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What is rust?

Rust is an iron oxide, a usually red oxide formed by the redox reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water or air moisture. Given sufficient time, oxygen, and water, any iron mass will eventually convert entirely to rust and disintegrate. Surface rust is flaky and friable, and it provides no protection to the underlying iron, unlike the formation of patina on copper surfaces. Rusting is the common term for corrosion of iron and its alloys, such as steel. Many other metals undergo similar corrosion, but the resulting oxides are not commonly called rust. Other forms of rust exist, like the result of reactions between iron and chloride in an environment deprived of oxygen. Rebar used in underwater concrete pillars, which generates green rust, is an example. 

Rust converters

Firstly do any search on the internet for ‘how do rust converters work?’ and they will all be similar. They contain tannic acid which reacts with iron oxide (rust) and chemically converts it to iron tannate, a dark-coloured material. They then claim that this converted rust serves to protect the metal beneath. What they fail to acknowledge is that this converted material, as was the previous rust, is not actually part of the original metal. That is why when you grit blast, sand or wire brush rusted metal the rust comes off and leaves the bare steel. Think about it, grit blast clean metal and very little happens, blast rusted metal and you get a big cloud of brown dust. The first rule of any painting job, is it going onto a stable surface? Rust or converted rust is not a stable surface.

SML do not recommend the use of rust converters.

Another compelling reason for not using rust converters; Jotun Paints are one of the World’s largest suppliers of protective coatings to the Oil industry, wind farms and shipping companies. Jotun do not make a rust converter product! If such a product really worked it would save their customers millions on preparation and maintenance costs and Jotun would make it. 

Can you paint over rusted metal?

Of course you can, any good primer will stick to the rusted area, aesthetically you will improve the look of what you are painting. Are you providing suitable protection for the metal beneath the rust? No is the simple answer. The rust is not part of the metal, it could trap air and moisture thereby sealing it under the paint coating and allowing it to continue to erode the metal unnoticed!

How do you fix or treat rusted metal?

There is no quick solution. Rust converters convert the surface of the rust to a more stable material but they do not bond the rust to the underlying metal. You have to remove the rust back to bare shiny metal.

Can rust be stopped?

Yes. Based on what we know about the formation of rust you have to protect the bare metal from air and moisture. A good quality primer will adhere well to the bare metal, be impervious to air and moisture and provide a good surface for the topcoat - the aesthetic layer of paint.

What is the best anti rust paint?
What is the best paint to protect steel?

The best tried and tested method of protecting steel from corrosion is a good quality 2 pack epoxy primer. It needs to be applied in multiple layers as the thickness of the paint layer is what stops the ingress of water and air. At a microscopic level eventually air and water will get through so the thicker the layer the longer this will take. A well applied paint system will protect steel in the harshest of conditions for up to 15 years.

Jotun is a world leader in anti-corrosion paints and their products are used extensively on oil rigs, offshore wind farms and on over 30% of the world’s shipping fleet. We believe that Jotun products provide the best paint systems and the best value anti rust paint.


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