Do welding rods go bad?

Do Welding Rods Go Bad? (Shelf Life And Storage Tips)


If you enjoy welding, you appreciate a stable and reliable welding rod. If this is the case, you often have choices to make. A few options are available in terms of welding rods. You have 7018 welding rods, 6013 and 6010.

Additionally, each of these welding rods is unique in a few specific ways. A question I see arise frequently is concerning the storage, shelf life and best practices for these welding rods. Do welding rods go bad? After some research on this topic, here’s what I can tell you.

So, do welding rods go bad? Yes, a welding rod can go bad. 7018 welding rods are known to go bad the fastest. This is due to being extremely sensitive to moisture. 7018 welding rods need to be kept at warm temperatures.



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Without proper storage for 7018 welding rods, they can crack or be rendered useless over time. Additionally, 6013 welding rods can go bad over time due to age.

Depending on the kind of welding you are performing (code work or not) and what use you need to gain from your welding rods may present different options and best practices. Below, I explain some common practice’s individuals use to extend the life of their welding rods.

Additionally, I want to touch on some frequently asked questions about proper temperatures for welding rods and what other tactics you can use to keep your welding rods working at peak performance and functionality.

Why Do Welding Rods Go Bad

Welding rods are coated in flux, which helps protect the weld from impurities. However, this flux layer can easily be affected by the moisture in atmosphere if they are not stored properly

Too much moisture exposure can cause the flux to lose its effectiveness. So the main reason why welding rods go bad is the moisture from the atmosphere.

But that’s not all. The type of rod you have can also impact how fast it will go bad. For instance, some rods, especially the low-hydrogen electrodes, such as the 7018 series, are especially sensitive to atmospheric moisture.

These rods can degrade quickly if not stored properly. Just a day or two of moisture exposure can ruin these rods.

Apart from these reasons, cracks, flakes or powders in the flux coating (due to improper storage and rough handling) can also make them unusable for serious projects.

What Happens If You Use A Bad Welding Rod

Properly stored rods have a long shelf life, but old rods may need reconditioning before use on important projects. 

So here’s the thing:

Old welding rods can absorb moisture over time, especially if not stored properly. This moisture in the flux coating can cause porosity, cracking, and poor weld quality when welding.

Old rods can still be used for non-critical hobby welds, repairs, art projects, and practice. However, it is highly recommended to avoid using the questionable, old rods for any structural applications, pressure vessels, machinery, or where weld quality is very important.

Pro-Tip: Rods that have been exposed to humidity may need to be dried out before use by baking at around 200-450°F for 1-2 hours. This removes moisture and helps restore rod performance.

By the way, this is also a good test to check the usability of an old rod. If the structural integrity of the rods don’t change after baking, then they are useful in most non-critical projects.

To be extra sure, test welding a rod on scrap before starting a critical project. That can help identify any issues like porosity before risking a poor weld on the final piece.

Welding can seem like a complex skill to master, but with the right guidance, it’s definitely achievable. If you’re wondering just how difficult welding really is, check out our guide that breaks it down for beginners.

More on Storing Welding Rods? Do They Have a Shelf Life?

We touched on a few of the essentials that you need to know about welding rods and their shelf life above. As stated before, the shelf life and use you can get from welding rods are going to depend heavily on which welding rod you are using.

The 7018-Welding Rod and Moisture Concerns

The 7018-welding rod is the rod you will most often run into issues with. This is going to be due to the sensitivity it has to moisture as we stated previously. A common practice or remedy individuals use, is to bake them to help eliminate moisture. Many individuals have good luck using this approach.

Baking your rods or keeping your rods warm will allow them to function correctly and eliminate moisture. Some individuals opt to use welding rod ovens and some prefer to heat before use. Others use completely out of the box techniques to accomplish this same goal depending on what kind of welding is being performed.

The 6013- Welding Rod May Age Better Than Other Options

The 6013-welding rod does not have the same common issues you run into with the 7018-welding rod. In fact, most would agree that 6013-welding rods tend to age very well. Some individuals state that moisture exposure on the 6013-welding rod enhances the performance and allows for the rod “run better.”

Signs That Your Welding Rod Can’t be Saved

Although a welding-rod can often be brought back to a functional state after being exposed to moisture, it’s also possible that your welding rod is no longer salvageable. If your welding-rod is showing signs that the flux has been softened or that has powdery residue visible, the welding rod should be discarded.

At this point, exposing the welding rod to heat to remove moisture will not restore the welding-rod to a functional state. If, however, moisture seems to be the only issue with the welding-rod, the baking method may still work just fine to restore the welding rod back to a useable state.

When Will Welding-Rods Go Bad or No Longer Be Useable?

This entirely depends on the welding rod and the storing conditions. Some welding rods can go bad in a matter of 6 months, and others may last several years. If your welding-rod is stored in dry conditions and away from moisture, the shelf life will be dramatically increased.

If, however, your welding-rod is stored improperly, you may experience issues much sooner than other individuals. It also depends on the welding-rod we are referring to. If you are using the 7018-welding rod, you may experience a shorter shelf life due to the sensitivity they have to the moisture discussed previously.

7018- Welding Rods have a coating that is designed and formulated specifically to allow for the factory to bake out all the moisture before it’s packaged. Here’s the kicker. The same coating is what allows for the welding rod to absorb moisture easily once the packaged is opened.

Speaking of welding rods, with so many different welding rod options out there, it can be tough to know which one to choose. Our guide highlights the best all-around welding rod that can handle a variety of projects with ease.

How To Ensure The Best Shelf Life Of Welding Rods

Here are some key tips regarding storage and usage of welding rods to maximize their shelf life:

  • Use the rods within 24 hours of opening the package. Once exposed to air, rod coatings start to break down. Avoid using rods that have been kept open (and not in an oven) for more than 1-2 days.
  • Buy rods in small batches you’ll use up quickly. Don’t buy more than you need for 1-2 days of welding. The shelf life after opening is very limited.
  • Consider moisture-resistant rods with H4R coatings if welding in humid conditions. They resist moisture absorption better (but can be slightly expensive.)
  • The best way to store rods long-term is in an airtight, vacuum sealed package. This prevents virtually all moisture from contacting the flux. Rods stored this way retain their quality for years if the seal isn’t broken. Bulk packs in simple cardboard boxes have much shorter shelf lives.
  • If rods get damp, you can try drying them in an oven. Up to 250°F for 6013, and 500-800°F for 1-2 hours for 7018. But this drying can only be done once to ensure the best quality.

Note: Reading up on welding techniques and theory is a great way to supplement your hands-on practice in welding. We’ve already put together a list of the best welding books every welder should read. Be sure to have a look at it.

Which Welding Rod Oven Is Best For You?

If you are interested in getting a welding rod oven, then I have a recommendation for you. I have used several ovens over the years, but the best one so far has been the SÜA – Portable Electrode Drying Oven.

The thing that I most like about it is the fact that it’s so portable. Also, compared to other welding rod ovens out there, this one is very affordable. I highly recommend it!

Do I Need a Rod Oven or Heater for My Welding-Rods?

The 7018 welding-rod has had many different attempts made by individuals to save the rod or to continue to get extended use from a rod that may be on its final run.

Due to the low-hydrogen rod, we are already aware that it won’t tolerate moisture.

Baking your welding-rod is a common practice to help remove the moisture and restore the rod to a useable state. Welding-rod ovens will typically run at 250 degrees F. This is considered your “storing temperature” Other individuals, will bake their welding rods at higher temperatures for shorter burst such as 4 hours at temperatures near 700-800 degrees F.

This is known as re-conditioning your rod before use. Often with code work this is required and has strict time frames that have to be adhered by. Some practices even include multiple rod ovens where 1 batch will be used before the lunch hour by many welders and after lunch, the welding rods will be switched and rotated.

Previously Used Rods (Placed in the Oven), The New Rods Pulled for Use.

How Long Can a 7018- Welding Rod Be Out of The Oven?

A 7018-welding rod that is currently being stored at its designated 250 F in a rod oven should be used within 4 hours after removal from the oven at these temperatures.

If the rod is not used in this time or you are fearful that your oven may have unplugged or not heating for longer than this time, the rod needs to return to this temperature and placed back into the oven before use.

If your rod is also exposed for too long without use outside of these temperatures, you can also opt to use the higher temperature method to recondition the welding rod. This will be at your 700-800 degrees for a minimum of 3 hours and a maximum of 4 hours.

Do I Have to Keep My Rods Hot If I’m Not Performing Code Work?

Not necessarily. If you aren’t performing code work and using them for “decorative style” welding, you can attempt to keep your rods as dry as possible and not get as caught up in the details.

You will not experience the same shelf life for your welding rods with this approach but eliminates the need to bake the rods.

Other individuals not performing code work have also stated that using something such as a rubber maid container and a ceramic heater has proved enough to keep the welding rods useable.

Again, this wasn’t used to perform any code work, but it did get the job done and proved to be successful. At the end of the day, it depends on what shelf life you need, the kind of work you are performing and what budget and necessary tools you have access too.

How Long Can You Store Welding Rods?

This entirely depends on your storing methods. Stick electrodes must remain moisture free to function properly. Keeping the rod dry keeps the ability to deposit quality welds. When you store improperly, you run into issues such as cracks in the rod and porosity.

Another tip is never to change temperatures to achieve faster results. Drying your rods faster that have been exposed to moisture will not help. For instance, you can always either store your rod in 250-degree cabinets or “rod ovens,” or you can do a 3-4 hour dry at temperatures of 700 F to 800 F.

Do not attempt to dry in a shorter period than the 3 hours above these listed temperatures. Doing so can increase the chances of oxidation with certain alloys and damage other critical properties of the rod, rendering it useless.

Let’s recap this one more time. Here are your two options.

•    250 F- Storing When Not in Use in Cabinet/ Rod Oven

•    180-240 Min (3-4 Hours) dry time at 700 F to 800 F.

What To Do With Old Welding Rods

Rods that have gotten wet or have visible rust on them are likely too far gone and should not be used for cortical welding projects. For instance, white spots indicate moisture damage on certain rod types like 6010/6011.

That said, you can still use these welding rods for hobby, farm, repairs, and non-structural welds as long as they have been kept dry.

Here are some creative ways to reuse old welding rods:

  1. Making Hangers And Hooks – Bend rods into S or J shapes for makeshift hooks to hang hoses, cables, equipment, etc. Twist two rods together for longer reach or extra strength. Add a small flattened section on the end to prevent slipping. Hammer a bend into the end to create a basic hanger for extension cords, welding leads, etc.
  2. Making Farm Tools – Weld rods perpendicular to a flat plate to make a handy brush or scraper tool. Or, bend a rod into a U-shape to make an improvised hook for lifting engines etc.

Making Artistic Structures And Sculptures – Bend rods into letters, numbers, or shapes and weld them together for wall art and signs. Twisted rods can make cool textures.

Also, you can hammer rods flat and grind patterns into them. Then, just hang them with magnets or small welded brackets.

Speaking of welding, have you ever felt like you were running low on metal for your welding projects? Then be sure to check out this guide on the best places to buy metal for welding to know about all options.

Final Words

So, let’s a recap. Do welding rods go bad? Yes, 100%. Welding rods are not going to last forever. Depending on which welding-rod you use, and your storage methods will ultimately determine how much use you can get out of a welding rod.

Tricks such as heating your welding rods to remove moisture may help restore function to your welding rod, but in many cases, a welding rod is aged beyond repair.

Always aim for dry storage away from moisture to get the optimal use and longevity from your welding rods. If you opt to heat your rods to remove moisture, adhere to the proper temperatures to ensure you don’t further damage the rod or the electrodes.

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