I got this e-mail Sept. 8:
Do you have any product that will protect grocery store polished concrete from acids in pickles, fruits and the like?
Thanks, in advance.
The above photo shows the kind of damage this gentleman was asking about. Pickle juice DID cause that damage, by a curious coincindence. Pickle juice is basically vinegar, which is very acidic. Other liquids you find in a grocery store that can that can harm concrete include orange juice (ascorbic acid) and milk (lactic acid).
Restaurants with polished concrete floors need the same kind of protection. So do hair salons. Yes, there are products people put on their hair that can etch concrete.
The fact is, there are no treatments that let you leave spills on floors indefinitely. Protective treatments are your first line of defense, but thorough cleaning (with the right products), as fast as possible, is always your best bet to keep polished concrete looking great. Protective treatments are designed to give you a window of time to get the spill up, since some contaminants — like acids — can go to work immediately.
Until now, there’s been three things you could try to protect concrete floors from spills of acidic liquid, while maintaining a high-gloss.
1. Solvent-based chemical-resistant products: These products will get the job done and protect concrete from acid. Unfortunately, their solvent chemistry means they run afoul of increasingly strict state and federal volatile organic content (VOC) regulations. Many states don’t permit their sale or use.
2. Water-based protective treatments: These products meet the regulations, but don’t stand up to acid. The floor in the photo above was protected by such a treatment. These treatments can protect against many kinds of stains, but were never meant to shield concrete from acid — even mild acid like that in milk or soda pop.
3. Two-component treatments: Epoxies and urethanes that you mix together can give you a glossy acid-resistant shield that meets VOC regulations. But they are hard to use, not the least because of their short pot-life. They can stiffen into unusability before you’re a quarter of the way through your job.
So that leaves a big gap in the applicator’s tool box: There hasn’t been a durable, easy-to-use, VOC-compliant, glossy protective treatment that can stand up to all stains — including the dreaded pickle juice!
Tom Stalnaker, Lab Manager and Formulations Chemist, headed up PROSOCO’s effort to develop a treatment that fills the bill. As it turned out, he came up with two — one for inside, Consolideck PolishGuard; and one for outdoor flatwork Consolideck GuardEXT (exterior).
And that’s when I got that e-mail from the gent I’ll call “Larry.” When I e-mailed him back that we did have such a product, he was excited, but skeptical. He wanted to know if we had laboratory test results.
“No, but we will soon,” I wrote him back. “Tom isn’t ready to release the results.”
Then Larry wanted to know if we had photos. Alas, the answer was again nyet, and I fully realized I sounded like a snake-oil salesman. That was the last I heard from Larry.
So I sought out Tom for help getting some photos, and told him about my exchange with Larry. Tom agreed to set up the following test, which our Graphic Designer and Chief Photographer Stephen Falls could shoot. John Young the videographer also shot it, but the video isn’t ready yet.
Anyway, here’s what Tom did.
He got two samples of polished concrete — one untreated and one treated with PolishGuard. Then he got some muriatic acid, diluted 1 part acid to 10 parts water. The diluted acid is safer for handling and testing than full-strength, but still a lot more aggressive than even the feared pickle juice.
Tom’s thinking, he said, was that if the PolishGuard could stand up to the diluted muriatic acid solution, it sure as heck could stand up to pickle juice, orange juice or milk.
He poured some of the clear liquid onto the untreated sample. Then a similar amount onto the PolishGuard sample. Then John, Stephen, Tom and I talked about football for 15 minutes while we gave the acid a chance to work. Was the Chief’s win over the Chargers Monday night a fluke, or are they the real deal?
As we talked, the acid on the untreated sample bubbled and turned green. The acid on the PolishGuard sample didn’t do anything.
When 15 minutes had passed, Tom washed the acid from both samples and put them back down for Stephen and John to photo and video. The etch on the untreated sample was plain to see. But the acid hadn’t been able to do a thing to the PolishGuard sample.
That seemed exciting to me, but Tom offered some perspective.
No matter what kind of protective coating you have on the floor, you have to clean up spills as quick as you can. Acids — or any liquid — may eventually find tiny pinholes and work their way through. The idea of protective treatments is not to make floors stain- or etch-proof, but just to give you a window of time to clean up the spill before the inevitable happens.
That said, I’m e-mailing a link to this blog post to “Larry.”
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