Rust – What It Is and How to Prevent it with Protective Paint (Plus Rust Tough Cheat Sheet)

Rust – What It Is and How to Prevent it with Protective Paint (Plus Rust Tough Cheat Sheet)

That reddish-brown stain on your equipment, fasteners and metal surfaces is not just an eyesore- it’s a sign of trouble to come. Rust makes connections and structures weaker over time. Ignoring signs of it will not make it go away, but rather will corrode at the structure’s integrity until there is nothing left. 

What is Rust? 

Metals that contain iron or iron alloys are susceptible to rust. Moisture such as rainwater, snow, humidity or sea spray enters microscopic pits or cracks in the iron or steel structure, then combines with other elements on the surface. When this happens, an acid compound is formed that can further corrode the metal, causing even more metal to be exposed. Rust, otherwise known as iron oxide, occurs when moisture interacts with oxygen in those exposed areas. This reaction is also referred to as oxidation and results in a reddish-brown stain that will make the structure brittle and weak.  

It’s not just bare metals that are susceptible to rust. The protective films used on stainless steel and other metals can degrade over time, exposing them to the elements. It’s important to note, however, that some alloys like cast iron, copper, aluminum, chromium and zinc can benefit from an iron oxide coating that protects the metal underneath or provides the desired patina. For our purposes, we will discuss ways to protect steel and iron from the destructive effects of rust.  

Want to protect your machinery and equipment from rust?  

Give us a call at 314-638-6500 OPTION 4. 

3 Stages of How Rust Degrades the Integrity of Steel Surfaces 

Stage 1: Red, black or white spots appear on a metal surface and are the first sign of a superficial problem.  

Stage 2: Metal begins to degrade and rust forms a substance called scale. Pitting and etching continue to further expose the metal to corrosive elements, resulting in powdery red pigment.  

Stage 3: Metal’s surface molecules have all turned to red iron oxides and have degraded the surface. Scaling continues, while the surface continues to break loose and fall off. If left untreated, the rust will completely degrade the structure.  

How Industrial Paint Coatings Can Prevent Rust (Iron Oxide) From Damaging Metal Surfaces 

Rust is a naturally occurring chemical reaction. While we haven’t discovered a way to stop Mother Nature from wreaking havoc on pricey equipment, there are ways to protect machinery and components from destruction. Paints and coatings can be used to form a protective barrier between bare metal and oxidative elements.  

Paint is a simple and affordable way to prevent corrosion. Depending on your application you may want to look for fast-drying or fast-curing direct-to-metal coatings. Rust preventative paints are also available in many colors and finishes, ideal for color-coding and marking construction or utility areas.  

Krylon Industrial Rust Tough is a rust-preventive acrylic alkyd enamel that offers state-of-the-art corrosion protection in one-coat coverage. Rust Tough can be applied directly to new or clean metal with or without a primer, see application tips below. Compared to other leading rust inhibiter paints, Rust Tough dries faster with long-lasting color retention.  

Learn more about Krylon Industrial Rust Tough here. 

 Krylon Industrial Rust Tough Preventative Enamels Fact Sheet 

Cure Time  

Dry to Touch: 25 minutes 

Dry to Handle: 1 hour 


  • White 
  • Black 
  • Light or Dark Machinery Gray 
  • Gray Primer 
  • Utility Meter Gray or Utility Tan 
  • Red Oxide Primer 
  • Safety Red, Yellow, Orange 
  • Equipment Yellow 
  • Aluminum 
  • Clear Base 
  • Fluorescents 
  • Primers 
  • High-Heat Black and more 


  • Gloss 
  • Semi-Gloss 
  • Flat 

Krylon’s Tips for Spray Painting Metal 

  1. Remove loose rust with a wire brush, sandpaper or chemical rust remover. (Lightly sand if previously painted) 
  1. Replace rusted nails or bolts with galvanized or non-rusting fasteners, if possible. 
  1. Sand areas where paint is chipping until surface is smooth, if applicable. 
  1. Remove dust or oil with a degreaser or denatured alcohol. 
  1. Exterior metal can be primed for the greatest protection against rust and corrosion (not required). 
  1. Apply Krylon Rust Tough Paint (available in aerosol or gallon paint) 

Note: Rust Tough can also be used on wood surfaces to provide superior coverage. 


We carry everything for your company’s maintenance needs including paints and coatings from top-rated brands like Krylon and Sherwin Williams. If you have questions on how Superior can help you improve operations with genuine quality products, stop by our St. Louis location, or call 314-638-6500 OPTION 4.