5 Tips for Protecting Tanks and Silos from Rust and Corrosion
By Painters USA Team
— Last updated March 15, 2023
Whether they’re used for holding grain, water, chemicals, oils or something else, outdoor tanks and silos face serious corrosive forces. While they are generally made from steel and offer good durability, rust and other forms of corrosion, over time, can set in and eat through roofs and walls, causing unsanitary peeling and flaking while eventually leading to failure. And if you think maintenance is costly, consider the time and expense of having to pay to remove or tear down an old silo and replace it with a new one.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to protect against rust and corrosion.
1. Regular and rigorous inspection
The first tip should actually be the most obvious thing to do – inspect your silos and tanks regularly. While it may take a long time for rust and corrosion to become a major problem, it does not often take long for it to begin forming. By regularly inspecting your tanks and silos as well as equipment like conveyors, early signs of corrosion can be caught and corrected before they become a major issue and then require additional time and money for repairs or replacements.
2. Recognize early warning signs
It is important that you know the signs to watch for that indicate rust or corrosion is forming. These can include paint bubbling, paint flaking, the appearance of strange bulges below the metal’s finish, and obvious reddish stains on the surface of the metal. Metals other than steel will show signs of corrosion in different ways. For instance, galvanized steel will show whitish stains as the zinc layer is eroded, and then reddish rust will begin to form.
3. Clean your equipment regularly
Because water is so often related to corrosion, cleaning your silos and tanks may seem counterintuitive. However, by using an industrial cleaning service regularly, you help to remove debris that can adhere to the exterior surface and provide a starting point for rust and corrosion. This is often called “gasket corrosion” because it is frequently seen on steel underneath rubber gaskets, where water and debris are trapped. By cleaning debris before it gets out of control, you help to alleviate the potential for this to happen.
4. Prevent contact with corrosive materials
It’s important to understand that steel silos and tanks don’t rust on their own. It requires exposure to corrosive materials like caustic agents, chemicals, and moisture. Something as seemingly benign as water, when combined with oxygen, can become corrosive. Agricultural operations, manufacturing plants, and even farms and ranches involve the use of even more corrosive materials, such as fertilizers, herbicides, ammonia from animal waste, and the like. Minimizing contact with these agents through strategic silo/tank installation, or better land use that moves those chemicals to another area of the operation can help to limit rust and corrosion.
5. Invest in new protective coatings
Your silo or tank was likely protected by a layer of paint when it was purchased. Over time, that paint wears out – it oxidizes, or is scraped away by impact with debris. This leaves the metal exposed to the elements, setting up the perfect situation for rust and corrosion to begin. However, repainting your tank or silo can offer many benefits. Modern paint formulations are much stronger and more capable than they were even just a few years ago, and offer very long lifespans. Painting is also one of the most affordable solutions when it comes to rust prevention, and can be combined with rust encapsulation if corrosion has already begun.
Follow these tips and you will protect and extend the life of these important capital assets.
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