Frozen Chemicals


What happens to chemical products that get chilled or frozen? Most of them survive it rather nicely and others… not so well.

In general, a product frozen by extreme temperatures experiences some type of separation or crystal formation. Agitating or warming the product can often reverse these effects. Keep in mind that containers larger than one gallon are challenging to agitate and require more time to thaw. 

Surviving the freeze

Many types of disinfectants, for example, can endure temporary freezing. If frozen at low temperatures and then thawed, they might appear cloudy but normal Thinkstock/iStocktransparency returns when the product reaches room temperature.

Other products such as alkaline detergents have active components that will form crystals when frozen. The crystals can re-dissolve, but the product must be warmed for an extended period in order to re-dissolve all the crystals. Products made from emulsions, such as floor finishes and sealers, fabric protectors and wood polishes, will sometimes separate into a solid and a liquid. When this happens, the product is usually permanently damaged.

A good rule of thumb: If temporarily frozen product does not return to a normal appearance after being thawed to room temperature and stirred or shaken, it is probably not usable.

What if the container breaks or cracks?

It is well known that water-based substances expand when frozen and can burst a container irrespective of whether it is made from metal or from plastic. If a container should break and the product is still frozen and uncontaminated, place it in a clean bucket while thawing. In many cases, you can then transfer the thawed product to a clean, properly labeled container.

Protect your equipment

Also remember to empty chemical products from your equipment such as spray bottles, dispensers, foggers, etc., because any residual water will expand when frozen and cause permanent damage. Diluted products (i.e., those with water added) will freeze more easily than concentrates.

One final reminder (we all know this but it helps to review), water losses involve handling a lot of equipment that will retain some amount of water. Be sure to drain equipment that might be exposed to freezing conditions. Extractor pumps, pressure lines and fittings can be expensive and draining them is a lot cheaper than replacing them.

Product type

Can the product be used if it has been frozen?


 Probably, if it returns to normal color and consistency


 Probably, but make sure any crystals that have formed are completely re-dissolved by stirring at room temperature.

 Emulsion-based products

 Probably not, especially if product has separated.

Mike Kerner has been senior scientist with Legend Brands since 2009. He has 30 years of experience related to cleaning and restoration chemistry. Kerner provides technical support for chemical products in the various Legend Brands divisions including Dri-Eaz, ProRestore and Sapphire Scientific. He recently started providing technical support for Chemspec, a Legend Brands partner company.

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