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To verify that metals or protective coatings will prove satisfactory under any corrosive condition, or to detect presence of free iron contaminating the surface of another metal.

The salt-spray test, in which specimens are subjected to a fine mist of salt solution, has several useful purposes when utilized with full recognition of its deficiencies and limitations. Originally proposed as an accelerated laboratory corrosion test simulating the effects of seacoast atmospheres on metals, with or without protective coatings, this test has been erroneously considered by many as an all-purpose accelerated corrosion test, which if “withstood successfully” will guarantee that metals or protective coatings will prove satisfactory under any corrosive condition.

Experience has since shown that there is seldom a direct relationship between resistance to salt atmosphere corrosion and resistance to corrosion in other media, even in so-called “marine” atmospheres and seawater. However, some idea of the relative service life and behavior of different samples of the same (or closely related) metals or of protective coating-base metal combinations in marine and exposed seacoast locations can be gained by means of the salt atmosphere test, provided accumulated data from correlated field service tests and laboratory salt atmosphere tests show that such a relationship does exist, as in the case of aluminum alloys. (Such correlation tests are also necessary to show the degree of acceleration, if any, produced by the laboratory test).

The salt atmosphere test is generally considered unreliable for comparing the general corrosion resistance of different kinds of metals or coating-metal combinations, or for predicting their comparative service life. The salt atmosphere test has received its widest acceptance as a test for evaluating the uniformity (specifically, thickness and degree of porosity) of protective coatings, metallic and nonmetallic, and has served this purpose with varying amounts of success. In this connection, the test is useful for evaluating different lots of the same product, once some standard level of performance has been established. The salt atmosphere test is especially helpful as a screening test for revealing particularly inferior coatings. When used to check the porosity of metallic coatings, the test is more dependable when applied to coatings that are cathodic rather than anodic toward the basic metal.

This test can also be used to detect the presence of free iron contaminating the surface of another metal, by inspection of the corrosion products.