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How to Stop Metal From Oxidizing

Metal oxidation, more commonly known as rust, forms when something made of metal, such as a swing set, shovel or trampoline, is exposed to water and air for a long period of time. Rust is a purely chemical reaction, which causes the molecules of the metal to break down. Given time, the metal will continue to corrode until it gives way as easily as snapping a twig. There are several ways to stop, or at least slow, metal from oxidizing. For smaller metal items such as nails, check a local hardware store for “galvanized” products. Galvanized metal is coated with a layer of zinc, which prevents oxidation by acting as a buffer between the outside elements and the metal. Otherwise, the easiest way to keep rust at bay is by using paint.

Oxidized nails will not rust.

Step 1

Prepare the work area by taping or covering anything not to be painted.

Step 2

Take a sheet of sandpaper and start roughing the surface of the metal. The reason for this is that some paint won’t stick to smooth, polished metal.

Step 3

Give the paint a good mix (or shake for spray paint); it should be one solid color, and thick and creamy.

Step 4

Apply a thin first layer of paint to the metal. This first layer will absorb into the abrasions made by the sandpaper and really lock the paint to the metal.

Step 5

Wait a couple of hours while the first layer of paint dries.

Step 6

Apply another thin layer of paint on top of the first. This layer should fill in any missed spots, but mainly serves to reinforce and make absolutely sure the metal is sealed and protected.

Step 7

Continue to apply layers as necessary. If the metal is really scratched from the sandpaper, there may still be abrasions visible through the first two layers of paint.

Step 8

Reapply the paint every couple of years to keep the metal protected from oxidation.

Things You Will Need

  • Outdoor or weather-resistant paint or spray paint
  • Protective mask
  • Painting clothes
  • Tarp or painter’s tape
  • Paintbrush or roller
  • Paint tray
  • Sandpaper

About the Author

Suman Medda holds a B.S. in biomedical engineering with a specialty in tissue engineering. His biomedical research abstracts have been featured in the Southeastern Surgical Conference. He enjoys technical and scientific writing and has been writing since 2007.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images