Shelf life of soft plastics Shelf life of soft plastics
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    Shelf life of soft plastics
from John (  
3/13/2001 12:15:00 AM


 Will soft plastics deteriorate if left unopened in their bags for a long period of time? I have some Riverside soft plastics with the Gotta Bite oils, and wonder how long they will last in storage. Thanks. John

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   Shelf Life of Plastics from Terry Battisti, SnakeBite Custom Fishing Tackle  3/13/2001 12:49:00 AM
 Hi John,

Let me explain a little about the plastic that is used to make plastic worms. The plastic is actually a two part mix (although looking at it it doesn't look that way). Plastic worm plastic is PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and an additive called a plasticizer. The plasticizer is added to the PVC in order for the bait to be soft after setting and not hard like a PVC pipe. In raw form, it looks like milk. This raw plastic is in it's "monomer state" which means it hasn't been Polymerized yet. To polymerize it, you heat it up. The heat starts the reaction and once it is all reacted, it turns clear.

Now, a little about what makes them go hard. If plastic worms are left opened and in the sun for an extended period of time (I mean a long time) the plasticizer will volitize and leave the bait. This will make the bait hard and it will actually shrink. It's this shrinking hardening that cracks the dash of your car. So, it is best to keep your worms in a baggie if you are not going to use them for a long time.

Another thing that can make worms hard is the oil and/or scent a company uses in their plastic. Some oils and scents will actually leach the Plasticizer out of the plastic. With these baits it doesn't matter if they are sealed in a bag or not. They will still get hard on you over the course of time. I don't know of any reputable company that would use scents and oil like this but I won't say that some don't. I know ours don't.

One thing you can do though if you have a bag of hard baits that you want to soften is this. Take them and place them in a pot of boiling water. This may sound contrary to what I just said but from a chemical piont of view, it isn't. What you are doing by boiling them is breaking some of the bonds of the polymer thus making it softer. Some worms you only have to boil for 10's of seconds and others (like the OLD Super Floats) we had to boil for minutes. Just do some trial and error with one worm at a time for 10 second intervals until you have the consistence you want. One warning though, doing this will leach out salt and scent. If you don't want this t happen, you're better off buying some new baits. I hope this helps ya.

Take Care,


   Nice post Terry, good info - n/m from James T (  3/13/2001 7:32:00 AM

   Plasticizer break down from Ben (  3/13/2001 11:00:00 AM

I Take my baits out of the bags and keep them in those plano boxes, that I keep in my boat. My boat is garaged. When I'm fishing I pull out a few baits and colors and put the box back in storage compartment. But sometimes I forget to put the box back for awhile, or if the fishing is hot and heavy I'll leave the box in the sun for an hour or so.

My question is; should I not be taking them out of the orginial bags before I put them in Plano box or will the box protect them for a year,or two? Plastics or boxes is it a wash?

Also here in California the heat in the storage compartment of my boat can get say 120 degree at times. Is it the heat or the Sun (UV rays)that causes the plasticizer to leave the baits?

   Worms bought in 1972 and still good. from FrankW (  3/13/2001 11:08:00 AM
 I have several colors of worms that I bought in 1972 and they seem to be just as good as they were when I bought them. They were stored in plastic bags with a lot of oil on them. The worms sold at that time were not as soft as some of todays worms. Frank

   ) from LedHed  3/13/2001 1:18:00 PM
 If boiling soft plastics for "x" length of time determines softness... is it possible to take standard soft plastics (traditionally stiffer than "hand pours"), boil them, and get a bait that's as soft, or softer, as the hand pours?

   Stability of Soft Plastics/Plasticizers from wavemaker (  3/13/2001 1:44:00 PM
  Terry, Very sell said!

Ben, I know you asked Terry this but I might be able add a little. It's the heat and air exposure that's going to hurt you the most. Plasticizers are low molecular weight compounds and because of that they tend to be somewhat volatile as well. Basically that means they have a tendency to evaporate, and that process can be accelerated at higher temperatures. By keeping the lures in the bags provides another function. That is the plastics will reach an equilibrium will the surrounding oils, so there's not much "driving force" for the plasticizers to leave the bulk plastic.

Exposing the plastics to UV could fade and degrade them since I doubt there's any stabilizers in them, but it's the heat and air exposure that's gonna drive the plasticzers out, and harden the baits.

Terry made another very excellent point. You can also extract out the plasticizers. Alcohol and some petroleum distillates can do this very effectively. I'm not sure of the chemistry, but some of the worm oils like Lunker Lotion seem to be fine. Bottom line is, I'd be careful before I filled up bags of my favorite plastics with lure scents, because some of these can extract the plasticizers.

I probably added way more that you wanted to know, but if not, check here, and then that's sure to be true! LOL



   Thanks wavemaker...... One more question from Ben (  3/13/2001 2:05:00 PM
 What kind of oils are suitable for the preservation of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)and the plasticizer. AKA, My plastic worms. Vegetable, mineral, sunflower, petroleum?

   DO NOT USE Mineral Oil!!! from RobShaw  3/13/2001 2:42:00 PM
 I've had good results with the worm oil that Lure Craft sells.

I really can't add much more to the excellent, informative posts above.....I learned as well!

   Check the oil..... from wavemaker  3/13/2001 6:06:00 PM
  Ben, That's a good question. The basic (silly) answer is that you don't want oils that are that the plasticizers are soluble in. The problem is it's a little tricky to guess at. But if you were to make a good guess, you could look at the chemistry of the plasticizers, and compare that to the oils and then you can start to predict misciblilty/solubility based on like chemistries. Some where out there's probably a table of the plasiticizer solubilities.

The safest thing to do tho, is like Rob suggested, and to use the commercial worm oils that are already known to be safe. I like the Producto Lunker Lotion...smells good too! And some of these claim to further soften worms.> My guess is the worm oils are probably all based on the same oil. Not sure what that is, but now you've got my curiousity up so I'm tempted to figure out what they're using, and if I do I'll let you know.


   The WORST deterioration from buzz (  3/13/2001 6:28:00 PM
 If you use DEET bug repellant, you shouldn't be using it on your hands anyway, let alone fishing with it on. But if you ever get the misfortune of doing so, you wouldn't beleive how fast it breaks the plastic worms down. It is one scary product. The higher the DEET in the repellant, the worse the breakdown. Even after it dries on skin, it can have an effect on the worms you are handling. Be careful with that stuff

   Frank W, I was BORN in 1972!! from Steve P. (  3/13/2001 11:06:00 PM
  Just thought I'd throw that in Frank hehehehe!!

   Some more info Ben and something for Ledhead from Terry Battisti, SnakeBite Custom Fishing Tackle  3/14/2001 12:29:00 AM
 Ben: Your worms are fine for the amount of time that you are using them. I keep my baits in both plano boxes and bags. I just make sure they are well lubed with worm oil if they are in the boxes. A good CHEAP oil to use is vegetable oil. This oil will not leach the plasticizer and will keep them fine. Plus, vegetable oil is relatively a high molecular weight oil and will not volatize very fast. Just don't use too much as it will make a mess of your boxes!!! Now, if you leave worms in a box for a year or two, you will start to notice a hardening of them.

Led head: You can boil your plastics but there are some problems with this. There are two ways to make baits soft. One is to use a plastic with a lot of plasticizer in it which will make the bait soft WITHOUT compromising the integrity of the PVC. The second way to do it is to boil it. Like I said above, what this does is actually break the bonds of the vinyl chloride. When you do this, you have a soft bait but also a bait that is not as durable as a bait that has been made to be soft. With worms like the old Super Floats and DeLong (anyone remember those??? RichZ, I bet you do!) they were sooooooo hard (tire hard is what we used to say) that boiling them didn't hurt them. But, some of todays worms will get pretty "gel like" and won't stay on a hook if you boil them too much. This is why it is important to use some trial and error before you go and boil 100 baits for 3 minutes. There is a fine line to making a bait soft and making a bait that won't stay on the hook.

Rob Shaw is ABSOLUTELY right by saying DON'T USE Mineral Oil! Mineral Oil will leach out the plasticizer.

Wavemaker: Great follow up!!! Thanks for the help! Are you a chemist or Chem E?? The use of the term "driving force" makes me think youy're more of an engineer! Does Bird, Stewart, and Lightfoot mean anything to you??? LOL. I am a Chem.E. with some experience in Polymers. Thanks again for the follow ups!!!!

Buzz: Man, DEET is the worst thing you could put on any bait! Man, that stuff will not only wreack your worms but it has been proven to drive fish away from your bait at concentrations even in the Part Per Billion range! Great addition to the post!

I hpe I answered all of your questions and Thank You again to all the other that added some great info to this thread. I'm only able to get on the puter at night lately and I appreciate your willingness to help out.

take care all!


   Deet should be banned! Hazardous stuff... from Matty (  3/14/2001 9:55:00 AM
 I swear, I was out hunting a couple seasons ago and the deet I had applied was still on my hands. I picked up my styrafoam coffee cup, and it ate right through it like acid. Damn near burnt my fingers on the coffee as my finger went through the cup (not more than 5 seconds after picking it up it!). I don't see how anyone would intentionally use the stuff, with all I have been reading and hearing about it. Sure, it makes the bugs stay away, but that stuff just isn't natural. Good post on the shelf life, I've learned alot. I bet the DEET eats the plasticizer out of soft baits.



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