Rust occurs very commonly as a result of iron, which is contained in various metals, coming into contact with water and oxygen. When rust begins to spread on any surface, it will always cause corrosion and deterioration. Since oxygen and iron have opposite charges, they will always have an attraction for each other, very much as if they were both magnets. When these two substances do combine, a process called oxidation occurs, and that leads to a chemical reaction which produces ferric oxide, otherwise known as common rust.
Rust can develop and spread much more quickly in some situations and under certain conditions, depending on the types of materials that metal is exposed to, for instance, chemicals, salt, and acids. Rust is not only unsightly, but it can seriously degrade any surface where it forms, and it can actually eat through metal, causing it to become weak and crumbly. Even the strongest metals on earth can be subject to the ravages of rust, and that means all metal surfaces should be protected against it, and should be regularly checked to make sure rust isn’t forming.
What Causes Rust to Form?
Rust is caused by a chemical reaction which takes place between iron, oxygen, and moisture. Whenever an iron surface is exposed to moisture and oxygen for a long period of time, the oxygen will combine at an atomic level with the metal, thus forming an entirely different compound called an oxide, while at the same time weakening the bonds of the metal. The substance which serves as the biggest catalyst for rusting is water.
Even though iron and steel seem to be ultra-solid and impenetrable, water molecules have no difficulty penetrating microscopic cracks and pits on the exposed surfaces of those metals. The hydrogen atoms which are part of water molecules are able to combine with several different elements in order to form acids, and these will eat away at the metal.
When exposed to saltwater, this process is accelerated, and rusting will occur to a much greater extent. Iron metal is not generally as deeply affected by ordinary water, but saltwater will definitely cause an increase in the oxidation process and a wider spread of the rusting. As iron becomes more rusted, the oxides actually take up more space than the original metal did, and that kind of expansion is capable of generating tremendous forces, which seriously damage the structure of the iron.
How Long Does it Take to Form on Metal?
The short answer to this is that oxidation can begin immediately when iron comes in contact with oxygen and moisture. However, there are a number of factors which will influence how quickly that rust becomes visible, and to what extent the rust will eventually progress. First of all, it will depend on the grade of steel which is in question, because a higher grade of steel will be more resistant to the effects of oxidation, even though it too will eventually break down.
It will also have a big impact on the speed of oxidation whether the steel is completely free of contaminants, or whether it has oil or grease on it which can promote moisture and oxidation. If the steel is coated with some kind of protective material, that can seriously delay the effects of oxidation, and if it’s a really good coating, it could stave off oxidation indefinitely.
There are a good number of contaminants which can speed up the process of oxidation by their mere presence. Some of these include gases, salts, rust deposits, and other metals which are physically in contact with the iron or steel surface. Another major influence will be how much water the iron or steel material is exposed to. For instance, if it’s just moisture in the atmosphere, that will cause the oxidation process to proceed much more slowly. If there’s a steady drip which is occurring on the surface of the metal, that will accelerate the process.
How Long Until it Eats Through the Metal?
The amount of time it takes rust to completely eat through a metal will depend on several factors, the first of which is how thick the metal is to begin with. Obviously, a sheet of metal will be much easier for rust to eat through than a 3-inch metal bar would. Also, the specific environment which the metal is in will have a major impact in determining how quickly rust can eat right through it. For instance, if iron or metal is in a very humid environment with constant exposure to moisture and oxygen, that will accelerate the process of oxidation and corrosion.
It will be further accelerated if there is a salty presence in the atmosphere, for instance as there would be in an area close to a seashore. This is exactly why metal structures on coastlines need to be coated with protective materials to extend their useful lives, so that rust can’t cause such rapid deterioration. It will also depend to some extent on the precise makeup of the metal which is being rusted or corroded. If all the accelerating features are present at one time, and if the metal being operated on is thin, it can be eaten through in a very short period of time, generally a matter of weeks or months.
Take Care of Rust Quickly
As can be learned from the material above, rust can have a powerful impact on metals, and can eventually eat right through the metal completely. When that happens, it’s very possible that all functionality will be lost from the metal, and it could even collapse. To prevent this from happening, it would be a good idea to inspect your metal surfaces periodically to make sure that no rust is in progress.
When rust is discovered, it can be quickly and easily removed with a miraculous product called Magica, the best rust remover on the market.