Corrosion is the deterioration of metals due to oxidizing. Most commonly this is seen as rust. The key to proper corrosion care is stopping it before it starts. With metal corrosion, it is true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
How Corrosion Happens
Corrosion can happen to any metal. Most frequently you will be dealing with corrosion on iron - that is, rust. In order for a metal to begin to corrode, it needs three elements: moisture, metal, and an electron acceptor. An electron acceptor is an element (usually oxygen) that steals electrons from the metal, which is what happening on a molecular level when a metal corrodes.
When water comes into contact with iron, a chemical reaction immediately begins to take place that quickly oxidizes the iron, turning the iron into iron-oxide (the chemical name for rust). While iron is the most reactive metal and therefore will corrode faster than most others, all metals are susceptible to this process.
How to Prevent Corrosion
We already know that in order for corrosion to take place we need metal, moisture and an electron acceptor (usually oxygen). In order to prevent corrosion, we simply need to remove one of these three components from the equation.
The simplest component to remove is the metal surface. This can be done by coating the metal being used with paint or enamel. This prevents the metal from being exposed to oxygen, thus preventing corrosion.
Galvanizing is the process by which a metal, like iron, is coated with another metal, such as zinc. This coating of what is called a “sacrificial metal” protects the underlying metal from the factors that cause corrosion. The sacrificial metal then corrodes instead, leaving the unexposed metal intact. The galvanizing agent (the sacrificial metal) should last for a long time if done correctly; however, it will eventually corrode away, leaving the original metal again exposed and in need of a fresh galvanized coat.
Corrosion Protection in Your Facility
Many of the tools, machines and accessories in your facility are likely made of metal, therefore susceptible to corrosion. A few small changes can help reduce the likelihood of seeing corrosion in your shop, thus preserving your equipment and saving your organization money.
1. Seal Your Tools
As we know, one of the components for corrosion is moisture. Opting to keep your tools in a sealed, plastic tool chest can help keep them from moist conditions on the floor of your plant. Also try adding a moisture absorbent to help keep the chest conditions as dry as possible.
Keeping a humid environment increases the moisture in the air and could set your tools up to encounter corrosive elements. If your shop runs on the humid side, try installing a dehumidifier to make for a less rust-friendly environment. This is especially helpful if you have large, metal equipment that cannot be moved or sealed.
3. Use a Corrosion Inhibitor
Galvanizing has been made easy with the availability of cold corrosion inhibitors. It is applied like a paint, but has all the same protection as heated galvanizing performed on galvanized products before they leave their manufacturing plants.
4. Keep It Clean
Having an excess of dust can accelerate the corrosion process in your facility. This is because dusts absorb water. The more dust particles that settle on your equipment, the more water that could come into contact with their metal surfaces and promote corrosion. Be sure to clean your items regularly to prevent dust-activated corrosion.
The Bottom Line
Corrosion is an inescapable truth for anyone using metal. But knowing how it happens is the key to running interference on rust. Exposed surfaces are vulnerable, so treat them if you can. Reducing or eliminating water and moisture will greatly impact the likelihood for corrosion to occur and slow it down to a manageable, preventable pace.