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Dale Baldwin

Practical Solutions for Corrosion, Rust

June 09, 1985

It may seem a long way from serving as a consultant in the massive Statue of Liberty restoration project to advising homeowners about corrosion and rust problems, but Robert Baboian can do both.

One of the world's leading experts on corrosion, Baboian is head of the Electrochemical and Corrosion Laboratory of Texas Instruments, Attleboro, Mass. He is the author of dozens of books and scientific papers on corrosion problems and regularly advises automobile manufacturers about ways to keep their products together, at least until the payments cease.

I talked with Baboian recently when he was in Los Angeles on a national tour talking about his work on the statue. The restoration is scheduled to be completed by July, 1986, in time for its centennial.

Surprisingly enough, many of the problems with the statue are relevant to the homeowner, especially the combination of an iron framework and copper skin. Any time you mix metals, you run the risk of corrosion problems, he explained.

"Don't use steel screws on an aluminum screen door, for instance," he said. "Fertilizer is a notoriously corrosive material, so it's important to clean your fertilizer spreader right after using it and spray it with an oil with a corrosion inhibitor, like WD-40," he added.

The puddled iron ribs of the statue are being replaced with stainless steel, a metal that has a good track record of resisting corrosion, Baboian said.

The Midwest and East Coast have the problem of acid rain that adds to the corrosion from chemicals that melt snow and ice and the Southland has the curse of acid smog, he said.

"You should wash off metal patio furniture in the morning to reduce the corrosion from a combination of dew and smog," he said. "It wouldn't be a bad idea to hose off your car at the same time."

As residents of coastal areas know, invigorating sea air is particularly hard on metals--not only steel, but also aluminum. Most of my letters on problems with aluminium windows and patio doors come from residents of Malibu, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes.

The best way to combat corrosion and rust is to slather on the paint, right? Wrong! says Baboian. The inside of the Statue of Liberty had seven or eight thick coats of paint and the thick iron armature ribs still rusted. Rust and corrosion can be trapped inside a layer of paint and spread quickly. This is how most cars rust out in the Snow Belt.

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