How to Prevent Metal from Rusting: 9 Best Ways

How to Prevent Metal from Rusting

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If you live in an area that sees a lot of moisture, one problem that you might be suffering from is that your metal objects form rust. Rust is of course extremely damaging to metal, so preventing it is very important.

Today, we are going to look at all of the different ways to prevent rust from forming on metal. As far as we know, there are nine effective ways of doing so, and today we are going to cover them all.

What Is Metal Rust and Why Does It Happen?

To keep things simple, rust is a layer or surface that forms on metal. This layer is made of red iron oxides that are created when metals with ferrous properties corrode. For those that don’t know, Fe is the scientific sign for iron, so when we talk about ferrous metals, we are talking about iron or those metals that contain some degree of iron. When the iron interacts with water and oxygen, it creates a chemical reaction.

Here, if iron is exposed to oxygen and water, the iron particles are lost to the acidic electrolytes in the water, which then causes the iron to become oxidized, forming iron, or Fe. Then, when the iron is formed, two electrons are released, and oxygen then causes those electrons to rise and form hydroxyl ions, which interact with the iron to form hydrous iron oxide, simply known as rust.

Do All Metals Rust?

The simple answer here is that no, not all metals rust. As we have described above in great detail, to produce rust, iron is required. It is the chemical reaction between iron, oxygen, and water that causes rust to form. Therefore, if a metal does not contain any iron, it technically cannot rust.

Now, other metals can still corrode in various ways, although technically speaking, they do not rust. Iron and iron alloys are the only metals that can rust.

9 Ways to Prevent Metal from Rusting

Let’s take a closer look at all of the different things that you can do to help prevent metal from rusting.

1. Use Metal That Won’t Rust

The number one best way to prevent metal from rusting is to use some sort of alloy metal that is designed specifically to not rust in the first place.

One of the best types of metals in this sense is stainless steel. Stainless steel might be expensive, and it doesn’t work for all purposes, but it is extremely resistant to rust. If you use an alloy metal, this problem should be easily avoidable. Also, make sure to consider that different types of metal have different strengths and weaknesses.

2. Use a Dry Coating

There are some special products out there, so-called dry coatings, that are designed specifically to prevent rust from forming on metal. These are dry coatings that have absolutely no residue, and form an extremely protective barrier over equipment and metal parts. When it comes to storage, shipping, and products that are currently in use, this is a very effective method of preventing rust from occurring.

If you need to prevent rust from forming on moving parts, or you need the parts to allow for a good grip, then such a dry coating is ideal. What’s also cool about these dry coatings is that the metal does not end up feeling or looking any different. You could even use a dry coating in combination with powder coating to increase rust resistance that much more.

3. Use Oil

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to prevent rust from forming on metal is to apply a coating of oil to it. Oil will form moisture and air barrier, which will help prevent oxygen in the air, as well as moisture, from getting to the iron contained in the metal.

Of course, oiling up your tools and machines is not always ideal, as it might inhibit their functionality or be environmentally unsafe. Therefore, always closely consider exactly what you are applying oil to before you do so.

4. Use Proper Storage Techniques

The main thing that causes rust is of course the moisture in the air interacting with the iron in the metal.

Therefore, the best thing that you can do to prevent rust from occurring is to store your metals in an area that is very dry and features a moderate temperature. If the air is very humid, it is going to cause rust to form. The less humidity there is in the air, the lower the chances that rust will form on the metal.

5. Use Paint

Another good way to help prevent metal from rusting is to use some high-quality paint.

High-quality paint that is specially designed for metal will help create a moisture barrier that will stop moisture from reaching the metal, and therefore will prevent rust from forming. Just make sure that you get the right kind of paint for metal, as not all types of paint will adhere to metal surfaces. Keep in mind that it must also be oil-based paint, not water-based, as this will not work.

You also don’t want to paint bolts or welded joints, because if you miss a small spot, rust will form there.

6. Use a Blueing Technique

Blueing is a special technique that forms a layer over the metal, a layer that is actually very similar to rust but not nearly as damaging to the metal. Here, a layer of magnetite is created, also known as black iron oxide, which produces a blue or black appearance. Blueing is a technique that uses a salt solution with high temperatures.

Now, this is not something that you will be doing in your garage, as it requires very special materials and tools. It is most commonly used to prevent firearms and weapons from rusting.

7. Galvanize the Metal

Another thing that you can do to help prevent rust from forming on metal is to galvanize the metal. Galvanizing is a special process that adds a layer of zinc over either steel or iron. Zinc is very resistant to corrosion, and it corrodes about 30 times slower than iron or steel. This can be a very cost-effective way to prevent rust from forming.

With that said, galvanizing metal is not completely perfect, as the galvanized metal will still be unable to stand up to salt or acid rain. Galvanizing metal will also alter the appearance of the metal. This solution is not ideal for moving components or something that might have to be removed in the future, such as a screw.

8. Use a Layer of Powder Coating

Yet another way to prevent rust from occurring on metal is to apply a layer of powder coating. Here, static electricity is used to bind a substance made out of epoxy, polyurethane, polyester, acrylic, or other materials to a metal object. This is then put in a furnace, which causes these substances to melt and form a solid layer on the metal.

Just keep in mind that any weak areas, if the powder coating is not done correctly, will still allow moisture to get through.

9. Use VCI Packaging

VCI packaging is more or less airproof and moisture-proof plastic that is wrapped around metal to help prevent rust from occurring. Of course, this works well for packaging and storage, but not for any materials that are currently in use.

What Is the Best Way to Prevent Metal from Rusting?

The best way to prevent metal from rusting really depends on the exact application at hand. For instance, if we are talking about metal furniture, then powder coating is often used.

Now, if we are talking about moving components that need to be lubricated as well as rust resistant, then applying a layer of oil is going to be ideal. If we are talking about simply storing metal so that it will not rust, using either VCI packaging, or just engaging in effective storage techniques will work best.

When it comes to metal that is being used outdoors, such as for patio furniture, then you may want to consider painting it. Painting is a very cost-effective and easy way to prevent rust from occurring, plus it also allows you to change the appearance of the metal.

However, at the end of the day, the best way to prevent rust from occurring is to use metal that can’t rust in the first place. As described above, this means using metal that does not contain any iron.

As you can see, the best way to prevent rust from forming on metal really does depend on the application at hand. For instance, putting oil on components that you need to be able to grip further down the line, such as a screw, is not going to be ideal.


There you have it, folks, you should now know exactly what rust is, why rust forms, and what the best methods for preventing rust from forming on metal are.

In case it’s too late to prevent the problem, you might also want to check out my article about how to remove rust from metal.