Considering how we use water around the world as a cleaning agent, whether for our food, our clothes or ourselves, there is logic in wondering about its validity as a preservative. For the purposes of this article I will be avoiding talking about salt water as, while it is a known preservative, this is due to the salt content, not the water itself.
When it comes to the preservation of food, water isn’t really suited to the task. This is because bacteria loves water, and will flourish in wet environments. Certain foods, such as a freshly sliced apple, may benefit from submersion in water purely because it slows down the oxygenation process taking place within the fleshy interior on contact with the air, and will prevent it from drying out. While this may help to keep food in a more appealing state for a couple of days, to call it an effective preservative would be inaccurate.
So, that’s the question of water as a preservative thoroughly debunked, right? Well, not quite. Food is far from the only thing in need of preservation, and in certain situations, water has some interesting applications
Electrical components, such as cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders found on board aircraft are regularly preserved in water upon recovery if the aircraft itself has become submerged. It may seem illogical to place electronics into water, but this is done to combat the corrosive effect of the salt abundant in sea water. As the device dries out this salt forms in deposits on important circuitry, and can seriously and irreparably damage it. By keeping the device submerged this process is delayed, allowing more time to recover any important data.
Another benefit of using water for such applications is that the dissolved oxygen content will be much lower than the levels found in the air, and oxygenation is often a leading cause of deterioration.
For similar reasons, water is also used for the preservation of archaeological discoveries, particularly where delicate objects have been exposed to water or anaerobic environments for an extended period of time. Contact with the outside air would quickly cause these objects to dry out, crack and oxygenate, all of which will irreversibly damage the item.
Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.