Industrial Strength Rust Treatment: Techniques for Commercial Equipment

Rust, also known as corrosion, is a natural process that occurs when any ferrous metal reacts with oxygen and moisture in the environment. The most common form of rust is the reddish-brown iron oxide that forms on iron or steel surfaces exposed to air and water. Rusting is an electrochemical process involving the oxidation of metal.

The impact of rust on commercial equipment can be significant and detrimental. Here are some key aspects of this impact:

The Impact of Rust on Structural Integrity 

Rust weakens the structural integrity of metal components. Over time, the corrosion can lead to the degradation of metal structures, compromising their strength and durability. This is a particular concern for commercial equipment that relies on robust materials for safe and effective operation.

Rust and Functionality

Rust can interfere with the proper functioning of equipment by affecting moving parts and mechanisms. For example, in machinery with gears, bearings, or other moving components, rust can impede smooth movement and cause friction, leading to increased wear and tear.

Rust Impacts Equipment Efficiency

Rust can reduce the efficiency of equipment by affecting its performance. For instance, in the case of heat exchangers or pipes, rust can reduce the heat transfer efficiency, leading to increased energy consumption and decreased overall system performance.

Maintenance Costs

Managing and preventing rust requires regular maintenance effort, removing rust build up and the application of treatment measures such as rust converters, coatings or inhibitor paints. The cost of not applying treatments, preventive measures and repairing or replacing rust-damaged components can contribute significantly to the overall operational costs of commercial equipment.

Safety Concerns that Rust Presents

The structural weakening caused by rust can pose safety risks, especially in equipment where the failure of a critical component could result in accidents or injuries. Regular inspections and maintenance are essential to identify and address potential safety hazards associated with rust.

The Environmental Impact of Rust

Rust can lead to the release of metal ions into the environment, which may have ecological consequences. It can contaminate soil and water, potentially affecting ecosystems and local communities.

To mitigate the negative commercial impact of rust on commercial equipment, industries see the importance of employing ongoing corrosion treatment measures such as applying rust converter, and inhibitor coatings, and implementing regular inspection and maintenance schedules. These measures help extend the lifespan of equipment, reduce maintenance costs, and enhance overall operational efficiency and safety.

Industrial Strength Rust Treatment Techniques

How Sandblasting Works

Abrasive Material: Sandblasting involves propelling abrasive material at high speeds to remove contaminants or coatings from a surface. While sand was traditionally used, other abrasive materials like garnet, glass beads, or steel grit are often preferred today due to health and environmental concerns associated with silica sand.

Pressure: The abrasive material is propelled using compressed air or water at high pressure. This pressure, combined with the abrasive nature of the material, helps to break down and remove rust, paint, or other unwanted coatings.

Impact: When the abrasive particles hit the surface, they create an impact that dislodges rust and other contaminants. This process is highly effective in removing rust, as it can reach into crevices and areas that might be challenging to access with other methods.

Limitations: While sandblasting is highly effective, it may not be suitable for all treatments. It can reduce the thickness of the metal being treated, and delicate surfaces or materials that can be easily damaged by abrasive impact may not be suitable for sandblasting. 

In summary, sandblasting is a highly effective method for rust removal, particularly on metal surfaces. However, it’s crucial to consider the nature of the material being treated and take appropriate safety precautions during the process.

How Wire Brushing Works

Tool: Wire brushing involves using a hand tool with bristles made of wire or attached to a power tool like an angle grinder or drill.

Mechanical Action: The wire bristles mechanically scrape away rust and other surface contaminants. The pressure applied and the motion of the brush help to break down and remove rust from the metal surface.

Manual or Power: Wire brushing can be done manually with a handheld wire brush or with the assistance of power tools. Power tools can speed up the process, especially for larger or more heavily rusted surfaces.

How a Rust converter works

A good quality rust converter saves all the time and labour of removing all the rust back to the metal.

What to expect from a good quality rust converter:

  • Minimum surface preparation requirement
  • Superior smooth coating consistency
  • Convert rust to a hard water insoluble finish
  • Mineral acid free & classified as non-hazardous
  • Neutralises the rust corrosion process
  • Converts rust to a hard water insoluble ready to paint surface

Rust converters work by converting the rust into a protective metal complex and it also combines with surface moisture and oxygen depriving the corrosion process of the conditions it requires.

If rust is left untreated, ferrous metal objects can be ruined by corrosion. A high-performance rust converter treatment will prevent your valued assets from being progressively destroyed by the effects of corrosion, leaving you to enjoy them for many more years.

A good quality rust converter on contact, forms a chemical bond neutralising and chemically converting rust. A poor-quality converter applied to corrosion will give a disappointingly short-lived performance because it simply hides the underlying and continuing corrosion – the failure is first seen by the blistering of the coating and then the rapid breakthrough of rust.

Using Acid to Remove Rust 

This is a chemical method of rust removal and can be effective when dealing with moderate to heavy rust on metal surfaces. Various acids can be used for this purpose, and one of the commonly used acids is phosphoric acid. Here’s how the process typically works:

The acid solution is applied directly to the rusted surface. This can be done by brushing, spraying, or immersing the object in the acid solution, depending on the size and nature of the item. The acid reacts with the rust, converting it into a water-soluble compound. This chemical reaction is often relatively slow, and the time required for effective rust removal can vary. After allowing sufficient time for the acid to react with the rust, the treated surface is thoroughly rinsed with water to remove both the acid and the dissolved rust.

The surface will need to be immediately treated with a rust inhibitor to avoid rust quickly returning

Rust Electrolysis

This is also known as electrolytic rust removal or electrolytic rust cleaning, is a method that uses electrolysis to remove rust from metal objects. This process is particularly effective for items with intricate shapes, hard-to-reach areas, or delicate features. Here’s how rust electrolysis treatment typically works:

Use a  non-conductive container to hold the electrolyte solution of water mixed with a water-soluble electrolyte, such as washing soda (sodium carbonate) or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). This solution facilitates the flow of electric current from a sacrificial anode made of a material that corrodes easily, such as mild steel or iron. The anode is connected to the positive terminal (anode) of a DC power source. The cathode: The rusted metal object is connected to the negative terminal (cathode) of the DC low-voltage power source.

As you can see, there are countless reasons why protecting your assets against rust is important. The longer rust corrosion is left untreated, the more expensive and time-consuming it becomes to fix! Neutrarust offers a range of rust converters, inhibitors, and preventative waxes that can help you protect your assets. Shop the range online today.