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Does Zinc Rust?

Zinc plated parts

Zinc isn't just an element that occurs naturally - it's also one that is very abundant as well. Found in the Earth's crust, it is readily available. This, coupled with the wide range of additional benefits it brings with it, make it ideal for a host of unique applications.

In fact, most estimates have Zinc as the number four most widely used metal on the planet. Zinc is used as a critical alloy in not just brass but also nickel silver and more. Zinc oxide is typically found in some types of paints, rubber, soaps, batteries and even electrical equipment. It's safe to say that our lives would likely look quite a bit different had Zinc not been discovered all those years ago.

Out of all the ways that Zinc is commonly used, Zinc plating is one of the most popular. But what are Zinc plated materials, and why is this type of Zinc coating so important? The answers to questions like these and more require you to keep a few key things in mind.

What is Zinc Plating Used For?

Also sometimes referred to as Zinc coating, Zinc plating is a technique that is used to protect other types of metal from rusting. It is typically used in projects with steel and iron. It's a specific type of galvanizing process that sees the surface of one of those aforementioned types of metals coated with a thin layer of Zinc itself. This creates a barrier that is resistant to corrosion, thus preserving the structural integrity of the materials in a far more stable way than they would be able to on their own.

Note that the principles of this technique are often applied in other ways, too. Bringing together Zinc with copper is how brass is produced. Brass happens to be the second most common way that Zinc is used in the world of manufacturing.

More often than not, the Zinc plating technique is used to protect screws and other types of small fasteners. Screws do more than just hold two items together - they also take a lot more physical stress than most people realize. If even one were to corrode, it could cause serious issues and Zinc plating helps to avoid that.

Zinc plating is also often used for light switch plates, or any other small items that could be used in conditions that would be considered "mildly corrosive."

All told, Zinc plating is used on a regular basis to coat just about every type of metallic part you can think of. It offers basic protection against rust and other forms of corrosion which, for a lot of projects, is everything needed to make sure that things go off without a hitch.

Does Zinc Rust?

Based on that, one of the most commonly asked questions about these types of materials involve some variation of "is Zinc plating rust proof?" The answer to that question is "no' - but the situation also requires a critical context.

Remember that the whole goal of Zinc plating is to form a protective barrier against corrosive elements like moisture. Rust is a phenomenon that occurs as a result of the oxidation process, which is when a metal like steel comes into direct contact with moisture (even moisture in the air) for long periods of time.

Because Zinc acts as a barrier between that moisture and the metal itself, it essentially stops the underlying metal from rusting by sacrificing itself. Zinc is more corrosive and prone to rust than the types of materials it is commonly used to protect. Because of that, the Zinc coating will rust far faster than the iron or steel.

The benefit of this is that not only does it protect the structural integrity of the underlying metal, but long-term maintenance is far easier as in certain situations you can replace just the Zinc layer as opposed to the entire item.

How Does Weather Effect Zinc Plating?

All of this is particularly important in outdoor environments, which can vary wildly in terms of moisture depending on the area of the country where you live and work.

If you have an item that is Zinc plated that is also permanently outdoors, it could be exposed to lengthy periods of rain or intense humidity. Both of these things will cause rust to form far faster than they would in a dryer environment. At that point, the Zinc plating becomes critical as it will take the brunt of the effect of Mother Nature, leaving the underlying part that it was designed to protect more or less intact.

How Can You Protect Plated Parts?

Zinc plated parts can be protected in a few different ways depending on the situation. One involves the use of a post-plate chromate treatment. This is when the corrosion protection of Zinc is enhanced by applying a special type of salt-based treatment. It largely acts as an additional layer of protection, safeguarding the Zinc so that it can in turn safeguard the associated metal.

Post-treatment sealers are also often used for much the same reason. This is a process that would occur after a part has been treated with post-plate chromate, not instead of it.

Post-treatment sealers cause the chromate to harden even further, allowing it to fully stick to the Zinc moving forward.

In the end, Zinc plating - and Zinc in general - is every bit as versatile as it is invaluable to many important applications throughout our lives. It's energy efficient, ecologically friendly, and durable. This, coupled with the advantages of Zinc plated materials, make it easy to see why it has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives, even if we don't necessarily realize it.

If you'd like to find out more information about whether Zinc plating is rust proof, or if you'd just like to discuss related topics with someone in a bit more detail, please don't delay - contact the team at Illinois Pulley & Gear today.