14 July 2017

How to remove rust from stainless steel

Removing rust from stainless steel

Removing rust from stainless steel is often a difficult process. However, with proper treatment rust can be prevented, treated and removed from most surfaces.

Removing rust – the steps required

The following steps are required in order to prevent costly structural damage or any accidents occurring as a result of the rusted metal:

  1. Rust removal – it is essential to remove as much of the rust as from the surface prior to cleaning. Depending on the surface material, this can be carried out via abrasion (such as scraping or scrubbing with a wire brush).
  2. Degreasing – an industrial degreaser should be used to free the stainless-steel surface of any contaminants or deposits such as grease or oil.
  3. Treating – treating the stainless-steel surface with a rust treatment solution will rid the structure of remaining rust particles to ensure that the application remains sound and fit for purpose.
  4. Protection – painting the surface with a rust resistant material will protect the stainless-steel structure from coming into contact with oxygen and water (which are the properties needed to form rust on a steel structure).

Preventing stainless steel from rusting

Prevention is key when maintaining the integrity of stainless-steel structures.

To avoid stainless steel rusting, consider the following:

  • Limit exposure to air and water – keeping the structure dry is ideal when aiming to prevent rusting because the steel requires moisture in order to oxidize.
  • Regular maintenance – keeping the surface of the stainless-steel structure clean is essential. During cleaning, issues can be found and rectified before rusting becomes a major problem.
  • Apply a protective coating – treating the stainless-steel surface with a protective layer will shield it from exposure to moisture. 

How does rust form on stainless steel?

Although stainless steel is resistant to rust because of its chromium content, it is a metal alloy of iron. Rust is actually iron oxide, which forms when a steel structure is exposed to moisture and oxygen for a prolonged period of time without proper treatment.

Steel is commonly used in the structure and fabrication of industrial goods due to its strength, resistance to corrosion and ability to be shaped for use in a number of applications such as:

  • Architecture
  • Construction
  • Factories
  • Automation and Transportation
  • Infrastructure
  • Medical equipment
  • Appliances

The effects of rust on stainless steel

Stainless steel is coated with a thin chromium layer which protects the steel from rusting.

Even with the chromium coating applied, stainless steel is still prone to rusting in areas where the chromium layer is damaged - the steel beneath is exposed to water and oxygen and forms iron oxide (rust). When oxidization occurs, the chemical make-up of the steel structure changes subtly, reducing its strength and resistance to abrasion.

Are you worried about the effects of rust corrosion on stainless steel? NCH Asia has developed a wide range of rust prevention and treatment solutions to suit any application.


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