What are Protective Coatings?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Protective coatings are coverings that are intended to provide a layer of protection from anything that could damage the function or integrity of an item. The application of a surface coating is common with a number of different products, ranging from electrical wiring to printed labels. The coatings are also helpful in preventing rust or enhancing the function of the product, as in the case of coated cookware.

Protective coatings used in pans keep food from sticking.
Protective coatings used in pans keep food from sticking.

One of the most common examples of protective coatings is electrical wiring. The wires that actually carry the flow of current are covered with polymer coatings designed to contain power generated by the wires. At the same time, the coating protects the wires from exposure to any outside element that could cause a short or corrode the wires.

Protective coatings might be applied to metal sheets to prevent corrosion.
Protective coatings might be applied to metal sheets to prevent corrosion.

Along with wiring, cookware featuring non-stick surfaces are another example of protective coatings found in the home. Using coatings such as Teflon&Reg;, food does not stick to the cooking surface on pans or pots. This quality helps to prolong the life of the cookware while also helping the process of cleaning up after preparing a meal less difficult.

Metal coatings are often applied to the surface of metal plates or sheets that are intended for outdoor use. The thin polymer coating is often clear and not easily detectable to the naked eye. However, the coating can go a long way in limiting oxidation on the surface of metals such as tin or aluminum, while also functioning as an anti-rust agent. Roofs and fencing made with metals are often treated with some type of coating in order to maintain appearance and also ensure the products last for longer periods of time.

There are even examples of protective coatings found with printed products. One example is the pressure sensitive address label. A thin coating serves to keep the information on the label clear and legible during transit from a vendor to a recipient. Documents such as restaurant menus and other printed materials that are handled a great deal are likely to be coated with some type of laminating agent, making it easier to clean smudges or other elements from the surface.

In all instances, the main function of protective coatings is to allow a product to remain in good condition for a prolonged period of time. The coatings make it possible for many products to last longer than would be possible if no coating was applied. While usually not impervious, protective coatings tend to hold up very well to normal use.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@Oceana - Ceramic dishes do resist damage very well. I made some of my own in college, and while I was glazing the clay, a thought came to me.

Working with clay was really drying out my hands and fingernails. I kept nicking my nails with the tools I was using to shape the clay, and I remember wishing I could glaze my nails to protect them like I did the clay.

Then it dawned on me. I could provide a protective coating to my fingernails simply by applying a couple of layers of nail polish.

I had never thought of polish as protective before, because I considered it to be a type of makeup. I decided to try it and see how well it worked.

I applied two layers of polish and a topcoat to protect the paint. I let it dry and solidify over night. The next day, I put it to the test.

I rubbed some clay onto it and let it dry out. When I rinsed it off, the polish still looked good. I grazed the nails with my scraper tool, and the polish didn't budge.


The glaze that is painted onto ceramic dishes before they are fired forms a protective coating. Besides making them shiny and attractive, it also protects them from scuffing and scarring.

I have some ceramic plates and coffee cups in my house. I can cut steak on the plates without leaving any knife marks behind. When I accidentally clank my coffee cup into another cup in the sink while washing them, it doesn't chip or scar.

I'm sure if you applied enough force, you could do some damage to them. However, as far as normal kitchen activity goes, this coating is able to keep them looking new.


I have seen protective coatings on several types of wires around my house. Just about everything that plugs into an outlet has a black coating to protect the wire and the person handling it.

My dad had some extra cables that he intended to throw away, and my dog got into them. He chewed through the coating and spit it out.

That makes me nervous. Now, he has a taste for wire coating. I'm afraid he might try to chew my computer cables and get electrocuted! I have tried to tuck away all the covered wire in my house, but if he really wanted to, he could get to it.


I have a nonstick skillet with a protective coating, and it works better than any I have ever used. Lots of pans claim to have nonstick surfaces, but food still sticks to them, and if you are frying something like chicken, you can lose the delicious brown crust.

I'm sure the secret lies in the protective coating. I'm not sure exactly what it is made of, but I do know that it is safe to cook on.

Foods like sausage and fish that stick to every other pan I own do not adhere to this coated surface. Cleaning it is so easy! With soap and water and just a light swipe of a rag, everything comes off of it.

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