Household Chemicals and Hardware Corrosion

Household chemicals, pool chlorine, and other common substances can tear up brass or chrome fixtures. Here's an example. June 15, 2009

The pictures below are from a job I did about six or seven years ago. They were taken in one of the two sink bases in the Masterbath. Only one of the sink bases had the problem, and it does not recur anywhere else in the house. There was no leak. The couple stored standard household chemicals in a Tupperware container under this sink. I've never seen anything like it, and assume that it must be some kind of chemical reaction between the cleaners. I'm curious as to everyone else's thoughts.

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A picture of the plumbing.

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The knob screw.

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The turn off.

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Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor B:
Check for chlorine in their "household" chemicals. Chlorine will cause metal to do that. I stored an old screwdriver in a deckbox with the chlorine tablets I use for my pool. The tablets were stored inside a screw on lid bucket. The screwdriver rusted so fast I was amazed. I left it in their just to see what would happen. I was surprised.

From contributor J:
I think you have some ammonia, muratic acid, or chlorine bleach gas trapped or stored in the sink base.

From contributor S:
It is a chemical reaction. I had the same problem with two hinges in an upper cabinet that had an open container of vinegar stored in it.

From the original questioner:
It just seems odd to me that in 20 years I've never had another client experience anything similar. We all have cleaners, why isn't this more common?

From contributor R:
More than likely they left the tops off or open on one or more of the aforementioned items. You can dissolve many metals with standard household chemical solutions. If that container is ""sealed"" they could have a very dangerous/explosive situation.

From contributor A:
The one item that comes to mind is muriatic acid, aka hydrochloric acid. It is probably the most aggressive chemical that can be found in a hardware store. Most people leave it in a garage and it eats through the metal shelving near it. The containers have a hard time keeping in the aggression once opened.

From contributor G:
Another possibility if they are home wine makers, is sodium sulfite, used to make sterilizing solution and is corrosive as all get out. Even in the dry state, it will corrode nearby metals if in an enclosed area.

From contributor JD:
On the coast of SC and in the Caribbean where I have worked this would be normal in houses that are left open to the elements. The good news is your hinge was not the culprit!

From contributor R:
My local hardware store used to store the pool chemicals next to metal cans of stains. They had to move the pool chemicals because every can of stain on the shelf rusted. My guess is that there is an open container or bleach in the cabinet.

From contributor W:
By the looks of that knob screw, the butt hinges would have been ruined as well.

From contributor A:
Those beautiful Brusso polished brass butt hinges would turn a very nice green patina in those environments.