust. With the exception of labs and testing facilities, these places do not exist.

In other words, RUST is iron’s OLD HABIT. It’s inexorable and stopping it is hard work.

Iron (III) Oxides eats away at ferrous metals.
Iron (III) Oxides eats away at ferrous metals.

Lets take a look at Iron (III) Oxide and how we go about combating it.

What The Rust?

Rust’s scientific name is Iron (III) Oxide. It’s an extremely common occurrence because our atmosphere is laden with water vapor.

Any iron that comes in contact with H20 will eventually form rust. This isn’t speculation as much as it is scientific fact.

Iron (III) Oxide is formed as a result of iron and steel’s oxidation reaction with the atmosphere. Introduce salt or acid into the equation and the oxidation process happens even faster.

This is because salt and acid act as catalysts in the redox process.

Negative Effects of Rust

Lets take a look at the effects of rust on an investment that most people will make at one point in their lives – an automobile.

When someone is in the market for a used automobile there’s a few things they’ll want to look at. Mileage, accident reports, maintenance records, tires, color and paint condition are all standard inspection points.

Vehicle lifts make rust inspection underneath a car significantly easier.
Lifts make rust inspection underneath a vehicle significantly easier.

Experienced car owners, however, will also want to get a good look underneath the vehicle.

The underside of an automobile is the area constantly exposed to its three most corrosive elements  – snow, rain and salt. These spell disaster and result in extensive degradation to the vehicle.

While the outside of a car is covered in paint which stops oxidation, the car’s undercarriage coating wears off quickly. This renders the vehicle extremely vulnerable.

I bring up the effects of rust on automobiles because it’s something that most people are familiar with. Some may not realize though, that the same rules apply to anything and everything made of ferrous metals.

This seems obvious for wet areas of the world, but the same is true even in dry areas. Those who live in arid regions of the world may figure they need not worry about oxidation. So long as there’s even the slightest bit of atmospheric moisture though, iron will rust. While the corrosive effects are decidedly slower without the added elements of salt, snow and steady rain, they will undoubtedly happen over time.

How Can We Combat Rust?

Like chess, stopping rust requires strategy.
Like chess, stopping rust requires strategy.

It might sound like it’s impossible to avoid rust and that resistance is futile…

BUT DON’T FRET! Throughout time humanity has found varyingly effective anti-corrosion methods:

  1. Paint.
    As previously mentioned, paint is used to stop the oxidation of ferrous metals. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it also acts as a barrier. By painting metals that are constantly exposed to the elements, replacement costs and repairs are greatly reduced.
  2. Galvanization.
    A less commonly known method of protection, the galvanization process, entails coating a ferrous metal with zinc. This coating is achieve through the use of hot dipping. Due to it’s reactivity, the zinc corrodes before the iron or steel it’s protecting does. As you may have guessed, galvanization doesn’t last forever and requires additional coatings over time.
  3. Bluing.
    In tying this back to PreservAll’s speciality – firearms – bluing is a conversion coating used on guns. An electrochemical process, bluing entails the facilitation of an oxidizing chemical reaction on iron. The end result is the creation of Magnetite (the black oxide of iron) on the firearm, which is less reactive with the atmosphere.

What Method Works Best?

Unfortunately, there is no one “best method” for combating rust. Different protective applications are more advantageous in different situations and each corrosive prevention method has its downsides:

  • Paint fades over time, especially when exposed to the elements.
  • Galvanization degrades over time by design and re-galvanizing is costly and labor intensive.
  • Bluing is an outdated method that is inefficient at preventing rust.

These methods have been applied in nearly every field that utilizes ferrous metals. Each industry has found what works best for their needs and the examples above are only a small sampling of developed anti-corrosion tactics.

It’s important to know the vulnerabilities of what you’re trying to protect. Its’s equally important to know the elements they’ll be exposed to. By starting with a solid foundation of information, you can make the best decision with regards to the best method of rust protection.