Acrylic emulsion paint films: The effect of solution pH, conductivity, and ionic strength on film swelling and surfactant removal

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Dillon, Courtney E.; Lagalante, Anthony F.; Wolbers, Richard C.;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 59, Number 1, p.52-62 (2014)


To date, a limited number of aqueous conditions have been tested experimentally as potential cleaning reagents on modern acrylic paint films. Those assessed have tended to extract measurable quantities of paint film components and distort the paint films physically. In this paper the results of a series of experiments designed to examine pH, conductivity, and specific ion effects of potential aqueous cleaning solutions on a series of commercial acrylic paints are reported. A three-dimensional microscopic technique was used to characterize the physical (volume and surface roughness) changes and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry was used to characterize the chemical (extracted surfactant) changes following paint film exposure to the aqueous solution. The tested paint films in this study clearly exhibit an isotonic point below which swelling and extraction is significant, and above which the swelling and extraction is diminished. Manipulation of conductivity and the ionic species in solution can reduce both the physical film changes and surfactant extraction from acrylic paint films; while pH appears to be of limited use in controlling aqueous cleaning effects. Moreover, there seems to be a specific ion effect for both swelling and de-swelling in acrylic paint films that can be rationalized through the Hofmeister Series.