What is Passivation?

An introduction to post weld cleaning and preservation for stainless steel

What is it?

When it comes to working with stainless steel, ensuring longevity and corrosion resistance is paramount. Stainless steel is renowned for its durability and resistance to rust, but welding can compromise these properties if not properly managed. This is where stainless steel passivation comes into play.

What Stainless Steel Passivation?

Stainless steel passivation is a process designed to enhance the corrosion resistance of stainless steel after welding. During welding, the heat can alter the protective oxide layer on the surface of the stainless steel, leaving it susceptible to corrosion. Passivation restores this protective layer, ensuring the material retains its resistance to rust and corrosion.

How Does Passivation Work?

Passivation typically involves removing any contaminants, such as oxides, from the surface of the stainless steel. This is often achieved through chemical treatments or electrolytic processes. Once the surface is clean, a passive oxide layer forms naturally when exposed to oxygen in the air. This layer acts as a barrier, protecting the underlying steel from corrosion.

Why is Passivation Necessary?

  1. Corrosion Resistance: Stainless steel is prized for its resistance to corrosion, but welding can compromise this property. Passivation restores and enhances the material's ability to resist rust and corrosion, prolonging its lifespan.

  2. Aesthetic Appeal: Passivation not only improves the functional properties of stainless steel but also enhances its appearance. A properly passivated surface will have a clean, uniform finish, free from discoloration or stains.

  3. Regulatory Compliance: In many industries, such as subsea, food processing and aerospace, maintaining strict quality standards is essential. Passivation is often a required step to ensure compliance with industry regulations and standards.

Basic Principles of Passivation:

    1. Preparation: Before passivation, it's crucial to thoroughly clean the surface of the stainless steel to remove any contaminants, such as oils, grease, or welding residues.

    2. Passivation Solution: Passivation is typically carried out using a chemical solution, often based on nitric acid. The exact composition of the solution may vary depending on the specific requirements of the application.

    3. Immersion or Brush: The stainless steel can be immersed in the passivation solution or treated using a brush method. Immersion is often preferred for small parts, while brush methods are more suitable for larger surfaces or complex geometries.

    4. Rinsing and Drying: After passivation, the stainless steel should be thoroughly rinsed with clean water to remove any residual passivation solution. It is then dried to prevent water spots or contamination.

Passivation for Subsea Parts

In the demanding conditions of subsea environments, where exposure to corrosive elements like seawater and high pressures is inevitable, the benefits of passivation for welded parts are indispensable. Passivation plays a pivotal role in ensuring the longevity and reliability of welded components in such harsh settings. By restoring the protective oxide layer on the surface of stainless steel after welding, passivation enhances the material's resistance to corrosion, preventing the onset of rust and deterioration over time. This not only extends the lifespan of the welded parts but also minimises the need for costly maintenance and replacements, thus bolstering the overall integrity and performance of subsea systems.

Pre-heat temperature is commonly measured using temperature indicator sticks, electronic temperature strips or calibrated digital laser thermometers.  


Stainless steel passivation is a critical step in ensuring the longevity and performance of stainless steel components, particularly after welding. By restoring the protective oxide layer, passivation enhances corrosion resistance and maintains the material's aesthetic appeal. Whether in the food industry, subsea, or aerospace, understanding and implementing proper passivation techniques are essential for meeting regulatory standards and ensuring the quality of stainless steel products.

We are dedicated to providing high-quality stainless steel solutions tailored to your specific requirements. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you with passivation and other stainless steel services.