When a few little yellow tabs of plastic landed on our desk claiming to be good for stopping rust, our first thought was that it was a practical joke. A quick check of the calendar revealed that April Fool’s Day had rolled by months ago, and a quick Google of the product had us intrigued.
The little yellow plastic tabs, known as Plastabs, from a company called Zerust don’t feel like anything out of the ordinary. They don’t smell different or taste different — yes, we tested one. In fact, apart the name on the side of it, it could be any old piece of plastic.
Except — Plastabs are anything but, being treated with a unique formula that’s designed to inhibit the molecules from which rust forms. The coating is apparently good for a lifespan of two years from when it’s first activated, activation taking place automatically when unpacked and put into an enclosed space.
Of course, there’s a far more scientific explanation, which involves statements such as the Plastabs using “vapour corrosion inhibitors that passivate the electron flow between the anodic and cathodic areas on metal surfaces and interrupt the electrochemical corrosion process”. But that’s a bit beyond our comprehension. All we really wanted to know was whether they worked.
We decided to put the Zerust products to the test ourselves. The Plastabs work best when used in an enclosed space, such as the drawer of a toolbox or inside a sealed plastic bag. Interestingly, Zerust offers a plastic snaplock bag as one of its products, amongst others such as plastic sheeting, vapour capsules, and even special rust-preventing car covers.
For our test, we simply immersed a few standard steel framing nails in water before dropping them in individual ziplock bags while still wet. Inside the first, we placed the nail and a Zerust Vapour Capsule designed to protect a two-foot radius; in the second, we placed just the nail; and in the third, we placed the nail and a pair of household desiccant sachets, just for a bit of a test. We also dropped one nail into one of Zerust’s coated bags, which would usually be used to hold parts during a restoration or similar.
We checked back a few days later, and, sure enough, the nail in the Zerust bag looked just as good as new, as did the one in the bag with the Zerust Vapour Capsule. The nail by itself was covered in surface rust, and the one with the household desiccant was also starting to rust — that’s a success in our books.