We’ll say it right up front - silicone in lane conditioners is a good thing. That’s right…it’s a good thing. In modern chemistry there are no other additives that perform, and are as safe, as silicone. It’s that simple.
The idea of using silicon in place of carbon did not come to be until the early 1900’s. The first patent ever issued for a silicon containing chemical was not issued until the 1940’s. This is when the term silane was developed, later to be known as silicone.
In the early years of development, silicone products were developed and used everywhere with great success. Where all of the problems started with silicone and finish came from wood polishes. It was noticed that these new products repelled water, and when people started to recoat the furniture and floors that were polished with this new stuff, they could not get the finish to wet. The finish would fisheye everywhere. Eventually they figured out the silicone was not cleaned off the outer layer of coating and when they sanded the furniture, they sanded the silicone into the wood.
A similar problem occurred in the bowling industry in the late 1970’s with a lane conditioner called 42/40. That lane conditioner was silicone oil and created a bunch of problems with recoating, and this is when silicone was deemed bad by the bowling industry. However, you could recoat wood lanes in bowling centers that used 42/40, it just required more work. A fisheye remover was required to get the finish to wet the lane surface again. Almost all fisheye removers contain a type of silicone.
To say something has silicone in it, and therefore it is bad, is a very generic statement. But that’s what has happened in the bowling industry. Anyone claiming silicone is unsafe is intentionally misleading by using fear from something that happened over 30 years ago. Currently, there are thousands of chemicals that contain the Si (silicon), and they can be found in everything from cleaners to adhesives. In cleaners there are silicone based surfactants and silicon based builders, with some of these being used in the bowling industry today.
The reason for using silicone chemistry in products is simple, performance. Most silicone additives are used in very small amounts, typically less than 0.5%. With carbon based additives on the other hand, it takes 1-3% of those less safe amounts to achieve a similar performance effect. Kegel uses 0.1% or less of silicone chemistry in its lane conditioners to increase performance, while keeping a focus on safety. There are other lane conditioners on the market that use similar silicone chemistry, also in very small amounts.
The advantage is achieving the desired properties with maximum safety for everything the conditioner comes in contact with, and those products are tested extensively to ensure just that.
Nevertheless there are still some companies that like to promote their products as silicone free, as if it’s a good thing. However, the alternative chemistry available for use today is less safe in terms of health. Companies that claim their lane conditioners to be silicone free are just trying to sell you something based on a fear of something that happened in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Chemistry has come a long way over the years. If you read the material list on the back of a product in your house you will find silicones in most of them. Silicones performance and safety make it great choice for use in everyday products. Bottom line, silicones are good.