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Discussion Starter #1
A recent thread gave me the idea about posting some basic chemistry information that I've found useful in life. Hopefully someone else will find something useful here. If this is in the wrong place, mods please feel free to move it to the appropriate forum.

Chemistry impacts everybody's life. Everyone uses chemistry at some point every day, and yet, so few folks now much at all about it. Many of today's products and manufacturing methods are based upon chemical processes discovered many decades - or centuries - ago. That's one of the great things with chemistry - once you learn something, it doesn't change!
Learning a few basic chemicals can not only help you in daily life - it can give you an edge in a SHTF situation. So, post up any chemical ideas you might have. I'm always wanting to learn something new!
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
One of the best chemistry-based things to learn is about acids and bases (i.e. alkalis). Many cleaners utilize one or the other of these family of chemicals to do their job. Knowing what is what can be a real life-saver - I've discovered that first-hand.

Acids and bases are "rated" by their PH level. Neutral is 7. PH numbers lower than that are acidic, and numbers higher than that are basic. The lower the number to 0, or the higher the number to 14, determines the relative strength (and danger) of the chemical in question. How does one determine what PH is of an "unknown" substance? While there are liquid chemical indicators for this, the easiest and cheapest method is to use PH test paper. Here's the stuff I use:
http://www.scientificsonline.com/ph-test-strips.html

Once you determine the PH, you'll know what type of corrosive you're dealing with. And how to neutralize it.
Acids and bases neutralize each other, so, the neutralizer for one is the other. If you spill and acid, you clean it up with a base. If you get some alkali on your skin, you neutralize it by putting an acidic compound. (You want to use as mild a neutralizer as possible, especially on your skin - you don't want to make things worse)! There are several common household chemicals that are fairly safe that one can use in this regard. Lemon juice and vinegar are acidic, baking soda and ammonia are basic.
Since I use both acidic and alkali cleaners for work, I carry both kinds of neutralizers on board (as well as latex gloves and safety goggles -- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!)
It is a GOOD idea to research and test any chemical you might use for it's PH BEFORE you actually use it. Then, you can have the appropriate neutralizer handy. (Much like having the correct fire extinguisher handy BEFORE you start welding!) It does no one any good to run around screaming looking for the test paper while you hand is burning!
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
If we start talking about the eyes, we move into very controversial territory. I mean, neutralizing a corrosive on your clothes or skin is one thing - doing that with your eyes is another. The prevailing recommended procedures for dealing with chemicals in the eyes are basically rinse them out with plenty of water and get to a hospital. My problem with that is, even if you flush - lets say - 5 gallons of water into your eyes (not too quickly, as that could hurt them also), there could still be some small residue remaining. By the time you get to the hospital - and then they want specific information as to the chemical involved - precious time is wasted in which irreversible damage can occur. Unless you bring the container with the offending chemical with you, they really are no better off neutralizing it.
My feeling is - this is my opinion, I'm not a doctor - rinse as much out as you can for about 30 seconds. Then - as you know what the chemical is and know the PH value (because you tested it beforehand) - use an appropriate neutralizer. Being it's for the eyes, they must be mild.
And boric acid used to be a proscribed eyewash - it's the one acid actually good for the eyes. Many "eyewashes" actually contain it, though no pharmacists will give out any recipes concerning it. So, reading labels is paramount here.
Good thing about boric acid - most homes have some form of it due to the prevalence of contacts (and their cleaning solutions). So, it's handy. And relatively safe to use.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Disinfectant is another common need in SHTF scenarios. And we all know that alcohol is one such chemical. Knowing the common household products that contain alcohol is the trick.
Here are some of my tricks:
Isopropyl alcohol (70%)
Mouthwash (21%)
Witch hazel (14%)

And we all know about Wine
Red wine is actually better as a disinfectant - and not only because of the alcohol content. There are chemical known as tannins in the red grape skins that add significantly to the anti-bacterial effect.

I carry a travel-sized mouthwash in the truck first aid kit. I might need to freshen my breath - or I might need to disinfect a wound.
 

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How about, using a sonicator, 50% dilution of vinegar (acetic acid) cleans brass cartridge cases as well as any expensive snake oil cleaners.

You can make lye (potassium hydroxide) from wood ashes (hardwoods are better).

You can make potassium nitrate (KNO3) from urine, and urea ( H2NC=ONH2) too.

Distillation purifies water, unless there are volatile impurities. A solar still requires no energy other than the sun.

You can make 95% ethanol which can be a disinfectant or a fuel.

Boric acid is a relatively non-toxic insecticide and can be used in an aqueous solution to treat eye infections.

Anerobic fermentation can be used to preserve food (pickles, Kraut).

Raising pressure increases the boiling point of water, allowing pressure canning, and storage of canned goods safely.

Pure water at 25.00 oC weighs 1.000 gram per 1.000 milliliter

Pure water, at sea level (760mm Hg) boils at 100 oC and melts at 0 oC.

Salt (sodium chloride) prevents spoilage by dehydration, e.g. jerky.

Iodine is a solid which sublimes, but stores well. It is sparingly soluble in water in which it is a disinfectant.

Potassium Iodide can be taken to prevent the uptake of radioactive iodide.

Water has a Very high heat of fusion, ice is an effective storage method.

I will think of many many more.....
 

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One of the best chemistry-based things to learn is about acids and bases (i.e. alkalis). Many cleaners utilize one or the other of these family of chemicals to do their job. Knowing what is what can be a real life-saver - I've discovered that first-hand.

Acids and bases are "rated" by their PH level. Neutral is 7. PH numbers lower than that are acidic, and numbers higher than that are basic. The lower the number to 0, or the higher the number to 14, determines the relative strength (and danger) of the chemical in question. How does one determine what PH is of an "unknown" substance? While there are liquid chemical indicators for this, the easiest and cheapest method is to use PH test paper. Here's the stuff I use:
http://www.scientificsonline.com/ph-test-strips.html

Once you determine the PH, you'll know what type of corrosive you're dealing with. And how to neutralize it.
Acids and bases neutralize each other, so, the neutralizer for one is the other. If you spill and acid, you clean it up with a base. If you get some alkali on your skin, you neutralize it by putting an acidic compound. (You want to use as mild a neutralizer as possible, especially on your skin - you don't want to make things worse)! There are several common household chemicals that are fairly safe that one can use in this regard. Lemon juice and vinegar are acidic, baking soda and ammonia are basic.
Since I use both acidic and alkali cleaners for work, I carry both kinds of neutralizers on board (as well as latex gloves and safety goggles -- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!)
It is a GOOD idea to research and test any chemical you might use for it's PH BEFORE you actually use it. Then, you can have the appropriate neutralizer handy. (Much like having the correct fire extinguisher handy BEFORE you start welding!) It does no one any good to run around screaming looking for the test paper while you hand is burning!
Be SAFE!!!

Use a MILD acid or base to neutalis things

Vinegar (acetic acid) or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

P.S. Is it acidic? A solution of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) will generate carbon dioxide gas (bubbles) at a pH less than 8, add bicarbonate

If you need to nutralise a base use vinegar
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Be SAFE!!!

Use a MILD acid or base to neutalis things

Vinegar (acetic acid) or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
Definitely! Safety first!

A little background may help you guys understand where I'm coming from.

I used to work on the maintenance crew for a local grocery store chain. One of our jobs was to keep the refrigerated produce tables clean and operational.
One night, a drain got plugged up with debris, leaves, etc. The guys couldn't get the drain unplugged, so, they poured Drano down the drain. It didn't clear things up, so - unbeknowest to me - they proceeded to crawl under the counter and disassemble the piping! Sodium hydroxide solution ran down two guys arms, and I hear all this commotion as the two run to a men's room and try rinsing the stuff off. That only ionized the solution and increased the burning. I quickly ran down the juice aisle, grabbed a bottle of lemon juice, and told them to wash with it. Within minutes, the burning stopped, and neither had any serious skin damage.
They asked me, if I was so smart, why was I working as a janitor? I replied that this was nothing special - I learned it in high school. Didn't they? And they were lucky I was there that night, or they'd have had some serious chemical burns.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Another useful chemical is hydrogen peroxide.

It can be used as:
A mouth gargle (don't swallow it, as it can be fatal)! Got this tip from a dental hygenist, and my check-ups have been stellar ever since!

Ear wax remover

Drain maintainer and deodorizer. Won't unclogged plugged drains, but will help drains that are flowing stay that way. And it doesn't hurt the pipes or the enviorment.

Disinfectant

Mild bleach alternative
 

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Definitely! safety first!

A little background may help you guys understand where I'm coming from.

I used to work on the maintenance crew for a local grocery store chain. One of our jobs was to keep the refrigerated produce tables clean and operational.
One night, a drain got plugged up with debris, leaves, etc. The guys couldn't get the drain unplugged, so, they poured Drano down the drain. It didn't clear things up, so - unbeknowest to me - they proceeded to crawl under the counter and disassemble the piping! Sodium hydroxide solution ran down two guys arms, and I hear all this commotion as the two run to a men's room and try rinsing the stuff off. That only ionized the solution and increased the burning. I quickly ran down the juice aisle, grabbed a bottle of lemon juice, and told them to wash with it. Within minutes, the burning stopped, and neither had any serious skin damage.
They asked me, if I was so smart, why was I working as a janitor? I replied that this was nothing special - I learned it in high school. Didn't they? And they were lucky I was there that night, or they'd have had some serious chemical burns.
And another problem is mixing cleaners that have chlorine/hypochlorite and a strong base like DRANO (sodium hydroxide).

Cleans GREAT with the combination of base and CHLORINE GAS!!!!! E.G. Hope you were not home and the dog/cat was out too.........

Well SHTF that is a way to make Cl2 gas....
 

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Two guys walk into a bar.

The first guy says; "I want a glass of H20."

The second guy says; "I want a glass of H20 too."

The second guy died.
 

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I know exactly which post you are talking about.

NEVER mix chemicals or even household cleaning products unless you know EXACTLY what the F you are doing. Phosgene gas for example, a chemical warfare agent of WWI fame and beyond, is produced by simply mixing two common household cleaners. Don't do it. Use household chemicals EXACTLY as they are labeled and don't mix them trying to make them "better."

OK, if you just really, really have to play around and get it out of your system, fill a glass halfway with vinegar and drop in a tablespoon of baking soda. Instant reaction, huge foamy mess, but nothing bad will happen and consider your home chemist mad scientist days over.
 

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If we start talking about the eyes, we move into very controversial territory. I mean, neutralizing a corrosive on your clothes or skin is one thing - doing that with your eyes is another. The prevailing recommended procedures for dealing with chemicals in the eyes are basically rinse them out with plenty of water and get to a hospital. .
Not to mention, pSHTF, there likely won't be a hospital to go to.
 

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I know exactly which post you are talking about.

NEVER mix chemicals or even household cleaning products unless you know EXACTLY what the F you are doing. Phosgene gas for example, a chemical warfare agent of WWI fame and beyond, is produced by simply mixing two common household cleaners. Don't do it. Use household chemicals EXACTLY as they are labeled and don't mix them trying to make them "better."

OK, if you just really, really have to play around and get it out of your system, fill a glass halfway with vinegar and drop in a tablespoon of baking soda. Instant reaction, huge foamy mess, but nothing bad will happen and consider your home chemist mad scientist days over.


Phosgene, carbonyldichloride, is extremely toxic and a gas at room temperature. Was used in WWI. It can be handled with ventilation as a liquid at low temperature. It is said to smell like musty hay, and one smell can kill you.

I am not aware of how it can be readily produced using household chemicals. However the more toxic fluorine analog is produced upon burning of teflon products. (don't leave the stove on...)

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid). A weak organic (carboxylic) acid and a weak base. This is an example of the classic chemistry test for carboxylic acids; products are sodium acetate salt, water, and carbon dioxide gas.

Sodium bicarbonate is also great for stronger acid spills like sulfuric acid found in batteries.

Lemon juice contains a number of weak organic acids that are useful for food preservation or neutraliation of chemical spills, much like vinegar/acetic acid.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
I wasn't aware that one could make phosgene from two ordinary household chemicals, either.
I've been told that when welding AC tubing, the oxy-acetylene flame breaks down the freon vapors into phosgene (among other nasties!). I have gotten wiffs of that purple stuff - very bad.

And I've used old baking soda for cleaning car battery acid spills. "Old" meaning it's so old it shouldn't be used for cooking anymore.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I'll share one of my personal favorite discoveries with you guys.
For oily skin, I use something called polysorbate 80. It's a clear, syrupy liquid used as an emulsifier in salad dressings and such. (In other words, it allows oil and water to mix). I use that principle for cleaning oily skin. Perfectly safe around the mouth and eyes (if it's food grade), thoroughly removes oily junk, and leaves your skin feeling clean - but not chemically stripped and dry.
Works for oily hair, too. After cleaning with your favorite shampoo, do a final 'wash/rinse' with a quarter-sized glop of the polysorbate.

I get it at the local compounding pharmacy, or off of Amazon.
 

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For those who would like to learn more chemistry, or feel that the subject is too complex to attempt, here are two good places to start: old text books and MSDS's

Modern science books have been "watered down" alot, replacing the formulas and memorization with touchy-feely sentiments and simple facts. Rarely do you find anything worthwhile or useful in them. Older chemistry books - college level, but even high school level - have much more detailed explanations, how they are made, and where they were used and why. Go to book sales or thrift stores, and snag any old chemistry books you can find. I usually pay about a $1 for them, and they are a gold mine of information.

MSDS stands for "Material Data Safety Sheet", and are literature manufacturers are required BY LAW to provide on their products. Originally printed for poison control centers and first responders - because these emergency workers need to know what they're dealing with! MSDS's tell what chemicals are in a product, what percentages they are, and the various characteristics. Consumers can benefit greatly from this knowledge - if they only knew it existed and where to find it. Most every product you buy has a webpage - go to it and look for the MSDS icon to access the chemical list.
 

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For those who would like to learn more chemistry, or feel that the subject is too complex to attempt, here are two good places to start: old text books and MSDS's

Modern science books have been "watered down" alot, replacing the formulas and memorization with touchy-feely sentiments and simple facts. Rarely do you find anything worthwhile or useful in them. Older chemistry books - college level, but even high school level - have much more detailed explanations, how they are made, and where they were used and why. Go to book sales or thrift stores, and snag any old chemistry books you can find. I usually pay about a $1 for them, and they are a gold mine of information.

MSDS stands for "Material Data Safety Sheet", and are literature manufacturers are required BY LAW to provide on their products. Originally printed for poison control centers and first responders - because these emergency workers need to know what they're dealing with! MSDS's tell what chemicals are in a product, what percentages they are, and the various characteristics. Consumers can benefit greatly from this knowledge - if they only knew it existed and where to find it. Most every product you buy has a webpage - go to it and look for the MSDS icon to access the chemical list.
I'll add: Henley's Formulas for the Home and Workshop. older Lange's Handbook of Chemistry, The Merck Index.

There is a MSDS for dihydrogen oxide, the solid can cause frostbite, the vapor burns, and the liquid drowning!!!! Nasty stuff!!!!
 

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Potassium permanganate, crystal form, is good for disinfecting water, first aid on cuts and scrapes, foot fungus, and a mouthwash. You dissolve the crystals in water and dilute it to the strength wanted. A past thread got into the explosive possibilities of the stuff, me, I'll just mention that if you mix it with antifreeze or any glycerine based liquid, it'll spontaneously catch fire. That will be in a messy smoky chemical way, but it can start a good fire if you avoid the startup fumes.

Iodine, tincture form, is good for first aid (no deep cuts) and for sterilizing drinking water. If you want to get it out of the water afterwards, add vitamin C by pulverizing a tablet of it, preferably a non chewable one. The iodine will come out as a precipitate. Tincture of iodine is also normally half potassium iodate (check the label) and if consumed small dose like in a glass of water, will block your thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine in a 'nuclear incident', so you may want to leave it in the water. In fact, it's only necessary to take it out for taste purposes, for pregnant women and for people with known thyroid problems.

Vitamin C, sold as ascorbic acid, can be added to preserves to prevent bad things from growing in them, and obviously will greatly boost the nutritional value of the jam or whatever you're making. But it goes away after 2 years or so, nutritionally speaking.
 

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MSDS stands for "Material Data Safety Sheet", and are literature manufacturers are required BY LAW to provide on their products.
FWIW, the MSDS is no more. They have been replaced by the GHS, "Globally Harmonized System," that's supposed to make that type of information standardized worldwide.

I know this because my job requires me to maintain a HAZWOPER credential, Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. I just signed up yet again for the required annual 8 hour refresher course. Have to take it every year, sit in a classroom for 8 hours talking about MSDS, GHS, 29 CFR 1910.120, aaaaaggghhh- where's my coffee? GI2
 
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