Words Amalia Safran
At OXO, our engineers work with many different materials to make the hundreds of products we sell (take a look at our Engineering Library to learn more!). From stainless steel to wood, nylon and more, we make sure we’re using the right material for the job. Last month, we talked about using glass for baby blocks, and now we’re looking at silicone and why we use to make cooking and cleaning products.
Silicone is that rubber-like material that seems to be in tons of things we use throughout the day but might not realize. It can be found in cars, casing for electronics, toys (hello, Silly Putty!), and of course, cookware and cleaning products. But, what is it? And why do we use it so much?
Note: Silicone is different from ‘silicon’ – a naturally occurring chemical element (it’s Si on the periodic table—maybe you heard about it in high school chemistry class…or maybe not) and it’s also different from Silicon Valley – the valley in California with lots of tech companies.
Silicone is a synthetic material with a whole host of properties that makes it the ideal material for cooking and cleaning products. The raw material typically comes in two different forms. It can be a liquid, which is injected and molded. Or, it can be a taffy consistency that’s pressed into a mold and then baked.
It’s common for OXO engineers to layer silicone over nylon because of the chemical resistance and toughness of the material. When silicone is layered over nylon, it makes for a very durable cooking and cleaning tool, and that’s what we’re really all about. A good (and clear!) example of this is our Flip & Fold Omelet Turner. The yellow part is the nylon and the clear part is the silicone layered over it. When you’re flipping eggs over a hot pan each morning, the turner doesn’t wear down or melt, instead, it’s flexible head conforms to your pan and easily glides under your omelet for a smooth flip and fold.
Here are some more reasons why silicone is such a big part of our world:
Bring on the Heat
Silicone is great for cooking products because of its high-heat resistance – something that’s obviously pretty important if you’re using it on a hot stove (duh). But, after many nights spent in hotels and mornings straightening frizzy hair, we realized silicone could come in handy when you’re packing your bag and rushing to check out. We took that same heat-safe silicone material that we use on spatulas and omelet turners and created the Hot Styling Tool Pocket so hot hair tools could be safely stuffed in your bag. Now we might not be able to give you pin-straight hair, but we will save you the time you waste waiting for your hair tools to cool down!
Heavier Than Water
Doing the dishes can already be a drag for some, but it’s even worse after a big dinner party, when your drain is clogged, the water level is rising, and then BAM, your sink mat starts to float. Luckily, silicone is slightly heavier than water, and this Sink Mat knows how to stay in its place when the water starts to rise.
It’s never good when water seeps into a material and sits there indefinitely (talk about mildew), so when designing the Silicone Razor Holder, we wanted to make sure we were using a material that’s both tough and safe to keep in the shower. The material doesn’t let any water or gas inside of itself, which means it’s less likely to trap water and smells (goodbye garlicky smells when using silicone cooking utensils) inside the material.
The material takes to a shape easily. It can be stretched, but it will go back to what it’s supposed to be. When silicone is used for gaskets – or in laymen’s terms, the seal on products like the SNAP containers – it can stretch a bit, but then will go back to its original size and can compress. That compression is what makes the seal on the containers, and that seal is what keeps your food fresh.