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Neutralize ammonium sulfanylacetate smell
February 21, 2013 12:52 PM   Subscribe

This morning Mr. Smuna dropped a bottle of iron remover used for auto detailing, breaking it and spilling on our wood floor. It's this stuff: IronX Here is the MSDS: IronX MSDS The smell could curl your hair; how can I neutralize it?

We immediately cleaned up with towels and since then I have wet mopped three times with water and once with Method wood floor cleaner. The floors are old and will need refinishing eventually. Although there is no visible sign of the spill, it smells so so so bad. Were you a teenager in the 80s? Did you ever get a home perm in your kitchen? My house smells like that and I would like to understand how long I have to live with this. If it's as long as I had to live with my last perm, I'm going to need to start drinking before dinner.

Volitility for ammonium sulfanylacetate is low, and biodegradability is over 90%. The bottle was small. I don't think we are in danger from exposure, I think we are inconvenienced by gross. If anyone has suggestions for additional cleaning/smell neutralization measures I welcome them.
posted by smuna to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
 
Not sure if OdoBan will work, but I have used their products on all sorts of animal and kids smells and it works. At first, you exchange one smell for the other, but pretty soon there is no smell.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:02 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can try to start out by applying a solution of baking soda in water. Make sure you make the solution pretty strong -- just keep adding baking soda until it barely doesn't dissolve anymore, and soak the stain in that for a bit. Then rinse it out really well, and mop everything up.

If that doesn't help much, what you can do is either make a dilute bleach solution (something like 1:10 bleach:water), or use hydrogen peroxide or oxyclean+water and apply that to the stain. Make sure you test this out on an isolated patch of floor first, since bleach can be pretty harsh on wood floors, but it should do the trick, as it'll just oxidize everything that the baking soda didn't neutralize. The problem that you're dealing with here is that that wood is super porous, and it'll be tough to get the IronX out of all the crevices and nooks and crannies in there, so you're going to have to do this a bunch of times. Good luck!
posted by un petit cadeau at 1:30 PM on February 21, 2013


Adding an aqueous solution of baking soda is your best bet for neutralizing the spill.

DON’T YOU DARE USE BLEACH TO NEUTRALIZE THIS AMMONIUM COMPOUND IN A POORLY VENTILATED ENVIRONMENT!

The fumes can kill you.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:46 PM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


FYI: oceanjesse isn't saying combining the two chemicals would produce a smell so bad you could like die. That warning was intended literally: ammonium plus chlorine produces mustard gas, which can knock you out or just flat out kill you.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:03 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks oceanjesse and everyone here. I remembered about chlorine vapors, so bleach is out. Baking soda, water, rinse, repeat it is.
posted by smuna at 2:18 PM on February 21, 2013


...Volitility for ammonium sulfanylacetate is low, and biodegradability is over 90%.

Making it ideal for an odor remover which uses living bacteria to consume odors and odor causing materials, perhaps.

Bac-out has done an almost miraculous job in situations like this for me.

One of its great advantages has been that it seems to pursue the offending material into all the nooks and crannies un petit cadeau was talking about-- presumably because the bacteria want to eat it.
posted by jamjam at 2:33 PM on February 21, 2013


I don't mean to turn this into chatfilter, but it looks like it's too late for that. It looks like the thread's already resolved, but I'd like to have the chance to speak for myself anyway.

That warning was intended literally: ammonium plus chlorine produces mustard gas, which can knock you out or just flat out kill you.

This is just flat out not true. Bleach (sodium hypochlorite), when combined with ammonia, will produce mostly hydrochloric acid and some chlorine gas, plus a bunch of pretty innocuous byproducts, not mustard gas. Speaking as someone who used to be an organic chemist, there's just no way to combine bleach and ammonia to get mustard gas. It just ain't happening.

DON’T YOU DARE USE BLEACH TO NEUTRALIZE THIS AMMONIUM COMPOUND IN A POORLY VENTILATED ENVIRONMENT!

The fumes can kill you.


While HCl/Cl2 are certainly not the nicest compounds out there to get a whiff of, consider this: after mopping up the spill, rinsing (multiple times) and cleaning (multiple times) with floor cleaner, and then soaking with aq bicarb (presumably multiple times), there's going to be such a tiny amount of ammonia (as the ammonium ion) remaining in the wood that it's not worth worrying about. It's not like you're taking buckets of ammonia and bleach and mixing them together. Now that would be stupid, and would kill you if done indoors -- that is, if the exotherm didn't get you first. But the relatively tiny amount of HCl that would be generated here, if at all, even if you could smell it, isn't going to hurt you -- it's not like you're dealing with something that's out-and-out poisonous by inhalation, like phosgene, or magic methyl, or god knows what else.

The main culprit here, odor-wise, is the sulfanylacetate, which, compared to ammonia, is a little greasier and harder to get out with water or anything aqueous, although it's certainly not what I'd call nonpolar, by any means. That, plus the fact that you can smell sulfur compounds even at relatively low concentrations -- for example, hydrogen sulfide has an odor threshold of 1 ppb, so that gives you some idea of what you're dealing with here. So, if you can't get it out easily, then what you can do instead is saturate it in bleach or peroxide in the hopes of being able to oxidize it into something that's relatively odorless.

All in all, I understand where you guys are coming from, and if you don't want to use bleach here, then that's fine. I'm just saying that, under these circumstances, and from what I've been able to discern from the OP, the risks here are exceedingly low -- the chance that one would even get a whiff of these "fumes" is so, so low that it's not worth worrying about, in my experience. Were I ever in this situation, I'd probably open a window or turn on a fan, but ensuring adequate ventilation is just good practice when working with harsher household chemicals anyway.
posted by un petit cadeau at 2:48 PM on February 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


un petit cadeau , The "greasiness" of this sulfur compound seems like it would also account for some of its persistence, especially on the dry and porous surface of our old floors. I'm off to do some additional reading to anticipate the visual effects of these applications. Thanks, everyone, for this discussion.
posted by smuna at 3:00 PM on February 21, 2013


ammonium plus chlorine produces mustard gas, which can knock you out or just flat out kill you.

Sorry, no. Ammonia plus bleach produces Chloramine, which is nasty stuff but nothing at all like mustard gas.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:00 PM on February 21, 2013


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