The Detroit Post
Thursday, 21 October, 2021

How Does A Rust Converter Work

Carole Stephens
• Tuesday, 22 December, 2020
• 10 min read

Rust is one of the common problems that most of us face if we have an old model of vehicle. If you were not able to treat this, then rust will give you a total failure on the component that is affected.

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Tannin acids are usually combined with Iron Oxide that will form a stable compound which is called Mandate. Mandate is typically black compared to the color of the rust.

Rust converters usually come with a polymer that serves as a protective layer. This is also a compound that is made to rise the chemical process with the tannin acid.

This will convert the rust on the material into a protective chemical barrier. On the other hand, a rust converter acts by mixing up chemicals with the rust on your material that will result in having a black substance that you can paint for you to conceal it.

If you are going to apply an oil-based top coating, then you have to wait for 48 hours to ensure the curing process is complete. In case you are asking if you can use a powder coat over a rust converter, then the answer to this is still not tested.

Before applying a rust converter, make sure that you wear protective glasses together with a glove that is chemical resistant. Keep in mind that rust converter is dangerous once it is ingested and this will require treating immediately.

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Though vapors from the rust converter are not harmful still it is recommended that you apply the mixture on an area that has proper ventilation. You can only apply the rust remover when the surface of the material is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Just how exactly these rust converters work however, is the result of several interesting chemical reactions. If left alone, rust will almost always result in total failure of the panel or component affected.

The active ingredient in most rust converters is Tannin, in the form of tannin acid. This tannin acid combines with the Iron Oxide to form a more stable compound called Iron Mandate, which is typically black compared to the reddish color of rust.

Many commercial rust converters will include both a polymer to act as a protective layer, and an additional acidic compound designed to accelerate the chemical processes related to the tannin acids. While scientific evidence exists proving that applying tannin or phosphoric acid to Iron Oxide does indeed promote the formation of Iron Mandate and Ferric Phosphate respectively, this same evidence shows these formations tend to only occur along the outermost layers of the metal.

This means that for advanced cases of rust, these converters may be useless. In addition, any metals treated with a converter as part of an auto rust repair regiment should be cleaned and coated with a protectant as soon as possible after the converter has done its job.

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Unless you’re giving your metal the perfect care and maintenance, it is likely that, over time, rust will form on it. If you’re able to act quickly, you can simply scrape it off with abrasive tools, or apply a chemical remover.

Applying a rust converter to rust simply kills it and stops it from further spreading on the metal. It is particularly relevant when used on large rust surfaces where traditional methods are time-consuming and expensive.

Surfaces coated with rust converters are also protected from elements such as rain, sun, carbon dioxide, and effects of weathering. Typically, rust converters contain tannin acid and an organic polymer.

A rust converter also contains an organic polymer that acts as a moisture barrier and provides a protective layer on the surface of the metal. When the rust converter comes in contact with rust, it reacts with it and forms a blue film.

As the process develops, the rusted area turns to black as the rust converter becomes dry. Apart from these two ingredients, manufacturers also add other acids to accelerate the chemical reaction.


Most rust converters come in liquid form and can be applied by either spraying or brushing. In this instance, the rust converter must not be prepared too thin as you run the risk of having it drip off the surface of your metal.

The first step in applying a rust converter is to remove loose and flaky rust from the metal surface. You will also need to degrease and clean the surface with a detergent wash. Saltwater deposits and contamination can be removed with a high-pressure water wash.

For larger surfaces, you can use a roller to fully cover all the rusted areas. You may need to apply a second coat to ensure maximum protection and rust conversion.

Wait until after 24 to 48 hours of curing time before applying a paint coat. Depending on your method of application, rust converters can create a mess.

Do not pour leftover rust converter back into the container as it can contaminate the unused liquid. Your method of disposal will depend on your federal, state, or local regulations.

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When applying, wear a pair of rubber gloves and safety goggles and ensure the area is well-ventilated. Tannin acid chemically converts the reddish iron oxides into bluish-black ferric mandate, a more stable material.

Some rust converters may contain additional acids to speed up the chemical reaction by lowering the pH of the solution. A common example is phosphoric acid, which additionally converts some iron oxide into an inert layer of ferric phosphate.

Rust converter is usually applied to objects that are difficult to sand blast, such as vehicles, trailers, fences, iron railings, sheet metal, and the outside of storage tanks. With a basic understanding of what rust converters are, the methods of application, drying time, cleanup, durability, toxicity and flammability, you will be well-prepared to evaluate the various products on the market.

If you need a rust converter that is heavy duty, go with the Corporeal as it is extremely durable and can be a great primer. Professionals regularly cite Corporeal as a top product.

Its viscosity makes Corporeal stand out when compared to other products. While Sky co Off and Talbot have a viscosity that is nearly identical, Corporeal is much thicker.

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Sky co Off and Talbot generally require two applications or more depending on the amount of corrosion. Corporeal is a special product as it maintains its protection without requiring some form of treatment.

While Corporeal works well with medium rust, it does not perform as well as some others with shingled metal. The thicker rust converter doesn’t fit as easily into the little areas between the rust flakes.

Corporeal does a better job of preventing new rust without requiring further treatment than a number of other products. Talbot Rust Primer comes in an aerosol can as well as a standard spray bottle.

Each rust converter that is phosphoric acid based has a slightly different formula. Talbot Rust Primer is relatively thin, and it covers a greater surface area than other products reviewed.

You will likely need multiple coats, but you should get coverage of up to 500 square feet from one gallon when applied to lightly rusted metal. Most phosphoric acid-based converters cannot properly cure on bare metal, remaining sticky or flaking off.

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The curing time with Talbot Rust Primer is much longer than with many other products. You must use protective gear with this primer because a burning sensation and inflammation will result if it comes in contact with your skin.

There is a limitation with a formic acid-based product compared to one based with phosphoric acid. Permeated will not provide protection for the treated metal as well as many of its competitors unless there are further treatments.

Many phosphoric acid-based converters will hold up over a year without another treatment, but a Permatex-treated piece of metal may only last for six months. Permeated makes it easier to further treat the project after the initial application.

It can be applied from an aerosol can, and this makes application easier, much quicker and more precise. The negatives with this product are that it is not effective at preventing new rust without further treatment.

The Sky co Off Surface Prep is similar to Talbot Rust Primer. Sky co Off has a similar viscosity to Talbot, but it covers less area.

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Unlike Talbot, Sky co Off is not as effective protecting just the metal after application. When proper preparation is done, this product will bond extremely well with light- and medium-rusted metal.

Once it has fully bonded, it serves as a much better primer than most other rust converter products. Apply Sky co Off on medium-rusted metal, and you do not have to sand or grind down prior to application.

For example, Evans- Rust is non-toxic, biodegradable and non-flammable, one of the safest products available in the rust converter /remover market. Evans- Rust can be remixed with unused product without negative effects.

It does not provide any protection for treated metals against future rust. It does not provide protection against future rust compared to other products.

Another issue with this product is the amount of time it takes to work. On larger projects, you must regularly clean the surface and reapply for it to work.

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If you are dealing with heavy rust, you will need to grind or sand the metal to be somewhat smooth. In most products, rust converters are a fairly thin liquid and can be applied as a spray or with a brush.

An aerosol allows even coating and efficient distribution without waste. However, a product that is more viscous will adhere to the surface better and has less risk of dripping.

Thicker product will also require fewer coats to treat the metal. The active agent dictates whether cleanup will be easy or require significant effort.

Some rust converter brands can be easily cleaned with soap and water. However, some brands boast that their converter protects against future corrosion without any further treatment.

More viscous rust converters do tend to be more durable than thinner products. Rust converters made from phosphoric acid can burn you if it contacts your skin.

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This is not a burn like nitric or sulfuric acid, so you should not need to worry about blisters or scarring. Direct contact with your skin can cause discomfort, inflammation and irritation.

For protection, you are advised to wear rubber gloves when applying rust converter. Aerosol rust converters are usually flammable due to the nature of the product.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what the best rust converter is, the methods of application, drying time, cleanup, durability, toxicity, and flammability, you can evaluate the various products on the market.

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