Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Hanging up on the floor


Slovenly builders talk of 'washing a bucket out with a hammer', and afterwards, 'hanging the hammer up on the floor'. The above is the slovenly method of washing your trowels - bathing them in neat Spirit of Salts, or hydrochloric acid. It not only works, but it works wonderfully.

What you cannot see in the photo is the cloud of noxious fumes drifting off the surface of this soup - I worried for the birds and other wildlife as the acid ate into the calcium on the steel.

I once bought a bottle of acid and when I first opened it, I was surprised to see what looked like steam coming from the open neck. So I put the neck to my nose and gave it a sniff. I never did it again, and my sense of smell returned in a day or two, as the burns healed.

I almost killed myself with formaldehyde once, too. Formaldehyde is used very sparingly in lime washes and mortars, to prevent the growth of green algae in damp conditions. A few drops to the mix is enough.

I had been driving around for months with a bottle of it in the boot of my car, but what I did not know is that the bottle had become a bit loose, and drips had been released into the boot-well, filling it with a high concentration of formaldehyde vapour.

One day, I was rummaging around with my head in the boot, trying to find something, when I suddenly became aware that I was losing consciousness. Luckily, before I completely passed out, I had the sense to push myself away from the car, where I fell to a heap on the ground. If I had fallen head first into the boot, then I would have been found dead from asphyxiation at some later point - too late.

I could have been a contender - for the Darwin awards.

9 comments:

  1. "Washing a bucket out with a hammer" is a very graphic way to describe what will happen when one is too tired/slovenly/stressed to wash out the bucket. But to use formaldehyde is, as Dorothy Sayers might say, "Strong Poison". You were lucky you fell outside the car. To sniff at the steam of the acid -- humph, as a health freak I wouldn't do that even for a golden nasal septum :-)

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    1. If you need a Golden Septum, then you have already spent your gold on Cocaine, as far as I can tell.

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    2. As Bartleby, the Scrivener, I chirp 'in a singularly mild, firm voice', “I would prefer not to.”

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  2. We are so lucky you survived to become such an important part of our blogging experience, Tom. Obviously, it has been a close run thing...

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    1. Do I detect a hint of insincerity ,,, ?

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  3. I took my first chemistry class in high school. My memory of the lab is black surfaces, silver fixtures, old wood, sharp smells. Intoxicating atmosphere. I took the HCl bottle to the desk once for the prescribed experiment. When I removed the stopper I could not resists a good smell of the contents. It took all my power of concentration to continue looking normal and engaged as I restoppered the bottle and reeled.

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    1. Ah, those old 'Cruising' days of Party Poppers.

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  4. Don't they pickle dead things in formaldehyde or have I got the wrong dehyde??

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