My decanters are washed in hot water. The outside is then dried with a clean cloth, as is the top of the inside of the neck — typically one can’t reach further. The still-warm decanter is then left standing, without stopper, so that the hot ‘wet’ air can rise out of it. So far, so good.

For some decanters, the inside dries very fast, within a few minutes appearing to be crisply dry. For others, there is a mist of fine droplets on the inside surface that can take a week of dry weather to evaporate. It seems to be binary: some dry fast; some dry slowly; none in between.

Is there a known property of types of glass which makes the drying quick or slow? If yes, what is that property? Can that property be identified in a decanter before purchase, such as in a shop or online?

It might help to reject some hypotheses.

  • Glass thickness? There is a continuum of glass thicknesses. But I do not observe a continuum of behaviour: two speeds: very fast, and very slow.

  • Water temperature? All my decanters are washed in my almost ritualistic way, with hot water from the same kitchen tap. And, always, drying starts with the decanter very hot and consistently so. Yet the reliably-quick are reliably quick, and the reliably-slow are reliably slow. It is a property of the decanter. Indeed, this is so reliable that a few years ago I gave away all of my slow decanters (except one, much liked for its shape — but it is still slow). The speed is a reliably repeatable quality of the decanter.

  • Air humidity? No, for the same reason as water temperature.

  • Water hardness? No, for the same reason as water temperature. Speed is a reliably repeatable quality of the decanter.

  • $\begingroup$ These are good questions, but not for this SE. Not really sure where to move it either. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2021 at 19:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TristanMaxson meta.stackexchange.com/questions/265751 said here: “There's been some well-received (20+ upvotes) questions that were about materials but not about the modeling of them”. So I did look. $\endgroup$
    – jdaw1
    Dec 12, 2021 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ @jdaw1 Welcome to the site! I think your question would at least be on topic here, but the skillset of our users is skewed more towards the "modeling" end of the name, so I don't know if you will necessarily get an answer quickly. I think you may have more luck on Chemistry or Beer, Wine, and Spirits SE. $\endgroup$
    – Tyberius
    Dec 12, 2021 at 22:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Tyberius Good suggestions, seemingly fitting about as well as here — not worse, not better. If this fails I will attempt Chemistry next. $\endgroup$
    – jdaw1
    Dec 12, 2021 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ Physics would be my first port of call $\endgroup$
    – Ian Bush
    Dec 13, 2021 at 8:38

1 Answer 1


Lead in lead crystal has the effect of making the glass glossy in finish. A lead crystal decanter could have a smoother surface than lead-free glass, which is more resistant to liquid and so the liquid flows away more readily.

The addition of lead also provides an improved look to the finished product through increasing the refractive index and density of the glass, making it a clearer, less flawed substance." [1]

It could be that some antique lead crystal decanters no longer possesses this smooth surface quality, since the lead content is known to "leach lead into the food and beverages contained" if liquid is stored inside for long periods of time [2].

So, a crystal decanter that has leached lead could possess a less smooth surface that doesn't repel liquid as readily, while a lead crystal decanter that has not contained liquid for long periods may maintain its smooth and slippy surface. You may be able to test this hypothesis by examining the microscopic surface in some way.

  1. https://www.assayoffice.co.uk/assets/uploads/Crystal%20Glass%20Factsheet.pdf
  2. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/healthy-living/your-health/products/lead-crystalware-your-health.html
  • $\begingroup$ I rephrased your answer to make it a set of tentative suggestions rather than a series of questions. This makes it more of an answer rather than a jumping off point for further discussion, which doesn't work well on stackexchange sites. $\endgroup$
    – Tyberius
    Dec 14, 2021 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ Roughness changes the contact angle. The consequences are a bit more complex than causing the water to "flow away", especially also since evaporation is not equivalent to "flowing away". $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2021 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ This is plausible. If it is caused by contact with liquid, consider a half-filled decanter. It has contact with juice in the lower half, but not in the upper half. I think, but more observation needed, that the problem is worse in the shoulders than on the sides. Of course, that could be an interaction with gravity. $\endgroup$
    – jdaw1
    Jan 2 at 19:30

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