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"Acrylics and Hard Water" Topic

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dale mcroberts25 Aug 2021 11:03 p.m. PST

I've collected and painted miniatures for 50 years but I can still screw up in a major way. After 40 years of painting in my home city of Manchester, England, 10 years ago aged 50, I retired to Thailand and after waiting while my house was built I soon resumed painting. After about 2 or 3 months I started noticing that all my paints were becoming contaminated by particulates. It was quite a pain (slowing down my painting as I had to remove the offending lump) but in the grand scheme of things, no big deal. I put it down to the fact that typical temperatures here in Thailand are the mid-30s Celsius and my paints were just not coping well with it and I just lived with it.

But finally, after nearly 10 years I have had a 'eureka moment'. I've been diluting my acrylics with tap water. No doubt some of you can see where this is heading. Tap water here is quite frankly awful and is so hard that it is really only good for showering and washing the dishes (we use bottled or rainwater for drinking/cooking).

It's all rather obvious now: I have been basically adding chalkdust to my paints when diluting them with the local hard water! Doh.Rather embarrassing that it took me nearly 10 years to work that one out. Particularly as I'm a graduate chemist and should know all about hard water. In my defence I must add that after 50 years of living in Manchester (which has famously very soft water), the practical effects of hard water were just something I never encountered.

Ho hum, we live and learn. Just thought I'd post to see if anyone else had the same problem. I'm wondering now if I could cure my affected paints by adding a few drops of vinegar………

Prince Rupert of the Rhine25 Aug 2021 11:42 p.m. PST

I've lived on the edge of the Southdowns all my life (a lot of the water comes from natural chalk aquifers and the nearest local river is, that rarest of things, a chalk river the water down here is hard. The kettle, the shower, the bath and sinks all have to de-scaled regularly. Yet I've never had a problem with my paints so I hate to think how hard your water is.

Swampster26 Aug 2021 1:57 a.m. PST

The only time I have noticed anything is when I have made washes using tap water and acrylic varnish. A greyish residue would form.
I have started using a big container of distilled water. I bought this for the steam iron so I had it anyway.

The lumps shouldn't be a feature in hard water unless it has been boiled. Sounds like it just needs filtering.

Grelber26 Aug 2021 7:46 a.m. PST

Interesting, especially since I came from a town with very hard water, and might retire there one day.
It sounds like my hiking water purifier might be up to the job of dealing with the particulates, though.


jwebster Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2021 9:31 a.m. PST

I have very good tap water where I live, but it changes during the year and if I paint in the FLGS, their water supply is different

So, it's not just hard/soft that is the issue, but consistency – I just use distilled or de-ionized water


Personal logo Mister Tibbles Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2021 12:29 p.m. PST

I always use distilled water. The wet pallet paper I use also recommends using distilled water. Just to see what would happen, I tried tap water, and the pallet paper did not work well.

I have no idea how to fix the paint problem.

mckrok Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2021 1:56 p.m. PST

I use distilled water to thin my acrylic paint.


JAFD2626 Aug 2021 6:58 p.m. PST

I figured, the paints on my wrokbench cost me over a hundred dollars, a gallon of distilled water was $1.59 USD, no sense skimping there.

SHaT198428 Aug 2021 4:18 p.m. PST

Life is HARD!
Living in Thailand and still has problems!!!

The lumps are not IN the water; they are a chemical reaction to what is in the paint medium.

However, in a country that has a lot of different water sources, we've homogonised that in the name of consistency.
I've moved a lot and even now in the central city have a nasty water caused by 50+ year old lead water pipes feeding our district (many will be near 100…).

For similar reasons I've been adding an amount, about 5ml to my 'wash water' of ISO Alcohol (90 or 100%) and this keeps the brushes and paint flow clean. It is volatile so doesn't last past one session.

I've used same mixed with whatever magic potion the GW 'thinners' are and get a great result; I've revived a number of 20+ year old Polly-S paints and so can handsomely use the same colours I did then [which is somewhat important if I am 'matching' units].

Sometimes there are still 'sediment' effects but a few seconds in the microwave and then a hard screwdriver 'grind' generally softens those to release more pigment.

More work than you want, but as above, I've paid for these damn things and they're not going without me!
cheers d

vonSchwartz0422 Apr 2023 7:28 p.m. PST

Well, perhaps my recent investment in a water softener might have more benefits than just saving on soap and detergents, less wear and tear on appliances, and better tasting water.

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