One of our power sockets is cracked so I bought a new one. However,
when I took the old socket off the wall, there was what I can only
describe as green greasy gunk covering all the wires, there is even a
small pool at the bottom of the wall box.
Is this a cause for concern?
Do you have kids?
Do you use Fairy Liquid?
Any of the former lost any eyebrows lately?
There are a few possibilities that spring to mind:
1) The circuit was re-wired in situ and the "electrician" had difficulty
pulling the cables down into the box. So added (copious) quantities of
liquid soap (eg fairy liquid. swarfega, etc) to the cable from the top.
He got the cable through but, in time, the rest of the soap came down
the wires into the box.
2) Kid + fairy liquid bottle + socket.
3) Really damp walls + corroded through earth wires - nasty that.
4) Well, they get a bit silly from now on..
If you have some litmus paper (who doesn't?... well , if you have a kid
with a chemistry set or a kind chemistry teacher) and see if it is
acidic (eg copper corrosion), alkali (soap) or neutral (posh soap)...Or
sniff it and see if it is "Pine fresh", of get the dog to taste it and
see if it gets foaming at the mouth or other signs of lockjaw.
But, IIWY, I would probably what to know what it was.. Eyebrows today,
living in a hotel while they re-build a burnt-down house tomorrow).
"Green gunge" is most prevalent in cables made between 1965 and 1971. The
gunge is degraded di-isoctyl phthalate and is the result of the reaction
between the plasticisor in the insulation and the copper. Between 1965 and
1971 the temprature performance of PVC was uprated by the inclusion of an
anti-oxidant in to the PVC. An unappreciated side effect was that the
anti-oxident encouraged the production of exudate.
Evidence suggests that that high ambient temperatures accelarate the
process. The exudate is of low flammability and low toxicity. Although
unsightly it does not reduce the electrical integity of the conductor or the
See also the draft BCA statement (April 2001) below: -
PVC comes in two main grades, plasticised and unplasticised PVC.
Unplasticised PVC (UPVC) is used for example in double glazing window frames
where a rigid material is required.
The PVC used for manufacture of cables is a plasticised PVC that conforms to
the relevant British Standard for the cable type in question.
2) Ageing effects
As a cable ages; (at temperatures above normal ambient), the elongation to
break decreases (also the Insulation Resistance increases). The life
expectancy of a cable is arbitrarily considered to be when the elongation to
break of the PVC is 50%.
A lower elongation to break value could be considered suitable especially
for a fixed wiring cable. Therefore, providing the cable is not subject to
movement or when moved due to inspection of socket outlet or the like, the
PVC does not crack, a much lower value of elongation to break is considered
by some as suitable.
Greening is the appearance of a wet green substance that is a product of an
adverse reaction between certain types of plasticiser and the copper
conductors. This greening, which is a rare occurrence, can happen either
after a long period of time for some cables, or if the cable has been
The plasticiser itself is a clear oily liquid that is non conductive. The
green substance is a combination of copper oxide and plasticiser which may
become conductive under certain adverse conditions.
4) Action if Greening is found
Therefore whenever this green substance is found at socket outlets etc.
initially it should be removed and the terminations cleaned (gloves should
be used) otherwise it is possible that tracking/overheating may occur. It is
strongly recommended that rewiring should be carried out as soon as
If further information is required, the original cable manufacturer should
There you have it.
Wow! Thanks for that - I had never heard of this before. Mind you, I
have rarely come across over-heated cables/sockets and never to this extent.
The OP found this through replacing a cracked socket - which may itself
possibly be due to over-heating..
This sounds to me like either the socket was overloaded, had a bad/loose
connection and was overheating to the point where the cable was damaged.
So it would be an idea to check all the other sockets that were
installed at the same time, to check their conductor capture screws are
tight and they have no signs of overheating.
I tend to blame 3kW fan heaters and that the socket allows them to be
pulled out and inserted on full power.
"It is strongly recommended that rewiring should be carried out as soon
With any luck, if no other socket, switch, light fitting, etc or cable
is showing damage, only the cables going to this socket need replacing.
Obviously if there is more, it could mean anything up to a complete
house re-wire. Not a good Monday morning feeling.
Fairy liquid would have been cheaper!
Oh dear, this doesn't sound good, the majority of the sockets have some
evidence of green residue around the pins. The building is a 1960's
build which did originally have forced hot air heating which was
converted to contral heating some years ago, i think it may be worth an
electrician having a quick look.
Yes. This is ectoplasm - a clear sign that your house is severely haunted.
Spirit energy is moving around your environment using the wires as a
conduit. The spirits are clearly trying to escape via the sockets and will
become more active when they have done so, leading to funny noises in the
night, keys disappearing and small pieces of cheese being stolen from your
fridge. Your dog, or maybe cat, if you have one, will begin to stare into
space and sometimes yowl or howl.
This is a serious infestation from the other side and needs urgent
attention, such as an exorcism.
On the other hand, you could try an electrician ;-))
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