What is steel corrosion? 5 Things you need to know

Steel is a common material used in various industries and infrastructure. And as we progress in the modern world, the production of steel is not slowing anytime soon. But even with its strength, it’s not immune to corrosion.

Steel is a strong metal that’s used to build plenty of sturdy buildings and bridges. But even it can start to get weaker and even fall apart depending on the things that surround it. Corrosion happens because of chemicals in the air or water that react with the steel and make it break down.

In this guide, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about steel corrosion. From what causes it, its types, effects, and the different prevention methods we can use.

What Causes Steel Corrosion?

Steel corrosion occurs due to complex interactions. The metal, its environment, and various physical and chemical factors come into play. When steel is exposed to a corrosive environment, it undergoes a chemical reaction. These environments include moisture, salts, and acids. And when they meet, the result is the formation of rust, which is the most common form of corrosion.

The whole phenomenon is an electrochemical process between the steel and its environment. The steel’s outer coating reacts to various elements. It can be moisture, salts, or acids. When these things touch the metal, they make a special liquid that helps the metal lose its electrons. These electrons are what keep the metal strong and shiny. When they’re lost, the metal starts to rust and lose its protective layer.

The way steel corrodes depends on a lot of things. It can range from what kind of steel it is, and where it is to how many destructive elements it’s exposed to. For example, if it’s exposed to saltwater like some bridges, it’s more likely to corrode faster. This is because salt makes the reaction happen faster.

The climate and weather also play a role in the rate and type of corrosion that occurs. In humid places, the steel is more likely to be exposed to moisture, which increases the rate of corrosion. In contrast, dry climates tend to have lower rates of corrosion due to the lack of moisture.

Sometimes, things like dirt, pollution, and contaminants can get in the way. These can get in the way and stop the steel from being protected. Similarly, it also makes it easier for the steel to corrode. On top of those, changing temperatures and UV exposure can also hasten corrosion.

Common Types of Corrosion

There are many types of steel corrosion but the examples below are the most common:

Uniform Corrosion:

This occurs when the steel’s surface corrodes evenly. It’s the most common type of corrosion and can be caused by exposure to moisture and oxygen.

What You Need to Know About Steel Corrosion?, Sonaa

Galvanic Corrosion:

This happens when two different metals come into contact. That contact causes
one to corrode faster than the other.

What You Need to Know About Steel Corrosion?, Sonaa

Pitting Corrosion:

This occurs when small holes or pits form on the surface of the steel due to localized corrosion

What You Need to Know About Steel Corrosion?, Sonaa

Crevice Corrosion:

A localized form of corrosion that occurs in confined spaces or crevices, hence the name. This often happens when there is a lack of adequate oxygen circulation.

What You Need to Know About Steel Corrosion?, Sonaa

Stress Corrosion Cracking:

The result of the combined effects of stress and a corrosive environment.

What You Need to Know About Steel Corrosion?, Sonaa

What are the Effects of Steel Corrosion?

When steel corrodes, it can cause plenty of problems. The structure it supports might get weaker and start to crack or bend, which can be dangerous. At worst, it might even break and fall.

Its impact on different industries is easily felt. It can affect industries and infrastructure by reducing productivity and increasing maintenance costs. Prevention and maintenance are critical to avoid these negative effects.

Repairing Steel Corrosion

Fixing corroded steel can be incredibly hard. The difficulty ramps up if the corrosion happens in an already sprawling skyline. The steel used here must be kept strong and safe. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to fix it. It can range from replacing the affected part to utilizing cathodic protection. In a residential setting, this becomes even more essential, so it’s important to fix it as soon as possible. Surprisingly, maintenance is also a form of repair that can prevent these from happening.

Preventing Steel Corrosion

Preventing steel corrosion is crucial to ensuring the longevity and safety of structures. Luckily, just like repairing it, you have plenty of options to choose from. Cathodic protection can be used here again or you can coat the steel with a protective layer. Or you can choose to use a different kind of metal that doesn’t corrode as easily. The way to stop corrosion depends on what the structure is and what it’s exposed to.

Sonaa Abseiling Service, serving the Eastern Suburbs, Western Sydney, and Sutherland Shire, specializes in preventive maintenance and offers expertise in preventing steel corrosion to ensure the longevity of structures.