Opinion: Liquid Glass

November 28, 2019

Liquid glass? Isn’t glass solid?

It’s a busy afternoon, and in the middle of filling prescriptions, answering phone calls and administering immunizations, your tech walks over and says “Can you help? I have no idea what this patient wants.”

This is not uncommon and happens every week or so. What is becoming uncommon is pharmacists who know what the older remedies are. As the profession of pharmacy has progressed, some of the older, anecdotal treatments have fallen by the wayside. Not that the treatments are no longer available, nor that they aren’t valid. Just an opportunity for learning.
This column will help spread the word about treatments we may have forgotten about or never known about that can oftentimes be a viable alternative for our patients. Today’s request:

Do you have liquid glass?

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You’re probably thinking, “Liquid glass? Isn’t glass solid?”

Well, yes, it usually is. The first pharmacy I worked in was in a semi-rural area. Lots of “Get ‘er done” types and DIYers. We regularly stocked Liquid glass in the pharmacy and sold several per month. Men of all ages and the occasional young woman walked in and proceeded directly to the pharmacist to request what they needed. In the beginning, I was just a technician and completed the transaction. However, as I became more interested in the possibility of a pharmacy profession, I asked more questions.

In this case the patient is referring to Sodium Silicate. Sodium Silicate is a compound used in ceramics, waste water treatment, and as a bonding agent in the production of products as varied as dish detergents and concrete. It is this bonding ability your patient is using the liquid for. Liquid glass is used as a poor man’s radiator repair. It can also be used to repair gaps in the head gasket. For either repair, you pour a quart of liquid glass into a leaking radiator of a runnng car. This initiates a chemical reaction that results in the formation of silica gel. This gel can fill in small cracks or holes in the radiator or head gasket as it continues to circulate through the engine, making the car drivable again. This type of repair can last up to two years and save your patients quite a bit by fixing the car rather than replacing it. Now, I don’t actually recommend using sodium silicate as a car repair method  But now, you’ll know what your patient is looking for and can point them to the nearest hardware store or refer them to your mechanic.

Sodium silicate is supplied in pint, quart, or half gallon containers at most any hardware store; select arts and crafts supply stores or a small number of big box stores.

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