Chemistry Filter: How did this happen?
August 16, 2017 5:50 PM   Subscribe

I bought my daughter a cheap rubber (?) ball at Michael's a while ago. Last night it ended up wedged up against our cabinets all night. This morning the lacquer seems to have become liquid where it was in contact with the ball.

1. I have no idea what the ball is actually made out of.
2. The cabinets were originally a plain wood finish, but I hired some painters to paint my house three years ago and they lacquered the cabinets the current blue-ish color.
3. The lacquer has been dry for three years.
4. There was nothing going on here other than a dry ball touching dry lacquer.
5. The lacquer smudges easily where it's on the ball.

I've gone ahead and just thrown the ball out in the trash, but I'm curious as to what is going on here.

1. Ball front.
2. Ball rear.
3. Ball with lacquer.
4. Demonstration of smudgability.
posted by jeffamaphone to Science & Nature (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The toy is probably made of pvc and is leaching plasticizer. Solvents can do funny things when they're left together.
posted by phunniemee at 6:08 PM on August 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yep, plasticizer. I bought a bunch of pencils with erasers 20 something years ago, and over the years, the erasers have become quite hard (and non erasing).

I would expect the lacquer to harden again eventually, but perhaps not as fast as it dried when first applied because the plasticizer in the ball isn't as volatile as the original solvent.
posted by Bruce H. at 6:38 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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