How To Prevent Steel From Rusting in a Warehouse

How To Prevent Steel From Rusting in a Warehouse

Published on March 13th, 2023

While rust may seem to be one of the most common problems when working with metals, don’t mistake its commonality for simplicity. Rust can be a highly complex issue to address in your facility. If left unchecked, rust problems can spiral out of control and leave you with metal that has compromised stability and a lack of functionality.

Thankfully, many of the solutions are relatively small preventative measures you can take to protect your metal. If you have ever experienced a rampant plague of rust, you’ll agree that these steps are a small price to pay for the time and money you’ll save in the long run. Read on to learn how to prevent steel from rusting in a warehouse.

How Does Rust Work?

One of the best ways to combat any problem is to understand how that problem arises. In this case, your conundrum is iron oxide. The rough orange-brown substance that builds on iron and other iron alloys (like steel) forms when you combine iron, oxygen, and water.

Despite the way it seems to the naked eye, metal has tiny pores that water molecules can penetrate. Once this has happened, the corrosion process is underway. If your facility is near a body of salt water, the combination of water and salt will speed up the corrosion process, causing rust to form more quickly.

Rust works similarly to water under pavement when the temperature gets cold. In the case of the pavement, water will expand when turning to ice, causing the pavement to shift and potentially crack. With rust, the iron oxide causes metal to expand, which decreases structural integrity by adding stress and making the metal more brittle.

Additionally, more oxygen and water can continue to get through because rust is permeable, causing more rust and structural problems. In other words, rust can quickly become a major nightmare for any metal manufacturer or distributor.

Steel Alloys

While things may seem dire, there are several steps you can take to prevent steel from rusting while in your care. One of the best ways to stave off the dangers of rust is to use steel alloys. We know what you’re thinking—isn’t steel already an alloy? While you’re correct (steel is an alloy of iron and carbon), adding more metal can drastically slow the corrosion rate of your steel.

For example, when you add at least 11 percent chromium to a steel alloy, it becomes stainless steel. While stainless steel is not entirely resistant to rusting, it stands a far better chance than regular steel. Manganese and nickel are also useful metals to consider when preventing rust.

It’s essential to ensure that other alloy properties are still conducive to your desired applications. Adding a given metal may change the steel’s appearance, conductivity, or any number of other properties.

Paint the Steel

While painting will not be an option for distributors who need to ship clean steel, some facilities may be able to use this option. Paint assists in slowing down rust by adding another layer that moisture needs to get through before it can affect the steel. This is not a totally nonporous option, but it will slow down rust.

That said, some paints work better on steel than others. Keep an eye on the type of paint you choose because it needs to be able to adhere to steel to have the desired effects. Additionally, don’t forget to choose an oil-based paint. Water-soluble paints will not provide the protection you want, especially in moisture-rich environments.

Use Oil

Oil is good for more than lubricating metal—it can also act as a barrier between steel and the outside world. This may be the best option when you need a simple solution that gets the job done. However, you need to be careful when oiling formed steel products, as the oil will cause other problems.

Oil can make parts much more slippery and hard to balance, not to mention how dirty it can make your workplace. You must also consider that you will need to oil steel periodically—one application is not enough for the product’s entire lifespan.

You may also want to consider hot rolled pickled and oiled steel, or HRPO. In this process, hot rolled steel is dipped into hydrochloric acid to eliminate contaminants, stains, and rust. After rinsing off the acid and drying off the steel, a thin coating of oil is applied as an extra layer of rust protection.

Consider Dry Coating

Dry coating is an alternative to painting and oil that offers an unpainted appearance without the problems of oil. Dry coating products help prevent rust by creating a protective barrier around the metal without leaving residue. Three main methods for dry coating are wash, dip, and spray—the method will depend on the product you use.

After washing, dipping, or spraying, all you need to do is wait until the coating is dry. Once it is, you know the barrier is in place and ready to protect your metal from rust.

Galvanize the Steel

When you need an affordable method of rust prevention that will last, galvanizing is a good option. This method works by placing a protective coating of zinc over your steel product. Zinc is much less susceptible to corrosion than steel, which can drastically increase the time it takes for rust to take hold.

However, there are a few factors to watch out for if you’re planning to galvanize. For one thing, a zinc coating will not last against particularly harsh environmental conditions—salty air or acid rain will cause the coating to wear more quickly.

In addition, galvanizing is an additive process, which means that the amount of metal you have on hand increases after galvanizing. While this may not be a significant factor in some applications, it can cause problems. For instance, a galvanized screw may not fit into the same thread as a screw that has not undergone galvanization.

Now that you know how to prevent steel from rusting in a warehouse, be sure to take steps to avoid rust on your formed steel products. This will help set you and your business up for long-term success and prevent headaches moving forward. Remember, the fight against rust requires vigilance—once you make a rust prevention plan, stick to it consistently.

How To Prevent Steel From Rusting in a Warehouse

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