The Science Behind The Ionic Foot Spa
What is the science behind these footbaths, where do the colors actually come from?
To answer this question scientifically, all the influences must be discussed. Basically, all ionic footbaths are based on electrolysis of water. In this process there are five influences to note: power level, water type, metal plate alloy content, salt type/additives, and the epidermis of the foot.
Voltage is a very important part of the issue. Firstly, we need to know that according to The Bohr Model of atomic physics, at least 12.0 Volts needs to be applied to the water to allow for electron jump in the hydrogen atom (released negative ions). Also, it is important to maintain a voltage way above this minimum to create a level of ionization that allows for saturation to occur. Low power levels can produce ionization, but these released ions will recombine as fast as they are produced. Creation of them faster than they recombine is essential; you need a regulating and adjustable source of power. Conversely, providing too much power to the bath can create a tunneling effect in which the flow overcomes the amount of alloy plate surface available and the overall electrolysis effect lowers.
Most all water that comes from a public tap has its own impurities which due to the electrolysis are separated or recombined from their original state of soluble suspension in the water. Common tap water can contain varying amounts of suspended solids such as sodium, lead, calcium, magnesium, manganese, nickel, chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, barium, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, fluorine, iron, mercury, sulphates, and organic debris. These impurities are found in very small and safe amounts in tap water. In the presence of electrolysis, these impurities clump together to such a size as to be visible. Highly filtered waters such as reverse osmosis, distilled, and drinking often produce much less color and seem to have lower visual activity. They are also not very conductive for the electrical process and require more salt. These types of water actually are not the best choice to produce the ionization the most efficient way.
All the array plates, rings, etc. on the market are made of an alloy of stainless steel. The process of electrolysis does lots of recombining of molecules. The stainless steel has electrolytic reactions with the actual water, the sea salts, and suspended solids in the water. As the plates break down they recombine with the solids to come out of a soluble state and appear to the eye as debris. The composition of the chosen alloy stains these items and creates a multitude of colors.
Sea salts/ additives:
Sea salt is an integral part of the process. First, it allows for control of the conductivity of the water, more salt, more current; the user can control the rate with the level in the bath. Secondly, its structure allows for the saturation of the bath with ionization. Without the salt, the bath will produce electrolysis but will often not saturate with ionization. Some footbath manufacturers provide salts with minerals added or salts naturally having lots of minerals, this creates many very amazing looking colors above and beyond the colors that naturally occur. This addition of minerals makes the bath very conductive; unfortunately this means very little sea salt is added. With less sea salt there are fewer salt crystals structures in the bath, this can affect overall ionization adversely. Always use a water type and “non-additive” sea salt combination that allows the highest production and retention of ions in the bath. Having to add too much salt to a bath to gain the electrolysis process (low power units) can wear out the array plates/rings too quickly.
Epidermis of the foot:
This is where the controversy begins!
There are as many opinions on this as there are manufacturers and users. Some items we do know as science are discussed above. The epidermis of the foot excretes many organic materials. This occurs whether in a footbath or not. When the foot’s epidermis is in contact with a soluble liquid such as water these excreted materials become soluble themselves and float off into the water. Also, the skin can contain attachments of soaps, creams, and other products introduced to the epidermis by the person. Also any naturally released germs, bacteria, funguses, etc., also become soluble. This is akin to bathing, but with a footbath, these items are altered and then made to become opaque, clump together, and show differing colors. They basically become non-soluble and either float to the top or sink to the bottom of the bath.
When an ionic footbath array begins the process it attempts to raise the pH of the water from an acidic state to a more alkaline state (acidic items- coca cola, coffee, pesticides—alkaline items-celery, most herbs, and spirulina). pH (potential of hydrogen) is a measurement of the concentration of hydrogen Ions in a solution. The heightened alkalinity of the footbath interacts with the newly soluble items which carry an acidic tendency and “neutralizes” them in the bath. This is similar to pet odor removers [urine is quite acidic, and the odor product is quite alkaline- they combine and move the wet spot back toward a balanced pH (7.0 is balance between the two)]. Or like baking soda in a refrigerator, the soda is very alkaline so, the smelly oxidative releases of the food breaking down can be absorbed, or “neutralized” by the soda. This is a simplistic version of the process, with all the above factors involved being variables, each session becomes unique to the location and to the person.
This overview is a very basic attempt to explain complex, chemical and atomic level reactions that occur in an ionic footbath. If you are more curious, there is a wealth of information out on the internet and at your local library about these processes.