Passivation and Pickling


Passivation improves the corrosion resistance properties of components made of precipitation-hardened, austenitic, ferritic and martensitic steels. Passivation treatments improve the surface condition of stainless steel by dissolving iron that has been imbedded in the surface during forming or machining. If allowed to remain, the iron can corrode and give the appearance of rust spots on the stainless steel.

Passivation, which consists of immersing stainless steel components in a solution of nitric or citric acid without oxidizing salts, will dissolve the imbedded iron and restore the original corrosion-resistant surface by forming a thin, transparent oxide film

• Maximum stainless steel corrosion protection without plating.
• Superior clean surface.
• Eliminates iron contamination reactions with other materials.
• No rust discoloration.
• Surface prepared for priming and painting.


Pickling is the removal of any high temperature scale and any adjacent low chromium layer of metal from the surface of stainless steel by chemical means.

Where the steel has been heated by welding, heat treatments or other means, to the point where a coloured oxide layer can be seen, there is a chromium depleted layer on the surface of the steel underneath the oxide layer. The lower chromium content gives lower corrosion resistance. To restore the best corrosion resistant performance, the damaged metal layer must be removed, exposing a fully alloyed stainless steel surface. Mechanical removal may leave abrasive or other particles embedded (interfering with corrosion performance) or may be impractical, so chemical means are usually employed.

Procedures incorporating pickling solutions of nitric (HNO3) and hydrofluoric (HF) acids remove the scale and the underlying chromium depleted layer and restore the corrosion resistance. Pickling solutions also remove contaminants such as ferrous and ferric oxide particles. Pickling solutions other than mixtures of nitric and hydrofluoric acids exist and can be used for specialized applications.

Pickling pastes, where the solution is mixed with an inert carrier, are commonly used to treat selected areas such as welds.

Pickling involves metal removal and a change or dulling in the visual brightness of the metal.