Nothing is worse than having your tools and equipment rust up over time. Whether it’s due to the exterior elements such as moisture or temperature, the way equipment is manufactured or even how you use it, rust often seems unavoidable. And while rust is one of the most common examples of corrosion, it is far from the only way metals can corrode.
So how does corrosion happen and what can you do to prevent it from ruining your tools and equipment? Learn about the types of corrosion to watch for and the best ways to prevent corrosion from happening in the future.
What Is Corrosion?
While you have likely experienced rust ruining or inhibiting metal objects before, many people don’t understand the science behind the rusting process. Corrosion is a chemical reaction that occurs when a metal reacts with oxygen. The reaction damages the metal over time, reducing its durability and structural integrity and tarnishing its appearance.
Many metals corrode when they contact an oxidizing material, and each type of metal has different chemical properties that determine what will cause it to corrode. For example, iron turns to iron oxide, commonly called rust, with long-term exposure to dampness or moisture. Non-ferrous metals don’t have enough iron to rust but can corrode in other ways. For instance, copper can tarnish and form a green patina from the effects of weather.
Because each type of metal corrodes differently, there is no one solution to solve corrosion. Instead, there are various methods to prevent corrosion of metals.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF CORROSION?
Different conditions cause corrosion, and there are different types of corrosion as well. Consider the following types of corrosion that can affect metal objects.
1. UNIFORM CORROSION
The most common type of corrosion, uniform corrosion occurs when the entire surface of the metal object is attacked and exposed to the corrosive environment. This exposure results in nearly the whole surface being corroded and thins the metal until it eventually fails. Rust is an example of uniform corrosion.
2. GALVANIC CORROSION
Galvanic corrosion is less common that uniform corrosion and occurs when two dissimilar metals placed near each other become chemically connected. One of the metals — the cathode — is protected, while the other metal — the anode — becomes corroded.
One of the most notorious examples of galvanized corrosion of metals occurred within the Statue of Liberty during the 1980s. In this instance, the outer copper skin of the statue had corroded with the wrought iron support structure, causing areas of the statue to become unstable, particularly in the torch and raised arm.
3. OTHER TYPES OF CORROSION
In addition to uniform and galvanic corrosion, there are also other less common types of metal corrosion. These types include:
- Localized corrosion occurs when corrosion is contained to a small area of the surface, such as pitting within the metal, in crevices or on small parts.
- Environmental cracking occurs when environmental conditions such as chemicals, stress or temperatures create cracking and fatigue within the metal structure.
- Soil corrosion occurs when carbon steel is exposed to moisture and oxygen contained in the soil. Soil corrosion can cause the steel to become unstable and crack.
Best Ways to Prevent Corrosion
Luckily, you can adequately prepare and protect the metal from corrosion with the correct knowledge and techniques. Consider the following options when choosing a prevention method for corrosion of metals.
1. SEAL METAL WITH A PROTECTIVE LAYER
One of the most effective ways to prevent corrosion is to seal your metal in a protective coating. A coating such as rust-preventative paint or a galvanization coating of zinc protects against corrosion by creating a physical barrier between the metal and any oxidizing elements in the environment, such as moisture.
2. DEHUMIDIFY YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Moisture is one of the leading contributing factors to rust and corrosion. A humid environment has more moisture in the air and could cause metal objects such as tools to corrode faster. To prevent this, install a dehumidifier to remove moisture in the air and help make a rust-free environment.
3. PROPERLY MAINTAIN YOUR EQUIPMENT
You can take every precaution possible, but if you don’t clean and maintain your metal equipment, you increase the risk of corrosion. Paint and protective coatings can wear over time, and small nicks and scratches can lead to corrosion. Additionally, oils, dirt and grime can eat away at paint and surfaces, leading to a higher chance of corrosion. To avoid this, properly clean your equipment at least once every six months.
In addition to cleaning, be sure to use your equipment regularly, especially larger pieces of equipment such as machinery. If metal sits for too long, it can begin to corrode.
4. APPLY A CORROSION INHIBITOR
Another prevention of corrosion method is using corrosion inhibitors. Corrosion inhibitors are chemicals that react with a metal surface to suppress the electrochemical reactions that lead to corrosion. An inhibitor is a precautionary measure designed to stop corrosion before it can begin. When applied to the surface of a metal, a corrosion inhibitor forms a protective film that disperses surrounding gasses and chemicals that commonly cause corrosion.
5. UTILIZE CORROSION-RESISTANT METALS
Many techniques are designed to prevent corrosion after the type of metal has already been determined. However, if you have the luxury of choosing the metal you will use, you can pick a corrosion-resistant metal when it makes sense. Corrosion-resistant metals include stainless steel, nickel alloy and aluminum. These metals have a higher resistance against the common causes of corrosion.
By working with corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel appliances or aluminum siding, you can limit the amount of future preventive maintenance you will need to perform to ensure your metal maintains its appearance and structural integrity.
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If you’re looking for a manufacturer that produces corrosion-resistant metal electrical enclosures, consider partnering with APX Enclosures. We are one of the top manufacturers of customized electrical enclosures and electrical integration. We have more than 20 years of experience fabricating metal electrical enclosures made of weather-resistant stainless steel and aluminum to protect against environmental conditions and moisture. Our enclosures are NEMA-certified and listed to UL 208A.
Interested in partnering with us for your electrical enclosure needs? Contact us today to learn more!