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What is Water Glass?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2014
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Also known as sodium silicate, water glass is a solution that may appear as a barely solid agent or a thick liquid. It has a number of different uses, with many of them related to the manufacture of products used for building materials, textiles, and fire safety. When combined with magnesium silicate, this material can also be used to repair mufflers on automobiles.

In all applications, water glass is used to either create some sort of seal or increase the binding properties of various products. The silicate can take on the attributes of tiny pieces of glass when subjected to a great deal of heat, so the compound is sometimes referred to as magic crystals. The crystals are introduced into mixtures including other elements and make it possible to create substances that may be applied as a sealant or a protecting layer or used to seal the connection between two or more objects.

While it is not unusual to hear water glass referred to as liquid glass, the compound is usually somewhat thicker than water, which makes it easy to apply. It's possible to reduce the hydration further, causing the solution to take on a somewhat gelatinous quality. By varying the water content, it is possible to tailor the compound for use in different applications.

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One of the more common uses of water glass is in the processing of lumber. Treating the wood with the compound helps to retard the deterioration that can occur when the wood is exposed to the elements. In a similar way, it can be used to apply a thin protective coat to a number of different textile products, such as upholstery and carpeting. Even cement often includes this substance, since its binding properties can help strengthen the overall structure of any building project making use of cement.

Not all applications of water glass are limited to construction or textile materials. It's also possible to use it as a means of preserving eggs. This has given the compound additional uses in scientific endeavors and in the preservation of artifacts included as part of museum displays.

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anon307002
Post 5

Please advise if the waterglass can be used as the coating of reservoirs made of cement and used for keeping the cheese in the brine.

anon269727
Post 4

I heard that waterglass can be used to make pickled eggs. Can anyone tell me how that is possible?

anon257949
Post 3

Waterglass was still being used to preserve eggs well into the 1940's. Don't know if it is still legal.

anon98466
Post 2

Waterglass was "painted" onto eggs or the eggs were immersed in a bucket of waterglass, which sealed them against air ingress. This process enabled those with chickens to preserve some of their eggs for winter when hens stopped laying.

Probably one in ten or more had chickens at the bottom of their garden in the early 1900's. The shells (which are no good for compost as they do not decay) were saved, crunched up and fed back to the chickens to make new shells.

anon88781
Post 1

why did they use "waterglass" to preserve eggs back in the 1800s?

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