Applying to/on

When someone speaks of applying liquid A to/on object B, I would think it means somehow putting whatever amount of A onto B by smearing, brushing, or even pouring or whatever process, presumably once if nothing else was stated, though conceivably in several rounds. I would not think of it as bringing B into continuous contact with a relatively large amount of A not limited to what was put on the surface of B.

So, in the following:, it is stated that "It is determined by applying the chemical on the glove exterior and measuring the time it takes to detect the chemical on the inside surface."

However, the test I know for measuring this works by means of placing a piece of the glove material in a test cell so that it forms the dividing wall between two compartments. The compartment walled off by the exterior surface of the material is then filled with the chemical in question.

Now, granted, they may be speaking of other tests, but I've seen the word "apply" used similarly also for this. Perhaps it's just me, or perhaps it's something to do with the preposition used that I'm missing. Or perhaps it really is a little odd.

So, am I really this mistaken about what the word "apply" means, or would it be unusual to have it mean the kind of "placing in continuous contact with" or "exposing continuously to" which it would then mean in this case? Obviously, the material would also in the other case be in continuous contact with the amount that was put on it, but I mean continuous contact with a relatively large amount of the chemical in this manner -- in a sense immersed in it.

Would most people if they read this not assume the chemical was simply, well, "applied to" the exterior of the glove in the sense of a certain amount being "put on" the exterior surface, presumably once and then left alone to its nefarious work if nothing else was stated.

Would both of my expressions, suitably adapted, work as alternatives for this kind of thing?

Could using something along the lines of the material being "exposed to the chemical" mean either the chemical being applied once or the material being placed in the kind of continuous contact with the chemical along the lines described above (essentially the same as immersion of the exterior surface)?


  • The text doesn't attempt to describe the actual procedure, so it can't be accused of misrepresenting it. It conveys the essential information that the chemical is introduced to the exterior of the glove. Apply to may not be the perfect verb, but I don't think people would find it misleading.

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