What Is Red Oxide Paint?

By Vincent Summers; Updated April 24, 2017
Red Iron Paint

Red oxide, or minium, is the tetraoxide of lead, formula Pb?O?. It is also called red lead. Not commonly occurring in nature, lead tetraoxide can be prepared by a number of simple reactions, one example being the oxidation of the commonly occurring Pb?² oxide, litharge:

6 PbO + O? ? Pb?O?

Mixed Valences

Pb?O? can be written 2PbO?PbO?, which indicates it consists of a mixture of oxidation states +2 and +4.

Paint and Primer

Red oxide is used in paints and primers as a rust preventive. If traces of rust are present on an iron surface, red oxide paint will still adhere, because it interacts with the surface by forming chemical bonds.


Red oxide, also called red lead, reacts with iron and iron oxides to form insoluble compounds called plumbates, in which lead is part of the anion, (PbO?)?². For instance, ferrous plumbate has the formula Fe(PbO?), in which the cation is Fe?².

Falling Into Disuse

Red oxide paint is falling into disuse due to concern over lead poisoning.

In Glass

Red oxide is used in some glass formulations, where there exists no significant health threat to the public.

About the Author

Vincent Summers received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Drexel University in 1973. He furthered his education through the University of Virginia's Citizen Scholar Program program, taking many courses in organic and quantum chemistry. He has written technical articles since 2010.