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How to Prevent Rust on Steel Pipes

Most buildings and homes feature the use of steel pipes. You’ll find them as railings, guardrails or conduits to carry electricity, gas and ventilation. These steel pipes are susceptible to rust as a result of moisture. To preserve their integrity, we are going to teach you how to prevent rust on steel pipes. Not only does this preserve the integrity, but it also extends the lifespan of your piping. By using the right materials to seal out moisture, you can save yourself money and time in the future. Protect your steel pipes from corrosion and rust by sealing off the outside surface.  

Why Do Steel Pipes Rust?

Before we learn how to prevent rust on steel pipes, let’s take a moment to discuss the basics of rust and other valuable things you should know. In our previous article, Understanding Corrosion and How to Protect Against It, we discussed what rust is and offered a few tips to help you prevent it. For a quick reminder, rust is another form of iron oxide. It happens when steel combines with oxygen from the air and it corrodes. The main factor in corrosion is water. Even when you have steel pipes that appear to be solid, the water molecules are capable of penetrating microscopic gaps located in the metal. Once moisture makes it way in, the process of corrosion begins. In easier terms, let’s break down the process of corrosion for you.
  1. The water combines with the air to form a carbonic. This is an electrolyte.
  2. Once the acid is formed, the iron dissolves and the water breaks down into oxygen and hydrogen.
  3. This free oxygen and iron form iron oxide, otherwise known as rust.
If salt is present in the equation, the process occurs even faster. This is most prevalent in areas near seawater. Compounds found in acid rain and salt-loaded snow from roads also contain better electrolytes for corrosion. Carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide are also known to speed up the process of corrosion.

What Happens When Steel Pipes Rust?

Once rust is present, the metal begins to expand. This places stress on the entire structure. It also causes the metal to become flaky, brittle and weakened. Because rust is permeable to water and air, the layers of pipe located below the rusted metal continue to corrode. There’s very little that can be done to stop this process once it has begun.

Are Rusty Steel Pipes a Health Concern?

There is varying information on this topic. According to the University of California, rusty water often looks unpleasant, but it isn’t an actual health concern. Most people shy away from rusty water because of the taste, look, plus the ability to stain your clothing and sinks. The limits that have been set by the Environmental Protection Agency for levels of iron in our water are purely based on aesthetic qualities and not safety measures, so there is additional peace of mind there. Whether it is a health concern or not, it is always wise to learn how to prevent rust on steel pipes. Then, you never have to worry about it!

How do you know if Steel Pipes are Rusted?

When rust appears just in hot water, comes from a particular faucet or clears up after running for a short period of time, the problem is in your home. These are not indications that there is an issue with your municipal’s water supply. To correct this, you could choose to filter your water or consult a plumber to determine the next course of action. Treatment will depend on how much iron is found in your water and the form it takes. If you experience a sudden flow of rust-filled water, it most likely isn’t your home’s piping that is the issue. Instead, it could be related to a water main break, activated fire hydrant in the area or some other cause to your neighborhood water flow. Sometimes the local water department will contact you and tell you to avoid using the water for a specified period. If the problem continues for an extended time, it would be best to contact your local water department directly or the Department of Health. Before that happens, it is best to learn how to prevent rust on steel pipes. how to prevent rust on steel pipes - step by step

How to Prevent Rust on Steel Pipes

Before we proceed into the steps of preventing rust on your steel pipes, gather the following supplies:
  • Cleaner
  • Mineral spirits
  • Rags
  • Primer
  • A high-quality rustproof exterior paint (we recommend Durabak of course!)
  • 200-grit sandpaper
  • Clean towel

Step One – Clean the Pipe

Before you start sealing the pipe, it is important to ensure that it is clean. Let’s face it; pipes tend to get incredibly dirty. You need to remove all the dirt, grease, grime and salt deposits on the steel pipe before moving on further. We recommend using a heavy-duty cleaner and some rags for your cleaning project. Once that is complete, do it again with your rag and mineral spirits. This enables you to remove the remaining grease that might have been left after you cleaned the first time. It also removes any leftover residue from your cleaner.

Step Two – Rough Sand the Pipe

Now that your pipe is clean, it is time to rough sand it. This allows you to take off that shiny surface which decreases the adhesion ability. This is the process you want to take with any chrome or stainless steel piping. Use 200-grit sandpaper or less and rough the surface. Make sure you wipe away all the leftover residue that occurs from sanding. This can be done with a clean towel. It's important to note that if there's existing rust, it should be sanded off first and treated with a chemical rust neutralizer. If this step is skipped, the rust will penetrate through the new coat of paint.

Step Three – Apply Primer

Now you‘ll want to apply your primer to the steel pipes. Choose a metal self etching primer that is designed to be used on metal. Spray your primer directly onto the pipe. Allow it to dry completely as per the product’s instructions before you proceed with the paint.

Step Four – Apply Paint

Next, you’ll want to follow the directions on your paint manufacturer’s instructions. Apply a complete coat across the entire pipe, ensuring that you don’t miss any area. This usually involves spraying the pipes with the paint and then layering on an additional second coating. For most paint applications on steel, you’ll want to apply the second coating before the first coat has dried. This is referred to as a wet application of paint. The exception to this rule is with Durabak; your second coat is applied when the first coat is dry to the touch. Then, allow your paint to dry completely before doing anything further with the pipes. If you’ve chosen a high-quality product, you will be protected from rust.

Choose your Coating Wisely

If you want to learn how to prevent rust on steel pipes, you must choose your coating wisely. Purchasing a low-cost, ineffective product is not going to prevent rust on steel pipes at all, but lead to further work and time later down the road. Here are the criteria you’ll want to consider when picking the right product.


When you set out to coat your steel pipes, you aren’t going to want to do it again anytime soon. This process takes time and money, so complete the job with a high-quality product the first time. Choose something that is fade-resistant, weather-resistant, anti-corrosive and abrasion-resistant as well. By the way, Durabak is all those things and more. Durabak's extremely tight bond to any surface is what prevents rust in the first place. You don't have to worry about any moisture making its way in. Not only that, but our product is simple to apply. You can choose to use a sprayer, brush or roller.


Many people use this as their main basis for what to purchase. It is tempting to choose a low-cost option and admirable to stick to a budget, but that generally won’t protect you. For a higher-quality job, you might need to spend a little extra, but you won’t have to reapply in a year. When you use Durabak, you’ll often be left with some product to do other projects. We recommend looking into painting a concrete porch of maybe adding some non-slip paint to a ramp. Durabak is an effective truck bed liner, exterior scratch guard, undercoating and interior coating. The possibilities are endless.


While not all steel pipes are visible, you’ll still want the job to look professional. If the pipes are anywhere that sunlight reaches them, you’ll also want a product that promises color retention. Did you know that Durabak is available in over 18 color options? Not only that, but our formula is also UV-resistant and won’t peel or chip over time. That means that the project you do today will look just as professional three years from now.


Now that you know how to prevent rust on steel pipes, you can get to work protecting your home. Arm yourself with the highest quality products and secure your investment. This way, you’ll have strong pipes for years to come. Join with the numerous other companies that have trusted the Durabak name. From AMF Bowling to America’s Navy; you can be a part of the family who protects their equipment the right way.

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