It’s common knowledge that salt water doesn’t tend to play nice with metal, so you don’t have to be an expert sailor to guess that the effects of salt water on aluminum can be a little unpleasant. However, aluminum boats are a popular choice among anglers, pleasure boaters, and watermen, so this particular metal can clearly handle exposure to salt water with proper care. In fact, aluminum can be a smart choice whether you’re planning to make waves in a boat or enjoy the ocean breeze in a seaside home with aluminum handrails.
Exploring the Effects of Salt Water on Aluminum
If you spend a little time in a seaside community, you’ll quickly discover that aluminum is used for more than just boats. It’s also found in handrails, railings, light fixtures, and outdoor furniture. If you are considering using aluminum around salt water, you need to understand what happens when these two substances come into contact and how to manage their interaction so that your aluminum goods can stand the test of both time and tide.
Rust vs. Corrosion
If you guessed that rust was one of the effects of salt water on aluminum, you’d be wrong. While many people assume that rust and corrosion are synonyms, there is actually a difference in the true meaning of these two terms. Much like oranges are a form of citrus fruit, but not all citrus fruits are oranges, rust is a form of corrosion, but not all corrosion is rust.
Corrosion refers to the wearing away of metal as a result of a chemical reaction. By definition, rust is the oxidation of iron or steel as a result of interaction with water or air. Aluminum doesn’t contain any iron or steel. Therefore, it doesn’t rust. In fact, aluminum is known for its ability to resist corrosion well, but it can corrode under certain circumstances. Unfortunately, exposure to salt water can be one of those circumstances.
The Corrosion Conundrum
Gold, silver, platinum, and a few other metals are found in their metallic state in nature. They’re the exception. Most metals naturally exist as minerals. For example, aluminum is created when a mineral called bauxite is mined, crushed, processed, and smelted. Because the metallic state isn’t their natural state, most metals are inherently unstable at a chemical level. When exposed to the environment, they tend to oxidize, which allows them to revert to their mineral form. This chemical reaction is corrosion, and its result varies depending on the metal and the environmental factors acting on it.
Aluminum actually does an excellent job of resisting corrosion, and when aluminum does corrode, the thin coating of aluminum oxide that forms as a result creates a protective shield that inhibits further corrosion. However, salts are extremely corrosive. When salt air and salt water come into contact with aluminum they can cause both the chalky, white coating of aluminum oxide and unpleasant pitting. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to protect aluminum from salt water and prevent unsightly corrosion: a powder coating.
Preventing Corrosion in Aluminum
Combining aluminum’s natural resistance to corrosion with a protective coating is generally enough to keep your aluminum in great shape. That’s why those who live and work in salt water environments view aluminum favorably. A protective coating keeps the salt air or salt water from reaching the metal, preventing contact and corrosion. What type of protective coating is necessary? Painting aluminum adds design options and helps the material remain strong, but you do have to attend to any cracking, flaking, or scratches promptly to keep the material shielded. This may have been sufficient in the past, but new technology makes all of this maintenance unnecessary. Instead, look for powder-coated aluminum.
For frequently used surfaces, powder coating is a fantastic option. This dry powder, which contains pigments, polymer resins, curatives, leveling agents, flow modifiers, and other additives, is applied to the surface of aluminum using electrostatic spray deposition. A curing oven transforms the powder into a smooth, hard coating. Powder coating provides a durable finish, which reduces maintenance issues and mitigates the effects of salt water on aluminum.
Making a Splash with Aluminum Handrails
Whether you’re searching for a handrail to provide safety as you descend the steps from your deck to the beach, a railing to add security to the area surrounding your saltwater pool, or a handrail that can deliver both practical function and design appeal for your space, an aluminum handrail from Aluminum Handrail Direct might be the perfect choice. Because aluminum doesn’t rust like steel, it doesn’t lose strength with the passage of time, so you can be confident that our aluminum handrails will be there when needed. Plus, we finish our handrails with a hardy powder coating that resists dings and scratches and doesn’t flinch in the face of salt water. In fact, we’re so confident in the quality of our products that they come with a limited lifetime warranty against defects in workmanship and materials.
So when you want a maintenance-free handrail that will stand the test of time and tide, turn to Aluminum Handrail Direct. With the wide range of styles, colors, and textures that we offer, you’re certain to find an aluminum handrail that’s ideal for your purposes and your decor. And because we sell directly to consumers, we’re able to offer top-quality products that are made in America at amazingly affordable prices. Visit our online store today to explore our selection or learn more about our products.