Does Carbon Steel Rust Easily?

Carbon steel is a more responsive metal than stainless steel. Carbon steel with a zinc coating provides protection from the elements, and its rust resistance is improved over uncoated carbon steel. Carbon steel may also contain small amounts of other elements in addition to carbon. However, if left uncoated, does carbon steel rust easily?

Yes, Carbon steel is a natural metal that will rust if it is not properly coated or treated. Also, slight exposure to vapor can let carbon steel rust. Another crucial factor to consider is that it has little ductile properties than other steel.

Also, carbon steel is higher-grade steel than many others, but it has carbon in it, so it can rust. Rust is caused when the iron in the carbon comes out of the steel and combines with oxygen to form rust.

There are different types of carbon steel, and it can be affected just by the amount of carbon that is in the steel. Therefore, below we have ways you can prevent carbon steel from rust and tips you need to maintain it for a longer period.

An Overview Of Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is a popular manufactured material globally, however, it comes with a flaw: It rusts. If you move around, you will notice a dark brown color on bridges and archaic buildings which have been exposed for a long time.

An Overview Of Carbon Steel

However, it isn’t the only steel that rust, copper, aluminum and copper are known materials susceptible to corrosion. You may wonder why some metals rust and others don’t, it is because of their makeup.

Any element with iron properties will likely rust especially when exposed to prolonged air and water. When carbon steel rust, the chemical reaction is known as corrosion. Although several types of rust affect steel like carbon, the popular one is called Fe203.

The major reason why rust affects carbon steel is that steel needs minimum oxygen and water to survive. Exposing it to extended elements causes rust.

Does Carbon Steel Rust Faster In Saltwater Than Freshwater?

Yes, carbon steel rusts more quickly in saltwater than freshwater, this is because sodium (a primary element in salt) reacts quickly when introduced to steel.

Furthermore salt is an electrolyte that introduces ions in water. Those in colder locations know of the corrosive nature of salt and how it contributes to the rusty nature of cars during winter.

Does Carbon Steel Rust Faster In Saltwater Than Freshwater

You will also notice that bridges and roads during winter are prone to the detriment. How carbon steel quickly rust depends on the amount of exposure it gets to water and air. When carbon steel begins to rust, it will take some time to be noticed.

Common Substances To Protect Steel From Rust

If you are dealing with steel like carbon steel, here are some suggestions to protect it from corrosion:

Protect Steel From Rust

  • Coating with Zinc: If you coat your steel with around 900-degree zinc, you guard it against immediate rust. When you coat your metal with the right dosage of zinc, you give it a good appeal and also prevent it from rusting. However, be careful your coating isn’t scratched away quickly, because this will expose the outer layer to water.
  • Chromium: Try to coat your steel with the right dose of chromium oxide, to prevent rust. Chromium elements prevent oxidation which leads to corrosion in most steels. Also, when you add, chromium, the steel has a better appearance
  • Use an Aluminum coat: Any steel which is coated with aluminum-silicon properties will resist getting rust easily. So if you use your material in cold climates, or have an HVAC unit, coat your steel.

9 Tips To Avoid Rust In Your Carbon Steel

Irrespective of whether you have carbon steel equipment, vehicle parts or household, eventually, they will be exposed to rusting if not properly maintained.

Avoid Rust In Your Carbon Steel

Here are nine tips to avoid getting carbon steel rust:

1. Get an alloy

If you want to protect your carbon steel from rust, use alloys. While stainless steel isn’t ideal for many applications it works in many situations and prevents rust.

2. Use the right amount of Oil

Applying oil can go a long way to guard against rust or at least limit it. Oil stops water from reaching carbon steel quickly. The problem with applying oil is that an oily surface might pose environmental issues.

3. Use a dry coating

When you apply some rust preventive solutions like dry coating, it would form a barrier over your carbon steel and reduce rust. There are many good products you can use to dry coat your steel to prevent rust.

4. Painting the carbon steel

Using the right paint on the carbon steel will reduce the rusting process because it will stop moisture from getting to the outer layer of the steel.

5. Good storage

When you care about your carbon steel and hope to stop it from getting rust, then keep them in low-moisture locations or mild climates.

You could also consider keeping them in a humidity-controlled location to limit their exposure to rust. Also, consider using desiccant drying solutions in the storage area to help keep them in optimal condition.

6. Galvanize

Another method that might come to good use is using galvanized coat iron to protect your carbon steel from rust galvanized zinc or Iron corrodes at a limited rate than other metals. This makes it an ideal solution against rusting.

7. Blueing

Another solution to prevent rust in carbon steel is blueing. This method creates a layer that covers the steel and guards against rust. For this process to be complete, regularly oil the metal to keep it resistant to oil. While doing this, it will turn blue or black.

8. Coating with powder

You can use some layers of acyclic, epoxy or vinyl solutions to prevent rust in carbon steel. Though there are many other substances you could consider, the above remains the best and affordable solution.

9. VCI Packaging

Popularly known as Vapor Corrosion Inhibitor, it is a known chemical product that can be infused in carbon steel to protect it from corrosion. It comes in various sizes, however, you must use it in small portions to get the best results.


Does carbon steel rust? Yes, it does because it doesn’t have the right corrosive properties. Also, when exposed to excessive air and water, it is prone to rust.

There are methods that you can use to protect and prevent steel like carbon from getting rust and we have enumerated them above. To avoid rust and damage, take good care of your carbon steel.

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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