Hot-dip galvanizing is the process of coating iron or steel with a thin zinc layer by passing the steel through a molten bath of zinc at a temperature of around 460°C. Zinc "rusts" to form zinc oxide, a fairly strong material that stops further rusting, protecting the steel below from the elements. Galvanized steel is widely used in applications where rust resistance is needed, and can be identified by the crystallization patterning on the surface (often called a "spangle").
The process of hot dip galvanizing results in a metallurgical bond between zinc and steel with a series of distinct iron-zinc alloys. The resulting coated steel can be used in much the same way as uncoated. Galvanized steel can be welded, however one must exercise caution around the resulting zinc fumes from welding. Galvanized steel is suitable for high temperature applications of up to 200°C. Use at temperatures above this level will result in peeling of the zinc at the inter-metallic layer. Galvanized sheet steel is commonly used in automotive manufacture to enhance corrosion performance of exterior body panels of some models.
Steel strip can be hot-dip galvanized in a continuous line. Hot-dip galvanized steel strip (also sometimes loosely referred to as galvanized iron) is extensively used for applications requiring the strength of steel and resistance to corrosion. Applications include: roofing and walling, consumer appliances and automotive body parts. One common use is in metal pails.
Individual metal articles, such as steel girders or wrought iron gates can be hot-dip galvanized by a process called batch galvanizing. Other modern techniques have largely replaced hot-dip for these sorts of roles. This includes electro galvanizing, which deposits the layer of zinc from an aqueous electrolyte by electroplating, forming a thinner and much stronger bond.