Household Chemicals

...and what not to do with them.

or, way too many ways to make toxic chlorine gas.

Warning labels are too long and complicated for you. "Pretty Blue!", "Pretty Green!", and Makes My Nose Tingle!" are the extent of your intellectual pursuit of household chemicals. Here's a handy dandy guide to which ones are cool and which ones are not cool. In general, these are all hazardous to some degree or another--don't ingest any of these unless it's clearly meant to be ingested, and don't get 'em on your skin.

Oxidizers & Acids

In general, these will corrode metals, react exothermically with bases and some petroleum products, and cause mild irritation to the skin.

Bleach - Sodium Hypochlorite solution, between 0.25% and 5% concentration. Used to turn an otherwise colorfast item white. Also useful for: producing chlorine gas. Chlorine fumes are not cool. Mix with alcohols to get esters, which simply release lots of fumes and mild amounts of heat--the reaction is exothermic. Mix with ammonia to get chlorine gas (also exothermic). Dry by evaporation to get sodium hypochlorite crystals.

Pool Cleaner - Calcium Hypochlorite, solid crystals. Used to turn an entire swimming pool blue or green. In solution, acts like bleach. Crystalline form makes an excellent hypergol or combustion accelerant. Mix as above for similar results. Mix with polyethylene glycol (brake fluid) to release chlorine gas, oxygen gas, and large amounts of heat--this reaction is exothermic, and can get out of hand quickly. This is probably the most powerful solid oxidizer you can buy without a permit.

Hydrogen Peroxide - 3% solution. Mild bleach, antiseptic. Tends to weaken other oxidizers because it is sold in such mild concentrations, but don't be fooled! Hydrogen Peroxide in its pure form is a hypergol with almost anything flammable, and was the oxidizer used in early liquid-fuel rockets.

Oxygen - gas, stored under pressure. Used for keeping grandmother alive, or as a safety measure in a household with asthma or emphysema. This is the king of oxidizers. It isn't flammable by itself, but it accelerates a burn like nothing else. Combustion is just oxidation writ large, and this is the real deal.

Vinegar - acetic acid, mild solution. Slightly acidic, used to pickle things. Besides mixing this with baking soda for a fizz volcano, no bonus uses.

Rust Remover - marketed as Calcium, Lime, or Rust Remover for tiles and tubs, usually contains a -chloric or -fluoric acid. Mixing with a strong base will yield chlorine or fluorine gas and heat. Causes mild chemical burns on the skin.


In general, these will be polymer-based, flammable, and give off toxic and irritant fumes. Can cause skin damage in strong doses.

Rubber Cement - Contains heptane. It's a nice moderate glue for arts and crafts, but it also burns pretty well (and slowly), and so it makes a nice binder for any flammable powders or crystals. The vapors are harmful, and cause (among other bad stuff) nausea, vomiting, dizziness... this is not a "high."

Super Glue - contains cyanoacrylate. A heavy-duty glue, and much more flammable. AFAIK, the vapors are what make it flammable, and once it's dry it's just acrylic. Again, bad vapors.

Elmer's Glue - mostly harmless. I think it's even marketed as non-toxic! I wouldn't take it internally, though.

Model Glue - usually a mild cyanoacrylate, somewhere between Super Glue and Rubber Cement. Bad fumes!!


Alkalines tend to be non-flammable, and mildly irritant. Some fumes can be annoying, but usually not unhealthy. React with acids exothermically to gorm gaseous derivatives of acid.

Baking Soda - sodium bicarbonate, powdered. Good for putting out fires and mixing with most acids or oxidizers to get carbon dioxide gas and a toy surprise. Mixes with water into an inert paste, or a fine basic solution.

Ammonia - up to 3% solution of ammonium hydroxide. Disinfectant, alkaline solution for cleaning. Also has uses as a fertilizer, refrigerant, and more.

Lye - ingredient in soap and oven cleaner and even Drano, each in different concentrations. Made famous in Fight Club in its powdered form. I think it's just sodium hydroxide, but "just" doesn't cover it. A fiercely strong alkali that reacts exothermically with water. I would honestly never even mess with this stuff. It's nastier than gasoline--at least you need a flame for gasoline to burn you. Your skin, eyes, and limbs are all forfeit if you even think about mixing this with a strong oxidizer and a heavy, high-boiling petroleum product. The reaction would probably be fiercely hypergolic and would spray unreacted reagents all over. Just bad mojo if you ask me. Stay away.

Petroleum Distillates

I failed orgo. No, that's a lie--I didn't even take orgo. I have no idea what the chemical makeup of these things are, for the most part. In general, they're flammable, and so I have a soft spot in my backyard for them. When you mix these with anything, especially oxidizers, you deserve whatever you get.

Gasoline - fuel. Burns. A lot. Mix with styrene-based polymers to get a thicker, sticky, flammable mess.

Motor Oil - lubricant. Doesn't burn so good; designed to sit in the combustion chamber of your car and not burn.

Brake Fluid - polyethylene glycol and similar. Mixes hypergolically with calcium hypochlorite. That's right, I said "HYPERGOLIC." Because of its high boiling point, it doesn't become flammable until there's already ample heat nearby, and so it burns explosively in high enough concentrations.

Anti-freeze - also a polyethylene glycol, but in some kind of solution or thinner. Probably boils at a much lower temperature.

Diesel Fuel - fuel. Burns, but not like gasoline. You can detonate diesel fuel by striking a puddle of it on concrete with a hammer--it's designed to explode at high pressures without an intense heat source.


Mostly kitchen stuff that I couldn't place, due to my lack of an organic chemistry background.

Sugar - sucrose, crystalline. A sweetener for foods. A nice energy source, but otherwise inert. Turns to caramel when burned, and becomes both smelly and sticky.

Salt - sodium chloride (or potassium chloride in "sea salt") crystalline. Flavoring for food. Good for adding chlorine to a mix if you can separate it out. Because the sodium in it also has flammable uses, this may prove less inert than people think.

Dish soap - soap. Contains surfactants, but must be at least a little alkaline, because it acts like most of the other bases when mixed with bleach.

Goop - hand soap. Contains fatty acids, surfactants, and glycerin. Non-flammable, but reacts with most oxidizers to create a gaseous byproduct. With pool chlorine, makes a nice exothermic smoke bomb. Only the smoke is chlorine gas.

Aluminum - foil, cans, etc.; a flammable metal. From the same chemical family as magnesium, but easier to come by. Burns hot and fast, and won't immediately smother in water. Makes a nice case material for homemade incendiaries. Powdered and mixed with a fine powder of iron oxide (rust!), supposedly forms the basis for thermite.
Well, that about taps me out, but there's a good guide to using the stuff in your house for things it was never meant for. You probably noticed that most of these give off toxic fumes or are highly flammable. That's the point. Okay, here's the thing, please don't fucking do this.

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