Introduction: Dissolving Polymer Balls

Picture of Dissolving Polymer Balls

I saw NOTHING about how to dissolve these polymer balls. They are fun for the kids, but these things never seem to die. There are very cool upcycle ideas you can do with the balls. Their super absorbent powers renders them useful in potting soil releasing water slowly which reduces the amount of times you have to water your plants. Ok so if you have no plants, used them for a project and no longer need them I have accidentally found a way to disolve them. I am not a chemist, but this worked. I even had some fun testing other possibilities, but one method proves constant every time. Let's begin shall we?

Step 1: Preparing the Balls

Picture of Preparing the Balls

As you may or may not know you place the polymer balls in water and let them absorb as much as they can hold until you finish with nicely rounded, much larger balls. I let mine sit over night since I put them in late and woke up to exactly what I expected.

Step 2: Which Holds the Dissolving Power?

Picture of Which Holds the Dissolving Power?

So I chose three experimental products that may or may not dissolve the polymer balls. One of course I know works as I mentioned I did it by accident, hoping for ine result and got a completely different unexpected one. Much like science. You make your choice based on what you know of the properties of each one. The obvious pick for me would be the Epson Salt. We know that salt dehydrates and since we are using super absorbant balls filled with H2O...Why not? Right?? Let's see....

Step 3: Poor, Mix, Add

Picture of Poor, Mix, Add

I took a small bowl and poured a little of rubbing alcohol in, then I poured the bleach, then mixed about 3 tablespoons of epson salt in water. Then I dropped my polyerballs in. What you will notice immediately with the salt mix is that the balls actually become buoyant because of the density. When I dropped them in they hit the bottom, pause slightly then floated to the top. They went straight to the bottom in the alcohol and bleach. I waited a few hours and noticed this...

Step 4: The Results

Picture of The Results

The alcohol had no change. The Epson salt appeared to shrink the balls a little, but the bleach...DISSOLVED! Yes the bleach is the clear winner. Again I am not a chemist and cannot explain why this is but it is. How did I find out by accident you may wonder? Well I was thinking of things I can use them for. Some use them to absorb scented oil for endless smell good. I thought I can make bleach balls to drop in dirty water as a purifier or put in the tank f a toilet bowl to kill the germs so if the water splashes on you it is safer. I put the balls in like step one into bleach and they never formed. The disappeared! So I tested it as you have witnessed to see if it would work when fully absorb by water and...Eureka! Hope this helps. If someone knows why please share. Forgive any typos I am using my phone for this post.

Instead of dissolving the epson salt I made a cup with just the salt and placed the balls in it and it drasitcally reduced the size.


craigpepmiller (author)2016-06-20

I actually have a chemistry drgree but it was a long time ago and i never worked with polymers. Nor do i know which polymer you were using. However i know that in plumbing history there have been major efforts to make chlorine safe plastic pipes. Look up " The effects of chlorinated water on polymeric water distribution systems". My father was a health officer at a remote military post. They got a shipment of (at the time) "modern" toilet seats. They worked great until they had an outbreak of a bug that required washing the seats with chlorine disinfectant. Then they had to post guards because some vandal was breaking the seats. The explanation that he finally got was that the disinfectant had dissolved the plasticizers (agents added to make a brittle polymer "plastic" meaning flexible) leaving the seat prone to breakage.

3rdiii (author)craigpepmiller2016-06-20

Great info! Thanks for sharing. I was really hoping my initial thought for using these polymer balls would work out. This was good insight.

craigpepmiller (author)3rdiii2016-06-20

I'd be careful where you discard the liquid. If it is a disolved plasticizer the the full polymer chains could still be there, just lacking the ability to keep a form. You dont want to create a clogged drain. I might try to use your discovery in making candles. If I could pour wax into/around a complex rigid plastic form and then dissolve out the plastic that could be interesting. The opposite of lost wax casting. I have heard of using the swollen beads like the ice is used in an ice candle. After it cools allow it to dry and shake out the small dry beads.

3rdiii (author)craigpepmiller2016-06-20

I was going to see if i can create a marbalized color with the clear ones using food coloring. I would put the balls in plain water as it is to the half way point I was going to drop it in food coloring to see what happens.

3rdiii (author)craigpepmiller2016-06-20

Aaah I see. I had to take some time to read this again and imagine it...that is interesting

3rdiii (author)craigpepmiller2016-06-20

That is an excellent point. I thought the same thing so I did not throw it away in the drain. I wanted to dry it out and see what happens. Can you explain what you mean about the candles again? I got lost. ai am not slow, just working and didn't all set in.

rainingfiction (author)2016-06-18

Nice experiment :)

3rdiii (author)rainingfiction2016-06-18


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