This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
For galvanized iron there has been recommended a wash consisting simply of dilute hydrochloric acid, which produces chloride of zinc, that in combination with the oxygen of the air is said to produce a film upon which oil color takes as good a hold as it would upon ordinary sheet iron.
Another method which has been tested and found effective is to make a solution as follows: One ounce of chloride of copper; 1 ounce nitrate of copper; 1 ounce sal ammoniac, dissolved in 2 quarts of soft water, to which is added 1 ounce of crude or commercial hydrochloric acid. This solution should be made in an earthenware dish or pot, or in glass or stoneware, as tin will precipitate the copper salts and make the solution imperfect. To large surfaces this solution is applied with a broad brush, when the surface assumes a deep black color, which in drying out in from 12 to 24 hours becomes a gray white, upon which the properly prepared primer will take a permanent grip. On the film so produced a much thinner paint will cover very much better than a stouter paint would on the untreated galvanized or ordinary iron surface. A single trial will convince the craftsman that this treatment is a method that will give lasting results, provided he tries the same priming paint on the treated and untreated surface.