September 24, 2019, 05:31:24 AM
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Topic: Broken mercury thermometer  (Read 705 times)

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Offline maksa

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Broken mercury thermometer
« on: May 08, 2019, 06:50:12 PM »
Hi. I dropped a mercury thermometer today. Most of the substance spilled onto the floor but some got on the carpet and even to gaps in the floor. I cleaned up most mercury from the floor using sheet of paper and put it in the jar with water, but some is still there and on the carpet. I can't clean it all physically. I heard that a good solution is sprinkling it with sulfur but somewhere else I read that It works only if you mix it and knead it together for example in a mortar. So how it is? Will it work if I only sprinkle it with sulfur? Or maybe you have another idea?

Offline P

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2019, 04:24:16 AM »
Suck it up with a pipette if it is visible? Scrape a blade across the floor and scrape it all into one place? Once all the visible bits are sucked up and squirted into your jar maybe vacuum the area to get rid of the traces you can't see? 

I'm sure there must be a prescribed safe way to clear it up.
 
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Offline Enthalpy

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2019, 06:31:40 AM »
I suggest to use desoldering wick (search words) BUT I never tried it with mercury.

It sucks molten SnPb and SnAgCu solder very nicely, by capillarity, which is quite efficient with liquid metals.

The pre-tinned variant works much better than bare copper, at least with SnPb and SnAgCu solder. The Sn surface stays cleaner than Cu, that reason should hold for Hg. Buy both and try.

Available from stores known to electrical engineers and hobbyists, including eBay, Amazon, Conrad and the one at your street's corner.

You'll need wire-cutting pliers to cut away the wick end drenched with mercury.

Alternately, you might try aluminium foil. This one would work by making an amalgam rather than by capillarity. It is much slower, hours instead of seconds.

Offline P

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2019, 10:20:31 AM »
I suggest to use desoldering wick (search words) BUT I never tried it with mercury.


Sounds like a good idea - but standard disposable plastic pipettes works fine. They such up the mercury bits nicely and it comes out again easily with a squeeze or a shake as the mercury has no affinity for the plastic (iirc).


I am sure out teacher at school suggested that vacuum cleaning the area after getting as much of what you can see up first was a good idea also.
 

Tonight I’m going to party like it’s on sale for $19.99!

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Offline maksa

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2019, 12:55:15 PM »
Thanks for answers guys.
And what about the sulphur? Does it make any sense to spill it on the floor and the carpet, after pick up every visible "piece" of the mercury?

Offline Borek

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2019, 02:52:24 PM »
Sulfur won't hurt, but from what I remember it reacts rather slowly.

IMHO most important thing is to keep the room well ventilated for few weeks.
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Offline wildfyr

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2019, 03:19:13 PM »
Sulphur is gonna STINK if you just use it in a living space. I say this with a fresh aroma of recently synthesized thiol permeating my lab.

Offline maksa

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2019, 03:44:04 PM »
Sulfur won't hurt, but from what I remember it reacts rather slowly.
I'm leaving tomorrow for 3 days, so I'll spill some on the floor and carpet before I get out. I'll leave the window half-open as well.
IMHO most important thing is to keep the room well ventilated for few weeks.
The room is being ventilated all the time. I even slept with open window. The temperature doesn't exceed 18 degrees during the day and drops to about 5 at night, so it's quite cool, but I survived and going to survive one more night.  ;)

Sulphur is gonna STINK if you just use it in a living space. I say this with a fresh aroma of recently synthesized thiol permeating my lab.
How long will it stink after cleaning?

Offline wildfyr

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2019, 07:43:00 PM »
I don't know, but It's not the sort of experiment I would personally run in my own living space.

Offline Enthalpy

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2019, 07:31:23 AM »
Maksa, will you tell us what worked and what didn't?

Offline Enthalpy

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Re: Broken mercury thermometer
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2019, 01:57:26 PM »
Maksa? Are you there?

Apparently you plan to spread sulphur on the floor. I hope you will NOT use a vacuum cleaner to remove it!

Sulphur powder is quite fine and flammable in air. Vacuum cleaners use electric motors with a commutator and brushes that make sparks. There is a very real risk that the sulphur suspension in the clener's dust bag deflagrates, bursts the bag, continues the deflagration in the air. Potentially deadly, if not by the pressure wave, then by the sulphur oxide, which incapacitates you before you can flee.

I survived once. Don't try it too.

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