Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

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Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby bose on October 1st, 2010, 3:54 pm 

I recently replaced my car battery and put the old one in my porch while I arranged disposal. It was sat on laminate flooring for about 3 days at which point I moved it and sat it on top of a plastic bag, with the laminate flooring underneath. As I was away on holiday it sat there for a further 5 days. When I picked it up the laminate flooring had turned whitish, like it had been bleached or had heat damage, and showed the pattern of creases from the plastic bag. However when the battery had sat directly on the flooring there was no damage, so it appears to be some kind of reaction between the battery and the plastic bag. As far as I can tell the battery hadn't leaked or corroded. Can anyone explain what may have caused this?
Thanks!
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby CanadysPeak on October 1st, 2010, 7:36 pm 

bose wrote:I recently replaced my car battery and put the old one in my porch while I arranged disposal. It was sat on laminate flooring for about 3 days at which point I moved it and sat it on top of a plastic bag, with the laminate flooring underneath. As I was away on holiday it sat there for a further 5 days. When I picked it up the laminate flooring had turned whitish, like it had been bleached or had heat damage, and showed the pattern of creases from the plastic bag. However when the battery had sat directly on the flooring there was no damage, so it appears to be some kind of reaction between the battery and the plastic bag. As far as I can tell the battery hadn't leaked or corroded. Can anyone explain what may have caused this?
Thanks!
bose


A reasonable first hypothesis would be outgassing from the plastic bag. You could find a new spot on the floor, put down a similar plastic bag and place something heavy (15 kg or so) on it and wait. The trick, though, might have something to do with weather before, so you'd have to match temperature, humdity, etc. Of course, if it works, you then have two white spots, but science is often a matter of sacrifice.
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby Natural ChemE on October 2nd, 2010, 12:38 am 

Questions:
1. What sort of plastic bag was it? Brand (if a trash bag or such) or store (if a grocery bag or such) could be helpful.
2. What were atmospheric conditions like? Cool/warm, dry/humid?
3. Does the white stuff on the floor come up easily? Or at all?
4. Are there any heat sources under the flooring where the battery sat? (Hot water pipes, etc.)
5. Do you use any chemical products on the floor, such as to clean it or deter pests?
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby bose on October 5th, 2010, 12:46 pm 

Thanks for the replies.

Natural ChemE, in answer to your questions:

1. It was a reusable ASDA grocery bag, made from recyclable plastic. As its reusable the plastic is thicker than normal grocery bags. Its coloured green on the outside but appears (by looking at the inside surface) the plastic was originally white. This website has an image of it: http://dot-me.of-cour.se/2009/06/29/use ... o-lose-me/

2. The conditions outside would have been around 15-23 degrees celsius (night-day cycle) and the relative humidity here is usually 60-90%. Im not sure how this would vary inside the porch. It isnt heated (and I havent had the heating on in the house) but I would assume it would stay warmer than the outside temperature during the night.

3. The white patch on the floor doesnt come off even with scrubbing so I assume its not a surface residue. It looks more like the flooring has been bleached.

4. There are no heat sources on the floor or any direct sunlight on the area the battery was sitting.

5. The only chemicals to go on the floor would be a general purpose household cleaner (which doesnt contain bleach) diluted in water.

CanadysPeak,

In the name of science (who cares about ruining the floor?!) Ive set up another bag in the same location with 10kg weights on top of it, which are approx the same size as the battery. Its a little colder now so Ill give it a couple of weeks to see if another white patch appears.

Thanks,

bose.
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby CanadysPeak on October 5th, 2010, 1:03 pm 

Natural ChemE wrote:Questions:
1. What sort of plastic bag was it? Brand (if a trash bag or such) or store (if a grocery bag or such) could be helpful.
2. What were atmospheric conditions like? Cool/warm, dry/humid?
3. Does the white stuff on the floor come up easily? Or at all?
4. Are there any heat sources under the flooring where the battery sat? (Hot water pipes, etc.)
5. Do you use any chemical products on the floor, such as to clean it or deter pests?

Maybe some PVC to dioxin? That's a pretty good bleach.
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby Lincoln on October 6th, 2010, 8:40 am 

I find that excess water can discolor such surfaces. I don't have any reason to think that this is correct, but try a similar experiment with some water under the bag. If it works, perhaps there was some condensation or something?

I congratulate you on your experimental nature. In my case, my wife would kill me if I did the experiment and I'd be out the cost of a new floor...
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby mrtoke on October 8th, 2010, 11:57 pm 

Is it possible that the acid did it. its known to leak out. touch your finger to the bottom of the battery then on the tip of your tongue. If it taste sweet then there's your answer. The bag won't do much to stop it.

i would only do this once its not to good for you. but it won't kill you.
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby Lincoln on October 9th, 2010, 12:20 am 

A safer method is to make a solution of baking soda and put it on the bottom of the battery. Fizz = acid. No fizz = no acid or too much water. I would try with "very wet baking soda" as opposed to "water with baking soda dissolved." And "damp baking soda" probably wouldn't be good enough. Very qualitiative, but this is a qualitative question.
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby Natural ChemE on October 11th, 2010, 3:58 am 

Bose,

That's a pretty odd happening. Granted, a plasticizer or such may've diffused out of the bag and into the floor, but the rate of such reactions is typically pretty slow under normal conditions. It could be that the recycled handbag just doesn't hold together well at the chemical level very well, but it seems premature to draw that conclusion.

There are several useful experiments that you can do. The first was that suggested by CanadysPeak's, to see if it happens again with a weight. It'll be neat to see how that turns out.

The next would be to check the pH for acidity. I'd use Lincoln's method.

One experiment I'd suggest would to be check for the tenancy of the plastic bag's material to break down and release its chemicals. You're pretty much doing this already with the first experiment, but another approach could be taken in parallel. Roughly:
1. Get a few solutions of polar-ish organic solvent together.
2. Drop a few pieces of the bag in question into one of those solutions.
3. Drop a few pieces of other bags into other solutions.
4. Wait a while.
5. Check back up on the pieces of bags to see if they've hardened, dissolved, discolored, etc.
6. Wait a while longer, and then check again. Repeat as necessary.


The main idea would be to see if the bag in question tends to break down and diffuse out more than ordinary bags. An appropriate solvent might be vegetable oil or such, if a chem lab isn't available. If it is, I'd go heptanes with a bit of acetone or so.

Unless the plastic bag in question is particularly unstable, I'm not sure how this could've happened without the battery playing a role in the process.

SAFETY NOTICE: Chemistry experiments should only be conducted with proper understanding of the potential safety hazards involved. This post should not be taken as providing all, or if any, of the necessary safety information, precautions, etc.
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby Lincoln on October 11th, 2010, 11:14 am 

Natural ChemE wrote:SAFETY NOTICE: Chemistry experiments should only be conducted with proper understanding of the potential safety hazards involved. This post should not be taken as providing all, or if any, of the necessary safety information, precautions, etc.

What he's saying is if something explodes, it's your own damned fault.

If you have some PH paper (which you can get from a science supply house and/or even a pet store for fish tanks) that would help with the PH thing.

But since you had it on plastic, I don't see this likely to be relevant.
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby bose on October 11th, 2010, 1:31 pm 

Since writing the first post the battery has been sitting outside, wrapped up inside the same plastic bag it was sitting on, so bare in mind it has now been exposed to colder temperatures (around 7 - 15 degrees C) and moisture from heavy rain (it was under cover so not directly rained on).

I tested the battery with some pH indicator strips. The bottom of the battery (which was the part originally sitting face down on the plastic / floor) was still dry and a damp pH strip showed neutral pH. However there was condensation in the bag and some water had collected on the top, near the terminals. This 'water' was pH 0 so it appears battery acid is leaking from somewhere. Just to note the plastic bag still appears undamaged (no holes or brittle areas).

Assuming a small amount of battery acid did somehow get onto the plastic bag, what kind of reaction may have occurred to; 1. not obviously damage the plastic 2. produce a product that would cause the flooring to turn white? Any ideas?

Im working in a different lab at the moment but once Im back in my normal lab (and have the use of a fume hood!) I can try testing various bags in organic solvents if necessary. I have DMSO, methanol and acetone available.

Bose

PS. The set up with the new plastic bag with weights on top has not caused any kind of reaction with the floor so far.
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby Natural ChemE on October 11th, 2010, 4:03 pm 

Bose,

Thanks for the update. Also, I'd like to apologize if anything came off as patronizing - I was unaware that you had such a strong background!

That the bag hasn't gone rigid does seem to suggest that it's relatively intact, so I guess that we can ignore the diffusion of plasticizers and such for now.

Another neat experiment could be just to see what a sample of flooring does when dropped into a beaker of an aqueous strong acid, maybe 1M-ish sulfuric acid? I'm not sure where you could get a sample of flooring, although there might be some left over in a closet somewhere from the house's construction, or you might be able to get something similar from a store like Home Depot.

If nothing happens then, there's some chance that repeating the experiment with pieces of the bag in question in the beaker could yield some results.
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Re: Car battery reaction with laminate flooring

Postby Roncor Woodclaver on October 31st, 2010, 1:53 am 

Hi:
I am a Johnny come lately. My background is construction.

I have seen linoleum with flower pots or boxes of something that just sat a long time in one place leave a white spot. It usually turned out to be that the wax that had been put on the floors reacted with moisture, in a similar fashion to a laquer finish turning white from a glass of water.
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