URGENT: I accidentally made chlorine gas -- should I start writing my will?
July 17, 2007 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I just mixed bleach / vinegar / salt / and liquid dish detergent in hopes of created a super weed killer. I mixed the stuff in a fairly well-ventilated room, and then sprayed it on some weeds outside. Now I just read about chlorine gas resulting from the mixture of bleach and chlorine, and I'm suddenly feeling light-headed (hypochondriac). Am I going to die?

I mixed the stuff about 30 minutes ago. The fumes were definitely strong, but I did my best not to inhale them. No coughing or choking. My eyes feel a wee bit dry, but not burning. My mouth is a little dry too, but like I said, I'm a hypochondriac, so it may have been that way before.

Is exposure to such a low level of gas usually harmful? Am I going to be vomiting and leaking blood out of my ears later today? Please help me assuage my fears!
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's ammonia and bleach that is supposed to kill you. "bleach and chlorine" are sort of the same active thing.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:27 AM on July 17, 2007

There is chlorine in bleach. The hazard is from mixing chlorine with ammonia. Was there ammonia in the detergent?

If you're posting here 30 minutes later you're probably okay. Open your windows and get some fresh air. Drink some water and relax.

And get some real weed killer.
posted by mds35 at 9:28 AM on July 17, 2007

Vinegar & bleach do create toxic fumes that can be deadly, according to my Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook (don't make fun, I don't know how to clean otherwise).

You are probably fine, but you should call your local Poison Control Center just to be sure. In the meantime drink some water and stay someplace well ventilated and away from any residual fumes.
posted by tastybrains at 9:29 AM on July 17, 2007

Er, "Now I just read about chlorine gas resulting from the mixture of bleach and chlorine" is supposed to read "mixture of bleach and vinegar," not chlorine. My back is tingling. I better go get some fresh air.
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 9:30 AM on July 17, 2007

Thirding Poison Control, and for pete's sake stop mixing chemicals if you don't know their reactivity.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:40 AM on July 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you're still here to post, you're not going to die. Chlorine gas was used in WW1; if it took this long to kill or incapacitate it wouldn't have been very useful.

It doesn't sound like you've injured yourself in any serious way. However: Have you eaten anything? How's your sense of taste?

...household chemicals can destroy your sense of taste long before they kill you. I used to work with someone who mixed cleaners, got chlorine, and lost his taste.
posted by aramaic at 9:44 AM on July 17, 2007

Good news, the poison control center told me that my exposure was minimal, and as long as there isn't a persistent cough, and I'm still fine an hour later, that I should be poison-free. Hooray! I can live to over-react another day!

Thanks guys!
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 9:44 AM on July 17, 2007

If you'd huffed enough chlorine-containing gas to do yourself real harm you wouldn't be Asking Metafilter, you'd be croaking "please don't let me die" to 911 with all the mucous membranes of your respiratory pathways radically inflamed. That tingling in your spine? Called anxiety. You certainly got a little dose of noxious gas, but you'll be fine. Don't mix bleach with acids or ammonia. In fact, don't ad lib your home and garden products any more. Need weed killer? Go to the store and pick up some RoundUp.
posted by nanojath at 9:44 AM on July 17, 2007

aramaic: I just ate some banana bread and it tasted just as awful as it always had.
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 9:46 AM on July 17, 2007

Yeah you should be fine, nothing to worry about this time. Although if you're the kind of person who does stuff like this often, you probably will end up killing yourself pretty soon. We'll save a Darwin Award for ya.

Why didn't you just go to the store and buy some weed killer?
posted by Caper's Ghost at 9:48 AM on July 17, 2007

I was actually writing a tutorial about store-bought weed killer alternatives. I had used the vinegar, bleach, and salt separately, and then I was attempting to "kick it up a notch" and mix them all together to create a super weed killer.

Now that I lived to tell the tale, I can warn people in the article not to mix the bleach and vinegar together. No matter how tempting it may seem.

I hope the chlorine gas kills the weeds.
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 9:51 AM on July 17, 2007

Yeah, you're fine.

Next time, try going and buying some Roundup, and save the chemistry for the chemists.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:17 AM on July 17, 2007

Roundup can kill amphibians.

My husband created his own weedkiller stuff recently. I know it involved vinegar and dishwashing soap, but I don't know the other parts of it (I don't think it worked very well, either).
posted by Lucinda at 10:23 AM on July 17, 2007

As a teenager I worked in a restaurant as a dishwasher. At the end of every night I had to sweep, and mop out the kitchen. Due to an inadequate knowledge of chemistry, I would often mix large quantities of bleach, vinegar, and various other chemicals that I had on hand to make the ultimate mopping solution. I created some quite toxic concoctions, and sometimes had trouble breathing during the mopping. But it sure got the floors clean. Anyways, I've experienced no lasting effects, and I very rarely bleed from my eyes and ears, but you get used to it.

(that last bit is a joke) If you're feeling well enough to ask if it was fatal, you're ok. But don't do it again.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:30 AM on July 17, 2007

I took in a lungful of chlorine gas once in a cleaning "incident" and let me tell you, if you had inhaled a dangerous amount you would know. During college I moved into a house with 4 other people, a couple weeks after everyeone else got there. They had managed to plug the sink, and hadn't been able to get it unstuck for a week. I went to the store and bought some professional strength drain opener, which is nothing more than concentrated sulfuric acid. Unbeknownst to me, someone had poured bleach into the foul pool of water in the bottom of the sink to try and fight the stench. As soon as I added the drain opener chlorine gas filled the room and I got a lungful. Pain ripped through my chest, I felt like I was inhaling the burning fires of hell. Luckily I ended up ok and my roommates learned the valuable lesson that if they saw me running for the door, they should follow without asking questions.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:31 AM on July 17, 2007

My husband's concotion was dish detergent, lemon juice and vinegar.
posted by Lucinda at 10:36 AM on July 17, 2007

Why on earth would you mix your own chemicals? Where would the world be today if people had tried that in the past? /sarcasm

To answer your question, chlorine gas will mix with water in your lungs and create hydrochloric acid, which is the acid already in your stomach. If you're not gasping in pain, you're probably OK. I personally believe the pursuit of knowledge is worth the loss of a finger or two, so I'm on your side.
posted by mediaddict at 10:40 AM on July 17, 2007

Need weed killer? Go to the store and pick up some RoundUp.

Need weed killer? Try boiling water. Or, god forbid, pull them out by hand!
posted by Chuckles at 10:52 AM on July 17, 2007

What mediaaddict said. If you had been affected in the dangerous way you wouldn't be able to type right now. My chemistry teachers said that the reaction of the liquids and the effect of the gas are pretty much instantaneous: mix them up and pass out.
posted by rhizome at 11:21 AM on July 17, 2007

Bleach + ammonia == chloramine

Bleach + acid == chlorine gas
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:47 AM on July 17, 2007

You are in danger, all right. You're in danger of continuing to have weeds.

Chlorine gas hurts the lungs and eyes a lot. If you're still breathing after it dissipates, you weren't harmed.

Roundup is a herbicide that dissipates within 120 days or so; if you want to salt the earth for 10 years, get Triox.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:53 AM on July 17, 2007

Bleach = Base
Vinegar = Acid
Bleach + Vinegar = Chlorine gas, and a liquid that is no longer basic or acidic in any appreciable amount (they neutralize eachother) (which also means it's not doing much to your weeds).
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 12:06 PM on July 17, 2007

I hope the chlorine gas kills the weeds.

If your weeds have lungs then you're in more trouble than I thought!
posted by Caper's Ghost at 12:16 PM on July 17, 2007

Home made concoctions like that aren't the greatest idea.

I made a similar mixture with a friend in order to kill a hive of bees inhabiting a hole in the ground. Um, can you say stupid?

In our defense, we were 10, and didn't know any better. I somehow came away unaffected, but my friend got really really sick. Not good.

He recovered, but it took him a few days out of school. Hope you fare a bit better, and learned your lesson on home made chemicals. :)
posted by jeffxl at 12:33 PM on July 17, 2007

On a related note, battery acid + salt water = chlorine gas too. So do *not* clean boat batteries using ocean water! I made that mistake once, but thankfully no ill effects.
posted by Emanuel at 12:57 PM on July 17, 2007

My earlier comment was deleted, but I would hope that you do *not* write a tutorial on homemade weed killer. You do not know what you're doing.
posted by electroboy at 1:34 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dear Metafilter, I think I may be dying. Can you tell me if
posted by WCityMike at 2:37 PM on July 17, 2007 [9 favorites]

I work in a place where people don't always read directions and mix acid with chlorine bleach. i've taken in a breath or two of the stuff (and this is not just a weak acid like vinegar...it is industrial strength..same with the chlorine) and felt light headed and burning in my throat/sinuses. just go to an area where you can get fresh air and you will be perfectly fine.
posted by catseatcheese at 4:43 PM on July 17, 2007

I was actually writing a tutorial about store-bought weed killer alternatives. I had used the vinegar, bleach, and salt separately, and then I was attempting to "kick it up a notch" and mix them all together to create a super weed killer.

Wikipedia: A problem with chlorine is that it reacts with organic material to form trihalomethanes like chloroform, which is a well known carcinogen.

I'm a professional organic gardener, and I would use Roundup in my gardens over chlorine bleach any day. Both substances are toxic, but Roundup actually kills weeds.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:41 PM on July 17, 2007

Also salt in soil- nothing will grow there until the salt is all gone, which can take years.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:02 PM on July 17, 2007

If you got enough of a snort to get a chemical burn inside your nose, you are susceptible to catch colds and things in the now-damaged mucous membranes. Been there, done that, got the Tshirt. You'll want to be careful for a few days about washing hands and not being around someone who is obviously germy.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:32 PM on July 17, 2007

Common sense isn't so common anymore, huh?

Toxic gas worry = open windows and/or get out.

And yes, poison control is your friend.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:55 PM on July 17, 2007

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