Does Aluminum Rust? – Aluminum Corrosion

Aluminum is one of the most commonly used metals throughout the world. It’s very lightweight, but it doesn’t lack durability. Used in construction, sports, and a wide variety of other applications, aluminum continues to be used regularly. However, fears of rusting metal seem to steer many people away from using it for DIY projects.

So, does aluminum rust? No aluminum doesn’t rust, but it can corrode. Rust usually only forms on steel and iron, but aluminum won’t. That being said, the corrosion that happens with old aluminum can have similar effects. You can use special coatings and other materials to prevent corrosion, though.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following info:

  • Whether or not aluminum will rust
  • How you can protect aluminum from corroding
  • FAQ about aluminum

Will Aluminum Rust?

As you’ve read above, aluminum typically doesn’t rust. It doesn’t show a brown-bronze color as rust does, which is why most people don’t notice that their aluminum is corroding until it’s too late. Lime and calcium can form as well, both of which cause the color and integrity of aluminum to become dull.

There’s a handful of situations in which aluminum can rust, though. Review the following examples if your aluminum materials are rusting:

  • Aluminum alloys are prone to rusting if they include iron, steel, or other materials that can rust. Since the mixture isn’t completely made out of aluminum, you won’t have the same benefits. However, such alloys are generally much tougher and last longer as long as you take care of them properly.
  • If your aluminum starts to look like it’s showing signs of rust, then you’re probably seeing corrosion. When calcium and other issues start to form, they can get dirty and turn brown. The combination starts to look almost to rust, which is why so many people confuse the two problems.
  • If another type of metal is inlaid within the aluminum, such as on a piece of jewelry, then rust can jump from the other material to aluminum. It won’t spread on aluminum, but it can still grow and corrode aluminum along with the rest of the piece of jewelry. Again, proper maintenance will prevent such issues.

Aluminum doesn’t naturally rust, but the three circumstances above will cause it to appear that it is. If you’re worried about your aluminum rusting or corroding, then remember that it’s not inevitable; You can take preventative steps so it never oxidizes or starts to deteriorate.

Note: According to this site, some people intentionally corrode aluminum by using sodium chloride, sodium hydroxide, and sawdust. While it definitely looks aesthetically pleasing, exposing aluminum to too much corrosion can be hazardous.

How to Prevent Aluminum from Corroding

So you now know that aluminum doesn’t rust, but corrosion is just as much of a problem. In fact, aluminum is more likely to corrode than steel is to rust. 

It starts to corrode within days if it’s not taken care of. The initial signs are often hard to see since it usually just appears as a white-light grey color.

Fortunately, you can use the following five suggestions to prevent your aluminum from corroding:

  • Lower the humidity. Humidity is one of the main enemies of almost all types of metal. It starts to corrode and grow all sorts of bacteria and other problems. If you’re able to take action, start by placing a dehumidifier such as the HomeLabs Dehumidifier near the aluminum surface that you’re trying to protect.
  • Adjust the temperature of the room if you can. Anything too high can cause the metal to overheat, whereas low temperatures weaken it. If you keep the temperature between 32 degrees F (0 C) to 80 degrees F (27 C), then you don’t have to worry about making aluminum too brittle or susceptible to corrosion.
  • Use an aluminum corrosion coating. You can buy sprays that can be applied to the surface of the aluminum to prevent it from corroding or getting rust from nearby steel or iron. Try out the Corrosion Inhibitor by WD40 for a long-lasting instant performance that protects your aluminum for months on end.
  • Try to use anti-corrosion paint. It works in the same way as a protective spray, but paint cures and obviously changes the color and texture of aluminum. For vehicles, structures, and other aluminum surfaces that are prone to corrosion, protective paint is an excellent choice to go with.
  • If you ever notice water or moisture on the aluminum surface, wipe it down with a dry rag. It’s not always practical, but moisture can wreak havoc on aluminum by promoting corrosion and creating calcification. You’ll end up with brittle metal rather than tough, durable aluminum.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to prevent your aluminum belongings from corroding. Whether you choose to paint it with a protective layer or spray on a new coating, you’ll be able to increase the longevity of all types of metal, not just aluminum.

Common Questions About Aluminum Corrosion

Aluminum is one of the best materials for a variety of applications, but corrosion can make any metal significantly less useful. If you’re worried about your aluminum corroding or breaking down, then you’re in the right place.

Here are the most common questions that people have about aluminum corrosion:

  • What causes aluminum to corrode? The reason that aluminum surfaces start to corrode is that they’re exposed to extremely high or low pH. For example, anything under 4 or over 9 on the pH scale is acidic or alkaline enough to cause issues. Pitting turns into bigger holes that give way to lime and calcium.
  • How long does aluminum last before it starts to break down? Depending on how well you take care of it and whether or not it has a coating, aluminum can last anywhere from 10 years to well over 100 years. Again, humidity, pH, temperature, wear and tear, and many other factors determine its longevity.
  • Can you repair corroded aluminum? You can’t repair it, but you can prevent the problem from getting worse. Scrub down the surface with an anti-corrosion spray to get rid of the corrosion. You might need to use an abrasive sponge or cloth to scrub away dense layers of corrosion (calcium can build up quickly).
  • How do you replace corroded aluminum? If you’re dealing with plumbing or sections of aluminum that need to be replaced, then you’ll have to use a saw to remove them. Next, weld new sections in place, ensuring that all holes are sealed and the corroded portions are cleaned or removed.
  • How do you know if aluminum is corroding? The signs of corrosion on aluminum include a light grey or white powder along with dullness throughout the affected surface. You also might notice small divots circled by brown rings, which is why many people confuse it with rust.

Conclusion

While aluminum doesn’t get rusty, corrosion can be just as bad. Not only does it permanently remove the oxide layer on the surface (making it susceptible to further corrosion), but it also makes the material powdery, flakey, and weak.

Here’s a quick recap of the post:

  • Aluminum can’t rust unless it’s aluminum alloy (including other metals).
  • You can use anti-corrosion spray or paint to prevent corrosion.
  • Aluminum can last several decades with proper maintenance.
  • Corroding aluminum looks similar to rust or calcification.
  • Humidity, temperature, and pH can impact the presence of corrosion on aluminum.
  • Always wipe away moisture from the surface of the aluminum.
  • You can intentionally corrode aluminum for a cosmetic change.

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