What is Powder Coating with a Zirconium Wash System?

The periodic table is narrowing by the day, and scientists have fewer options for finding a compound with great coating qualities. To have a cleaner environment free of toxic chemicals, there have been increasing regulations in the use of some elements for coating. For instance, people are skeptical about using copper, chlorine, barium, zinc, and others. That is why people are looking for alternatives like Zirconium.

It’s essential to have quality pretreatment to have the best coating; this process involves getting rid of impurities such as rust, carbon, and oils. After that, the metal goes through a specific alteration to ensure the powder coating sticks perfectly.

Currently, Zirconium is standing out as a preferred choice for coating since it is free of zinc, phosphates, manganese, and molybdenum. Below here, we expound on the topic of powder coating with a zirconium wash system and the benefits. Let’s kick-off.

Zirconium Wash System

Most people are usually at crossroads on deciding the best pretreatment method to use when powder coating metal. Whereas there are several options available, a Zirconium wash system is an efficient method for cleaning metal before painting or powder coating.

It’s mostly used in large-sized metals and industrial applications that require low costs and quality powder coating. This process is useful where a wide range of metals need blending with cleansers.

It’s merely a pretreatment process that involves the preparation of metal before the actual coating. This process is in stages and each stage will depend on the quality of the metal. Other factors include customer needs, budget, and the duration of the entire process.

Cleaning metal with soap and water to get rid of impurities is not enough. It requires a suitable treatment mix so that the powder coating can bond perfectly with the metal.

What is Powder Coating?

Powder coating is the application of a mild yet durable substance on a metal surface to protect it from corrosion. A coated metal will last for many years; however, one must think about the pretreatment stage.

Related: Why Powder Coating? 10 Pros and Cons

The Benefits of a Zirconium Wash System when Powder Coating

The zirconium wash system is suitable for use when treating metal before the powder coating. Unlike the old rinse process, this is effective in getting rid of the effluent and ensuring the chemical does not react with the metal surface.

Prolongs the Lifespan of Metal

For many years, iron phosphates were used for a variety of processes that needed tough and high-quality coatings. However, for protection against corrosion, the process is a bit complex. Nonetheless, the zinc phosphate process requires the addition of ions to protect against rusting.

The zirconium treatment is a blend of zirconium fluoride and other compounds to form a compound that binds the powder coating to the metal. The conversion process in a powder coating oven forms a zirconium coating that’s much sleek than regular zinc or iron phosphate.

It’s been practical in industrial applications. For instance powder coating military vehicles to enhance sealing and prevent rusting.

A metal specially treated with Zirconium also helps prolong its lifespan since it prevents weathering due to rust. When powder coating metal, one must consider the pretreatment method.

Long Wash Process

The long wash process is a new method that has replaced the old system that used an iron or zinc phosphate process. There’s a one stage bath that maximizes the use of aluminum substrates, including the ferrous types, thereby shortening the time taken during pretreatment.

The iron phosphate rinse process will last up to six months while the zinc phosphate process lasts up to three months. However, the zirconium lasts up to 12 months since there’s minimal sludge. The long wash process requires the use of tiny filters which in turn give a boost to the bath life.

Saves on Energy Reduce Wastage and Contamination

In normal circumstances, the iron phosphate method usually requires cleaning with an alkaline compound before running over water. It requires a lot of water and energy for the process to be effective. Also, there’s a risk of contamination since the rinsing is just one stage.

However, the Zirconium wash system is an energy-saving solution since the metal phosphate operations are all under a cool environment. There’s no need for heat to complete the process. 

In general, there’s a reduction of toxic materials by 80%. Moreover, it minimizes the risk of one’s exposure to high levels of toxin.

By the time the process reaches the coating stage, the metal will be clean and therefore will require the use of less water in that way, reducing wastage.

Flexibility and Cost-Effectiveness

Zirconium processes are used in a wide variety of metals such as aluminum, steel, and galvanized. It is unlike the iron phosphate methods, which are only effective on iron. Notably, the Iron phosphate wash system can be converted into a zirconium wash system, thereby cutting operational costs.

The Zirconium is a cost-effective solution that’ll lead to savings in terms of energy use, disposal of waste, low cost of maintenance, and low usage of chemicals. Studies reveal that the conversion of the iron phosphate process to Zirconium will result in cost savings of $73,000 every year. 

Likewise, the zinc phosphate conversion to Zirconium will result in a savings of $350,000 every year. The cost savings are because the Zirconium is a one stage process whereas the iron conversion process undergoes five phases. Similarly, zinc phosphate goes through eleven phases.


There are environmental advantages of using the Zirconium wash system as compared to iron or zinc. The materials are non-toxic and do not consist of heavy metal. Another advantage is that they do not rust easily and produce less sludge.


To sum it up, the zirconium wash process is ideal since it leads to cost savings as compared to zinc or iron phosphates, and it’s easy to implement. It also produces less sludge, it’s versatile and eco-friendly. The new technology started towards the turn of the century, and customers prefer them over zinc phosphate.

In modern days suppliers are adding several compounds such as titanium and aluminum to enhance the performance of Zirconium. The few stages are attractive to many people since they reduce the plant capacity by over 30%.

For the process to be effective, the chemicals must be clean without any contamination, and also one must ensure there’s no exposure to alkaline before the wash cycle.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Powder Coating

Recent Posts

Metal Finishing Services

What is Galvanization?

Galvanizing is known as the process of applying a protective coating to steel or iron. The coating is made of zinc and is applied to

Read More »
Is Abrasive Blasting the Right Metal Finishing Solution for You Featured

What is Sand Blasting?

Sandblasting, also called abrasive blasting, involves using air pressure to force small, abrasive particles at a surface at high speed to clean it or change

Read More »

Recent Comments


Scroll to Top