The use of inhibition chemicals holds the prospect of an efficient strategy to control crystallization in porous materials, thereby potentially contributing to the prevention or mitigation of the salt decay phenomenon in modern as well as historical building materials in a more sustainable manner. In this review, we first provide an essential background on the mechanism of salt crystallization and on the factors influencing this phenomenon; next, we illustrate the mechanism at the basis of the action of crystal growth inhibitors, and critically discuss the major advances in the development of different families of inhibitors, particularly focusing on their influence on salt transport and crystallization within the structure of porous media. Specifically, correlations between the crystallization inhibition processes in porous materials and variables, such as porous substrate composition and properties, contaminant salt type and concentrations, microclimatic conditions, inhibiting solution concentration and properties, and application methods, will be highlighted. Environmental aspects, limitations, and problems associated with some inhibition chemicals are also taken into account. Finally, a survey and a discussion on the most representative experimental techniques and instrumentation available to assess qualitatively and quantitatively the inhibitor effectiveness, as well as recently developed modelling tools are given out.
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