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How To Prevent Metal Corrosion

Published by Lucy Thurston on

Prevent Metal Corrosion

Walk into any metal company anywhere in the world, and they will tell you that one of the biggest questions they face on a daily basis is how to get rid of corrosion. There may be various ways of removing rust from metals, but a metal shop owner would prefer to be answering a different question – how do you prevent the corrosion in the first place?

While much time and energy are spent on methods of removing rust from different metallic surfaces, a more efficient approach would be to implement actions that prevent that rust from appearing in the first place. It is understood that a good 30 to 40 per cent of corrosion that happens in various situations could, in actual fact have been prevented.

What Is Metal Corrosion?

Corrosion is the result of the surface of a metal reacting to the environment. For a metal to corrode, it requires the environmental presence of moisture and oxygen, which in turn causes corrosion, or rust, on the metallic surface.

If left untreated, corrosion can undermine the integrity of the metal, which in turn weakens any overall structure. In fact, corrosion costs UK industry £46 billion a year in terms of downtime, maintenance, and replacement. So, the more you can prevent the onset of rust and corrosion when you buy sheet metal, the more you can save your own business time, money, and anxiety in the long term.

Choose The Right Metal For The Right Job

When specifying the right metal for your project, make sure that you are choosing a metal that suits the job at hand. Aluminium and stainless steel are corrosion-resistant, and the use of these metals will reduce the need for the addition of further protective coating.

If in any doubt, then speak with your sheet metal suppliers, who will be able to advise you best accordingly.

Make Sure That A Protective Coating Is Applied

By applying a protective coating, you are, in effect, placing a protective barrier between the surface of the metal and the oxygen and water.

There are a number of different coatings that you can use – paint, oil and grease, or powder coating. The best coating will depend on the function of the metal you are seeking to protect. For example, a bike chain performs a dynamic function that requires smooth movement. Regular oiling will maintain that smooth movement. Using paint on a bike chain will just scratch away at the integrity of the coating and expose the metal to corrosion once again.


Electroplating involves applying a ‘sacrificial’ coating to the metal that is more likely to oxidise. For example, iron can be protected from corroding if it is coated with a layer of zinc. This zinc coating then rusts instead of the iron – in effect, ‘sacrificing’ itself and protecting the integrity of the iron underneath. This process is also known as galvanising.

Environmental Issues

Every metal shop will tell you that water is the biggest enemy of metal. Yet when you think of the metal that is used in shipping and offshore engineering projects, there is ample knowledge and research that understands how to slow down best and inhibit the onset of corrosion. No matter the size of your project, you can learn from these giants.

Cathodic protection is an advanced method of preventing corrosion. This occurs when the surface becomes a cathode of an electrochemical cell by use of a direct electrical current. Through the application of a corrosion inhibitor, the development of rust is completely slowed down.

It is important to highlight that rust is not 100 per cent preventable. Whatever preventions you put in place, it is important to ensure that there is a process of checking and maintenance. In fact, the Health and Safety Executive outlines the importance of specifying the correct materials and implementing maintenance protocols to ensure that safety is of prime importance.

The HSE requires businesses to work through performance testing – understanding how certain fluids or materials react to different metals. Based on the final specification, structured maintenance protocols need to be put in place to ensure that any corrosion is monitored and repaired before any structural damage occurs.

If you are unsure what metal you should be using for a specific project, contact your local metal company and seek their advice and guidance. Rapid Metals works with many different businesses and individuals, advising them about the best methods of corrosion prevention and general maintenance. Please feel free to contact us regarding any metal concerns.

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How To Prevent Metal Corrosion

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