How to Stop Rust on Metal

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Things You'll Need

  • Climate-controlled environment

  • Dehumidifier or silica gel desiccant

  • Mineral spirits

  • Paint or other rust-prevention coating

  • Galvanized metals

Rust, or iron oxide, occurs as a result of the chemical reaction between the water contained in moisture and a metal. Iron and steel are two metals that often undergo rusting. When moisture comes in contact with the metal, acid forms on the metal's surface and eats away at it, resulting in the formation of an orange, powder-like substance. Taking preventive measures to protect metal items such as tools from rust can save you time and money.

Step 1

Store metal items such as tools in a climate-controlled environment. Create such an environment with the help of a dehumidifier, which decreases humidity levels. A less expensive and easier to operate method involves placing a silica gel desiccant into your toolbox or drawer.

Step 2

Prevent oxygen and moisture from making contact with the metal. Begin by prepping the metal's surface by cleaning it with mineral spirits, which will remove any grease and grime. Next, protect the metal's surfaces by painting them or applying a rust prevention coating. Use this method to protect tools and other items made of metal that you do not store in an enclosed area.

Step 3

Opt for items made of galvanized metals. Galvanizing refers to coating the metal in zinc, which is more reactive than the metal. As a result, the zinc coating sacrifices itself, protecting the metal from rust. Professionals galvanize a metal by dipping it into molten zinc or covering it in zinc dust and then baking it. Extend the life of a zinc coating by adding a coat of paint or anti-corrosion treatment over it.

Step 4

If rust has already started, apply rust-removing gel or liquid solution according to the manufacturer's instructions. Such solutions typically contain chemicals such as phosphoric, oxalic or hydrocholoric, or muriatic, acids and may need to be diluted with water before application. Some solutions require you to soak the metal in it, while spraying or pouring the solution on and wiping it off is enough for others. Some need only about 30 seconds to remove rust. Others take up to 24 hours.


Failure to protect metals from rust may result in the death of electrical connections containing iron, the formation of holes in sheet metal and the sticking together of metal parts that must make contact with each other, for example a nut and bolt.

Inhalation of fumes emitted by rust-removing solutions can be hazardous to your health. Work in a well-ventilated area.