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Thread: Does hand soap corrode?

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  1. #1
    Service plumber. seattleplumber's Avatar
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    Default Does hand soap corrode?

    Saw a six month old faucet today that was heavily corroding at the base. There was a fairly thick layer of "Soft Hands" hand soap at the base of the faucet. It was a Moen mini-widespread on a china pedestal lav. I read the ingredients on the soap and it contained sodium chloride. I figured that must be the cause as I've never seen a faucet corrode so quickly before. Any thoughts?

  2. #2

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    I'll put my chemistry hat on and say that it's possible. How far down the ingredients list is it listed?

    Essentially, the soap's formulation is salty water with surfactants (plus a few odds-and-ends). The faucet is chrome-plated (I assume). If there are any defects with the plating that allow the unlying brass to come into contact with the soap then the presence of the chloride will facilitate galvanic action between the brass (mainly copper, of course) and the chromium. The latter will corrode. The presence of the surfactants will lower the surface tension and make it much easier for the soap product to wet the metal surfaces. Also, over many months, the water will evaporate leading to a more concentrated salt solution, too.

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    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Absolutely possible, especially given the quality of the materials used for faucets these days.

    Delta is guilty of this (ducks low because they're watching me) and they got away from their chromed brass bodies.

    Now it's some type of chromed plastic, lightweight.


    Can't speak for Moen on this but I believe Moen is still using chromed brass, which is a good thing.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

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    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    I heard that hand soap will take your skin off!

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    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Default Real Soap Does not Affect Chrome...

    OK lets get a few things straight...very little of what we wash hands with is real soap...infact if you look at a bar of "soap" try and find the word soap on it...you might but most times not...soap is typically the combination of sodium or potassium hydroxide (lye), some type of fat, and water.
    Most of what we call soap is detergent.
    The ensuing reaction when they are combined causes the fats bonds to split leaving glycerin and soap and if the correct amounts are combined no lye will be left...real soap will not hurt chrome.
    While the chemical process leaves what is call a salt, the soap and glycerin, it is not salt like what you think of. When sodium hydroxide is combined with tallow (beef fat) it results in sodium tallowate...
    The chemical process is called saponification.
    Most of what is bought as "soap" is the above process with the glycerin removed and sold to the cosmetics industry ...all kinds of other stuff is added to the bar...Potassium hydroxide is used when a liquid soap is desired...Sodium hydroxide when a bar is desired...

    I am a soap maker / plumber...if any one is interested I can send you a simple recipe where you can make some of the best "real soap" you have ever used right in your kitchen...but this warning...if you decide to make it you may end up a soap addict...I am serious...real soap is like nothing you have ever used before...

  6. #6

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    If the list of ingredients states sodium chloride, that's what it is. Ingredients do not list reagents, just what is added to the formulation. Just about every soap product out there (shampoo, dish washing liquid, hand soap in a dispenser, body cleanser) all contain the same basic ingredients - water and one of more ionic surfactants (lauryl and laureth sulfates etc). Very few contain the sodium salts of fatty acids obtained by traditional saponification and, if they did, the saponification would be done as a separate process and the resulting fatty acid salts purified and then added to the product. Commericial products are so similar in composition that you can just as well use dish washing liquid to wash your hair and shampoo to wash your dishes (which I have). Unfortunately, few consumers bother to look at what's in the bottle.

    Looking at three bottles of shampoo to hand, two list sodium chloride (at 8th and 15th positions) and one lists ammonium chloride at 4th position after water, ammonium lauryl sulfate and a betaine (lowers irritation, acts as a conditioner and thickening agent). It doesn't matter what form the chloride is as long as it dissociates to give the free chloride ion in solution. Put in the presence of dissimilar metals, corrosion is a distinct possibility.

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    DIY Senior Member CarlH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED View Post
    Absolutely possible, especially given the quality of the materials used for faucets these days.

    Delta is guilty of this (ducks low because they're watching me) and they got away from their chromed brass bodies.

    Now it's some type of chromed plastic, lightweight.

    Can't speak for Moen on this but I believe Moen is still using chromed brass, which is a good thing.
    What's this? If I go out to buy a new Delta lav faucet in chrome today, I will end up with a faucet with a plastic body? Or is this something limited to their "classic" or builder grade line?

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    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CarlH View Post
    What's this? If I go out to buy a new Delta lav faucet in chrome today, I will end up with a faucet with a plastic body? Or is this something limited to their "classic" or builder grade line?

    Those new Delta's are chromed plastic. Hate to say it but they are.

    Here it is in a nutshell.

    The big box stores want to make money, but want to be in direct competition with supply houses to fend off losing sales to them.

    Well, this is achieved now by having product that is now built in foreign countries. The labor to assemble/produce is far cheaper and lots cheaper than paying an american to do so.

    The typical 522MPU is a perfect example. Hold it up to a supply house faucet against a Home Depot faucet, the pop-up assembly will be different, the small index hot/cold push in piece will be different, and the handle will be chrome brass but the shell of the body will be chrome plastic. The faucet seems to be still rather heavy as good faucet but costs to build have been trimmed and assembly somewhere other than here to build wider profit margins at those stores.

    Actually lowering the price, and still making a better margin. Have to remember; people do most if not all of their buying by price....so we all got what we was looking for.


    Worry about the now and to hell with the later. I would believe Delta's response on these matters would be the actuality that people are replacing their faucets every 3 to 5 years, solely on looks.

    That can be true to some extent, but more for the minority in my experiences.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

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