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|Steel is a highly versatile material due to its low cost and good mechanical properties, but typically needs some or other form of corrosion protection due to its tendency to corrode when exposed to atmospheric conditions. In the case of organic coatings, the corrosion protection and functionality of the final product is critically dependent on the adhesion of the coating to the surface of the steel. In this work the effect of contaminants and the nature of the surface layers present on industrial steel products are investigated by means of paint adhesion tests, Auger electron spectroscopy (AES), and X-ray Photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). It was found that the presence of sodium species on the surface is very detrimental to paint adhesion under wet conditions, while satisfactory adhesion may be obtained even in the presence of silicon and carbon residues. It was also found that the nature of the Fe-O layer, formed under wet conditions is labile and different from that formed in dry air, and that subtle changes in process conditions, such as changing the oxygen content of the quench water, may change the adhesion of paint to the surface of the steel. Lewis acid-base interactions are discussed as a mechanism that may determine the bonding between the steel and polymer coating.|