This has been a topic of some mystery among rubberists for awhile. Thanx to RMSF member “Trouble” for researching and volunteering his personal gear as a test subject we now have answers!
I’d first of all like to thank Gord at www.catalystlatex.com. Thanks to him, I now have my first two chlorinated latex pieces and a plethora of information on chlorinated latex.
In order to understand chlorinated latex, it’s necessary to better understand latex, itself. At a microscopic level, latex’s surface is course. This course surface creates friction and drag. By the process of chlorination, chlorine molecules bond with the outer most layer of latex molecules, and this bonding creates a micro-smoothed finish of the surface. This micro-smoothing adds several benefits such as a reduction in friction, a resistance to staining, an increase in shine, and a hypoallergenic latex.
Because the chlorine bonds with the latex molecules on the surface, the latex becomes resistant to staining. Tests have even been run with a piece of white latex where only half of it had been chlorinated. The chlorinated latex was resistant to discoloration when touched by metals; whereas, the untreated latex was stained when touched by the metal.
The exact science and results of why chlorinated latex is so shiny is unclear. I sent away a latex shirt of mine to be chlorinated, and when I received it back, it looked shinier than I’d ever seen it before by using Black Beauty. Individual mileage may vary on the shine factor, and the older the latex, the less likely it is to be made shinier by a chlorination treatment. As well, once a latex piece has lost it’s gloss due to surface scratches, the chlorination treatment won’t serve any benefit in bringing back that shine. In short, chlorination best brings out that glossy look stronger in well kept or newer pieces of latex. Even though chlorination gives the latex a newfound shine, polishing it further for more of a shine is an option, but this will make the chlorination treatment obsolete in reducing friction.
Speaking of reducing friction, due to the process of the chlorine micro-smoothing the latex, putting on the latex becomes incredibly easy. Using lube becomes unnecessary. In fact, using lube with chlorinated latex is discouraged because adding the lube to the latex coats the micro-smoothed finish and adds drag, but again this is personal preference, and you can lubricate it if you desire. Although, the greatest benefit of the reduced friction is that chlorinated latex gear will slip on and off without the need of lubricants or talc, and layering chlorinated gear will slide layer over layer without any lube as well. The benefits of this reduced friction extends to storing the latex as well. Since the latex is micro-smoothed, storing the latex means using talc is unnecessary, and the latex won’t stick to itself.
Lastly, chlorinated latex reduces allergy sensitivity to the latex. The chlorine treatment makes the latex hypoallergenic. This has a twofold advantage. There are those already allergic to latex who are now able to wear it, but there’s also the reality that latex allergies can be developed after repeated exposure to latex over a prolonged period. Chlorinated latex addresses both of these concerns.
Though, chlorinated latex has its drawbacks. Due to the surface of the latex being micro-smoothed, future repairs become slightly more challenging. In order for the latex to be worked on, extra attention must be shown to scoring the latex. If you have your repairs done by a reputable latex artisan, they will know the importance of this and do it properly. If you work on your latex at home, pay extra attention to scoring in order to ensure that the glue bonds properly. Lastly, chlorinated latex loses its scent. When the chlorine binds with the latex, the smell of the latex ceases. This may be a deal breaker for some, especially if the smell of latex turns you on.
As far as my own experience, I sent away one of my latex shirts to Catalyst Latex to be chlorinated. After trying on the chlorinated latex, it felt silky smooth. It didn’t grab my hair. The latex looked beautiful, and I slid it on and off without any effort. Admittedly, I understand lubing up is part of the fun for some rubber men, so this may be more of a con than a pro for you.
Here’s what you should know before getting your gear chlorinated. It’s imperative that the latex be clean of any lubricants or talcs. Otherwise, the chlorine won’t bond where the latex is dirty. Second, if the glossy finish of the latex has already been scratched off, chlorinating it won’t bring back that luster. Next, if you’re latex is old and black, it’s possible that the chlorination discolor the latex to a charcoal gray, and lastly, chlorination will not remove any existing stains on latex, but it will prevent future ones.
Chlorinating your own latex is something you can do at home, but it can be extremely dangerous without the appropriate protective gear. Just to give an idea of the dangers of improperly performing your own chlorination, one mistake means coughing blood and about thirty seconds before death. My recommendation is using a professional service should you choose to have your latex chlorinated.