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Question:  Is it necessary to Clean Wet Storage Stain? 

Wet storage stain (sometimes erroneously referred to as “white rust”) is the commonly known problem of white surface oxides formed on newly galvanized steel due to stacking items too tightly and/or storing in a humid environment. Wet storage stain occurs when the natural weathering process is interrupted or paused by poor storage conditions which do not allow the part to experience free flowing air or dry cycles. Eventually these conditions lead to an excessive buildup of zinc oxide (powdery to the touch) and zinc hydroxide (tacky or gelatinous to the touch).

Matte  Shiny Guardrail 01
Over time, the appearance of wet storage stain weathers out. This photo was taken upon initial installation with medium wet storage stain present on part of the product.

Zinc oxide and zinc hydroxide are many more times voluminous than the zinc metal consume from the coating, causing many to believe the appearance of wet storage stain is more alarming than it really is. Although not aesthetically pleasing, the formation of light or medium wet storage stain on the surface does not require removal for the hot-dip galvanized coating to perform as intended. Once the parts are installed, they will become exposed to free-flowing air and natural wet/dry cycles which allow the part to naturally weather. Furthermore, weathered galvanized surfaces which have already formed their normal protective layer of zinc corrosion products (the zinc patina) are seldom attacked. 

Matte Guardrail 03
This photo was taken fourteen weeks later upon weathering in the environment.

Specifying removal of light and medium wet storage stain will re-start the weathering process timeline and is only recommended for projects where heightened aesthetics are critical. Where necessary, caution should be taken to not damage the hot-dip galvanized coating with chemical cleaning agents, and the recommended cleaning procedure is available in the AGA publication Wet Storage Stain. An exception is made for cases of heavy wet storage stain which must be remedied due to unacceptable coating thickness or the presence of bare spots. 

See also:  Wet Storage Stain vs. White Rust Dr. Galv Article 

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