What Is Fiberglass Oxidation?

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Fiberglass, in strictest sense, is a trademark.
It is a product of Owens-Corning Company invented by Russell Games Slayter in 1938.
It is a material made from exceptionally fine glass fibers initially intended to be used as insulation.
During that time, this material was marketed under the brand name Fiberglass.
Later on, it became a generic name for any product with fine glass fibers.
Glass is the very make up of fiberglass, which is the same basic element of any glassware.
The only difference is that the glass in fiberglass is melted then extruded through the micron-thin holes to create glass thread.
These glass threads are woven together to form a coarse cloth, which is then mixed with resins to make it more pliable for mold pressing.
Fiberglass is generally used because of its many features.
  • It's longer lasting and extremely durable.
  • It's lightweight and very flexible.
  • It's non-conductive, making it the most preferred material for electronics.
  • It can be molded into any shape and is great in creating smooth curves.
  • It's cheap and doesn't need constant and costly maintenance.
  • It's a very good material for sound-proofing.
  • It's highly resistant to most acids, salt air, UV rays and extreme temperatures.
These are the very reasons why many things today such as bathtubs, boats and pick-up truck caps are made from fiberglass.
However, fiberglass materials also subject to oxidation, which is relatively the same with steel or metal corrosion.
The most common problem in fiberglass is the so called fiberglass oxidation.
Generally, the outer layer of fiberglass is covered with gelcoat.
Gelcoat is a modified resin used to provide smooth, shiny and high-quality finish on the surface of the fiberglass material.
Since gelcoat is equally tough as the fiberglass, when applied to the fiberglass, the fiberglass becomes more resistant to most kinds of elements.
However, overtime, fiberglass tarnishes and its color fades and becomes dull.
The constant exposure to sun and air oxidizes the gelcoat layer of the fiberglass.
Although no apparent orange or red-brown tinge is present on the surface of fiberglass as it oxidizes, still the process is much like metal corrosion.
Fiberglass oxidation is much recognizable when the color of the fiberglass material becomes dull and starts to fade.
As it happens, microscopic holes and crevices are formed on the surface of the gelcoat.
Wax is too heavy, thus it cannot penetrate into these holes and pits.
Rust surphaces can be found anywhere like this.
And when wax is applied into these unfilled holes of the gelcoat, air is trapped beneath it, which makes fiberglass oxidation continue to progress.
In order to completely stop fiberglass oxidation, it is recommended to fill in these holes and crevices first before applying wax.
To fill these holes, fiberglass sealers or sealants are used.
Unlike wax, fiberglass sealant is light enough to penetrate into these microscopic crevices and fill them completely to create a smooth and glossy surface.
It also acts as a barrier between the elements and the gelcoat.
Additionally, fiberglass sealant provides a tougher coat layer to the fiberglass.
Once all these micron-sized pits are completely filled, wax is then applied to complete its somewhat brand new look.
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