Can Steel Rust Without Water?

Having materials out of the reach of water can make you think that you are covered by rust. However, with different kinds of metals susceptible to corrosion getting the brown flakes even without water, you might want to know for sure if steel can still rust without water. And that raises the question: can steel rust without water?

Yes. Although water may be a catalyst in the oxidation process that creates rust, steel can rust without water. Water is not the only chemical that can cause rust on steel and other metals. Although oxygen is necessary for this oxidation to occur, it’s not the only compound necessary for corrosion.

This article will answer your question “can steel rust without water?” and also provide you with information on what causes steel to rust. You also get to learn what and how to prevent steel from rusting.

Can Steel Rust With Salt Water?

Water is a major requirement for rust to take place. When metals make contact with water, an oxidation reaction takes place and resorts to rust. The brown flaky material we see on the surface of metals results from the oxidation reaction between metal and oxygen in the presence of water.

Can Steel Rust With Salt Water

Most items manufactured in the world are made of steel. Steel has gained popularity all over the world and is known as one of the materials used for the manufacture of items used in different settings like kitchen, office, company, and so on. Despite its wide usage, steel has a weakness: it rusts.

If you see buildings and bridges that have been around for a long time, you will notice rust on them. These things have been exposed to air, water, and moisture for a long time, and oxidation reactions have taken place over time. The result is the brown material lying on the steel items.

Aside from water, other oxidation materials can make steel rust. This article discusses other materials that can make steel rust, the situations under which steel can rust, and how to prevent its rust.

What Causes Steel To Rust?

Metals rust. Any item made of iron is subject to rust. Steel is made entirely of iron; therefore, it is subject to corrosion and can rust. Rust forms on the top layer of metals because it is the part that comes in contact with water and oxygen and is visible as brown material. Aside from just coming in contact with water for rust to occur, metal will rust if it comes in contact with some other elements or materials that can cause corrosion.

What Causes Steel To Rust

Steel will rust when it comes in contact with salt. This explains why saltwater generates more rust in steel than freshwater does. The electrolyte in salt makes it give out ions to the water. The water is charged with these ions, which makes the corrosion process faster. To understand this better, look at vehicles in colder climates. Their cars are more susceptible to rust than those of people in less cold climates. People in colder climates often use salt to manage snow. This has an effect on steel along the road like bridges. Car owners in this environment often check their vehicles for rust. Anything that comes in contact with salt is more susceptible to deterioration as a result of rust.

Steel items will rust if exposed to air and moisture. Without being exposed to water, steel items can rust if they are exposed to these elements. Corrosion starts from the outer layer of the steel items, so it will be visible even if it hasn’t affected the inner layer of the item. How fast the corrosion occurs depends on some factors, including the air and moisture the steel is exposed to. Whether or not the moisture and air levels are high will affect the speed of corrosion. It also depends on the steel surface that is exposed to the element. Rust will occur faster if a larger part of the steel comes in contact with these elements. Another factor that comes to play when it comes to corrosion speed is the surface of the steel item. If the steel has been coated with some protective layers, oxidation may occur, but corrosion might not be as fast as it would have been if there were no protection on the surface of the steel item.

What Protects The Steel From Rust?

Knowing that without water, steel can rust, it is essential to know how to protect steel from rust. Here are some methods for keeping metals from rusting:

What Protects The Steel From Rust

  • Galvanizing steel. When steel is coated with zinc, it is referred to as galvanized steel. Zinc on the steel protects it from corrosion. The fine shining surface of steel that is visible is zinc carbonate. It results from the reaction between zinc and carbon dioxide, and oxygen. This shiny surface will not rust. However, if a part of the surface is scratched and the underlying metal is revealed, the exposed parts are susceptible to corrosion.
  • Stainless steel. One way to protect steel from corrosion is to coat it with chromium oxide, referred to as stainless steel. This gives it an attractive appearance and makes it suitable for using a variety of settings, including the kitchen. Most importantly, it protects the underlying metal from corrosion.
  • Aluminum Steel. another way to protect steel from corrosion is to coat it with aluminium-silicon alloy. This will prevent oxidizing material from penetrating the underlying metal. Another unique property of aluminium steel is its high temperature. This makes it suitable for making items like water heaters, water bottles, fireplaces, and so on.

How To Prevent Steel From Rusting?

items made of steel will rust one day, even if it takes time. However, there are ways you can prevent rust from forming on your steel items. Here are some of them:

How to prevent steel from rusting

  • Keep steel items dry. Prevent water from coming in contact with steel items. When they get wet, wipe them immediately.
  • Store steel items in the right environment. To prevent steel from rusting, keeping them in dry places with low humidity levels is advisable.
  • Keep steel items clean always. Debris and dirt on steel items can retain moisture on them and lead to corrosion.


Aside from water, other materials such as salt, moisture, air, and even dirt can cause steel to rust. To prevent steel from corrosion, ensure to keep in the right place and avoid leaving it wet.

Evan Cooper

Evan Cooper

Hi, I’m Evan Cooper, the founder and an editor of this site, Doesitrust. I’m a chemical engineer and working in a rust-eliminating paint manufacturing company. Besides this profession, I’m a researcher and blogger.

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