Why do basic substances always feel slippery?


Why do basic substances always feel slippery?

In: Chemistry

Basic (high pH) materials feel slippery because they render the fat out of your skin. It’s not the substance that’s slippery, but the oils and fats that are dissolving into the stuff.

*Always?* Chalk, for example, is made of calcium carbonate, a weak base, and yet in a powdered form it is sometimes applied to the hands by e.g. gym-goers to *improve* their grip, not weaken it.

*Some* bases do feel slippery if touched with bare skin (which you absolutely should *not*). This is because they instantly trigger [base-catalyzed ester hydrolysis](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saponification) of the lipids on your skin. Basically, they turn the natural oils on your skin into soap. And it’s that thin layer of soap that feels slippery, not the base itself.

So infact chalk causes a slippery reaction to improve grip when the hands have to slide over pommels or rings. Sticking straight to them would decrease performance without lubrication. So interestingly enough reduced grip improves performance.