Concrete @ your Fingertips


Action of ‘common’ substances

Some common substances that may come into contact with concrete, particularly when the structure is used for processing or storage, and their effects on concrete are shown in the table.

In the cases shown the effects described are only indicative as they depend on the concentration of the substances listed.

Material Comments on products formed Effect
Ashes/cinders If wet sodium sulfate may leach out Disintegrates concrete without adequate sulfate resistance
Beer Fermentation products may contain acetic, carbonic or lactic acids*  Disintegrates concrete slowly
Cider Contains acetic acid* Disintegrates concrete slowly
Coal Sulfides leaching from damp coal may form sulfurous or sulfuric acid* Disintegrates concrete rapidly
Common salt   Not harmful to dry concrete
Creosote Containd phenol Disintegrates concrete slowly
Exhaust gases (diesel or petrol) Form various acids in the presence of moisture Disintegrates concrete slowly
Flue gases Form various acids in the presence of moisture Disintegrates concrete slowly: temperature differentials may cause significant stresses
Fruit juices (and fermenting fruit) Contain sugar and various acids Disintegrates concrete slowly
Manure   Disintegrates concrete slowly
Milk   Not harmful, but see ´Sour milk´ 
Peaty water Contains humic acid Disintegrates concrete slowly
Petroleum oils   Disintegrates concrete slowly if fatty oils are present
Silage   Disintegrates concrete slowly
Sour milk   Disintegrates concrete slowly
Sugars   Disintegrates concrete slowly
Urine   Attacks steel in porous or cracked concrete
Wine   Not harmful

* When concentrated, otherwise slow

The information is based on Table 3.5.2 in ACI 515.1R which shows a more exhaustive range of materials.


Acknowledgement: The Concrete Society


Other references:Lea’s ‘Chemistry of cement and concrete’, published by Arnold