This answer on a question regarding whether water is corrosive in pure form, the author implies that "reactive" and "corrosive" are the same thing (at least with water.)

"Corrode" seems to mean irreparably damaged which also seems to imply a corrosive reaction is not reasonably reversible whereas "react" can mean several things such as the changing of an oxidation state, or bonding covalently with another element or molecule, to something as seemingly small as a hydrogen bond.

Are "corrode" and "react" truly synonymous or is corrosion just one of many types of reactions?

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    $\begingroup$ As not all reactions are corrosive reactions, they cannot be synonyms. Corrosive means reactive but reactive may not mean corrosive. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Aug 9, 2022 at 6:57

1 Answer 1


Corrosion has an economic and a negative connotation e.g., corrosion scientists are interested in protecting metals/non-metals exposed to the atmosphere to reduce major loses to the city & the government.

Reaction is a necessary process for corrosion, for instance, eating away or destruction of metals by oxidation. Hence, acids are corrosive to a large number of metals. Even in geology, corrosion implies destruction of rocks mainly by water. Those who live near coastal cities know how cement is corroded (eaten away) by salty water aerosol. There is no oxidation. All senses are negative.

In my humble opinion, if something is reactive, it does not necessarily have a negative tone. Water reacts with sodium, but we would not say, water corrodes sodium because an economic loss/negative tone is not implied. Sulfur reacts with copper and so on. I would not include hydrogen bonding under a chemical reaction but this is really splitting hairs just like chemical change vs. physical change enforced upon undergraduate students.

In short, water can be corrosive or reactive depending on the context by the speaker/author. Acids are corrosive to metals (negative, warning) or aqua regia reacts with most metals (the sense maybe good or bad).


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