prevent rust on tools with VCI tool drawer liner

Prevent Rust on Tools by Organizing Storage Cabinets & Using VCI Drawer Liners

If you’re hoping to prevent rust on tools, you can’t rely solely on cleaning and oiling after use. Smart storage is also key. To ensure all your tools stay in sharp shape, consider prioritizing the careful organization of your tool box/tool storage cabinets AND using corrosion-inhibiting VCI drawer liners.

Let’s start with the first point: Why would organizing your tool storage cabinets and drawers matter in terms of keeping tools free of corrosion? It has to do with a type of corrosion triggered by the proximity of different metals together with the presence of an electrolyte.

Organization of Your Tools to Minimize Galvanic Corrosion

When most people organize their tool drawers or tool storage cabinets, they’re only thinking of grouping them by similar uses or frequency of use. However, considering the type of metal contained in the tools is important too.

The electro-chemical reaction that occurs when two dissimilar metals are in contact in the presence of an electrolyte (such as moisture or humidity) is called galvanic corrosion. In this process, one metal becomes more electrically active as an anode, corroding faster than it would otherwise.

For example, let’s say you have steel tools and aluminum tools stored together in the same toolbox. If moisture is present, galvanic corrosion will occur at the points where the metals come into contact. In the same vein, if your toolbox or tool storage cabinet itself is made of aluminum or some other dissimilar metal than the tools you’re storing inside it, that sets the stage for triggering galvanic corrosion. Being selective about the material of the toolbox you buy – as well as how you organize your tools inside it – can help limit opportunities for galvanic corrosion.

When organizing your toolbox or tool storage cabinet to minimize the risk of galvanic corrosion, make it a point to store the following tools separately:

  • Steel & Aluminum. Steel and aluminum are highly dissimilar metals, and when they come into contact, galvanic corrosion can occur. Keep steel tools separated from aluminum tools in your toolbox.
  • Steel & Brass/Bronze. Steel and brass/bronze are dissimilar metals. They should not be in direct contact to prevent galvanic corrosion.
  • Copper & Aluminum. Copper and aluminum are also dissimilar metals that can cause galvanic corrosion when they touch.
  • Iron & Stainless Steel. Iron and stainless steel are dissimilar metals, and if they come into contact, galvanic corrosion can happen. Some hand tools have iron or carbon steel parts and stainless steel components, so avoid direct contact between them.

But galvanic corrosion is just one issue. Rust is another.

Tools Most Vulnerable to Rust

Rust is a specific type of corrosion that involves oxidation of iron/iron alloys (such as steel) when exposed to moisture and oxygen. It’s an ever-present threat for many types of tools. Some common tools most susceptible to rust:

  1. Steel Tools: Tools made of carbon steel, a common material for many hand tools like wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers, are highly susceptible to rust. Carbon steel lacks the corrosion resistance of stainless steel and other alloys.
  2. Iron Tools: Iron tools, if not properly coated or protected, are highly prone to rusting. Old-fashioned iron tools like chisels, hoes, and certain types of saws are at risk.
  3. Garden Tools: Garden tools, such as shovels, rakes, and pruners, are often exposed to moisture and soil, making them susceptible to rust, especially if they are not cleaned and dried after use.
  4. Metal Cutting Tools: Tools with sharp edges like saw blades, drill bits, and milling cutters are prone to rust if not stored properly after use. The exposed edges provide more surface area for rust to form.
  5. Hand Tools with Wooden Handles: Tools like axes, hatchets, and hammers with wooden handles can be prone to rust at the connection point where the metal head meets the wood.
  6. Toolboxes: While not a tool per se, toolboxes themselves can also be susceptible to rust, especially if they are made of steel or other metals. (And as we mentioned earlier, if your tools are made of steel and your tool box or tool storage cabinet is made of aluminum, you risk galvanic corrosion.)
  7. Stored Power Tools: Power tools, especially those used in outdoor or construction settings, are at risk if not properly stored after use. The combination of metal components and exposure to moisture increases the risk of rust.
  8. Metal Fasteners and Hardware: Nuts, bolts, screws, and other metal fasteners and hardware are susceptible to rust, especially if they are used outdoors or in damp environments.

The rust prevention experts at Zerust recognize that your tools are an investment. You’d rather not get a rusty surprise every time you reach for one out of storage. For this reason, we recommend not only addition careful organization of tools, but the use of VCI drawer liners as well.

prevent rust on tools in tool storage cabinet

VCI Drawer Liners Keep Corrosion at Bay, Prevents Rust on Tools

“VCI” stands for vapor corrosion-inhibiting. It is a unique chemical process created specifically to combat rust and corrosion on the metal components people rely on for everything from keeping computers reliable to weeding a garden to sailing a U.S. Navy ship. The vapor molecules attach to metal surfaces and form an invisible protective layer that shields against the presence of corrosive triggers, such as moisture or salt.

A VCI drawer liner is a type of rust prevention/corrosion prevention technology in which a PVC rubber mat is infused with a patented corrosion-inhibiting formula. Just cut the liner to the size you need and place it at the bottom of each drawer. When the drawer is closed, the product releases a non-reactive, odorless vapor that protects metal components from corrosion for a full 5 years.

The types of metal Zerust products can protect include:

  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Nickel
  • Steel
  • Iron
  • Silver

 The material is also fire retardant and prevents tools from slipping, denting, and collecting dust, mold, and mildew. 

And after the 5 years are up, the material can still be repurposed.

If you have questions about our Vapor Corrosion Inhibiting technology or how to use our VCI drawer liners, feel free to contact us. Our tool rust prevention experts are happy to offer any insight we have to help you find the best tool storage solution possible.

Contact Zerust for information on VCI products to help with tool rust prevention by emailing us or calling (330) 405-1965.

Additional Resources:

Fundamentals of Corrosion and Its Relevance to Prepainted Metal, July 2021, National Coil Coating Association

More Blog Entries:

Affordable Tool Box Rust Prevention for Less Than $5, July 28, 2022, Tool Box Rust Prevention Blog