The universal solvent


When Irish Dan and friendly_bandit worked at Disneyland, they got to use lots of interesting chemicals. This was partly because they were janitors, and partly because Disney was always interested in testing out new ideas, and manufacturers loved to send their cleaning supplies there for beta testing, so to speak.

There were all the weird orange colored ones, the ones that didn’t work, the ones that worked great but went away because they were “bad”, etc.

One of them was “Inhibisol”, which came in a small aerosol spray can. This stuff was truly amazing! If there was permanent Sharpie marker graffiti on a bathroom wall, you could spray it on and the ink would just drip on off the tile. Incredible. Of course if you got a whiff of it you’d be on your knees, and after working with it for a while a person really needed to sit down and rest a bit, but hey, it got rid of the Sharpie marks.

Later on Irish Dan worked at an experimental oil refinery in El Monte. This place was full of great toys: huge tanks of pressurized molten tire rubber, acids, caustics, everything that has ever been used to burn things, and big ol’ tanks of toxics. One of these was called “tri”. It was fun, he said, because if you put a glove on and forced your hand down in the drum it would pop your hand back out like it was liquid rubber or something!

Turns out Inhibisol and “tri” were the same thing: 1,1,1-trichloroethane, which is an incredibly dangerous chemical only now used for specialized cleaning of things like rocket engines, or for removing the last little bit of water from glacially pure ethanol, etc. It’s also not so good for the ozone layer.

And that’s how deadly chemicals saved Christmas.

12 thoughts on “The universal solvent

  1. We had a spraycan of that stuff in Santa Cruz (I forget the brand name), but we used it to clean regular ink off our dry-erase board. I always remember that chemical name because my housemate introduced it as “you can’t get this stuff anymore – it kills the ozone.”
    Am I gonna die now?

  2. here poison, poison, poison
    So that’s what that does. I’ve noticed that we test for that and lots of other chemicals here, but I always assumed it was just one of the typical oxygenates. For roughly $200, you can test for about 50 different deadly compounds.
    They also make the insides of computers rust much faster than normal…

  3. when i was about 3 years old, i licked an amtrak train window from the inside, and have since become convinced that i ingested some chemicals at that point which have caused me to be the way i am today. luckily, no fast-acting leukemia or tongue cancer or anything like that. yet.

  4. Whew, that’s a good hit
    and after working with it for a while a person really needed to sit down and rest a bit
    This reminded me of an art project I helped with in middle school. We were going to put up a trompe l’oiel mural at the end of the hallway, so first we had to put up a smooth surface. We decided to glue up some large pieces of plywood, so we got the plywood and the spray glue and got to work, eventually realizing we should leave and wait for the air to clear a bit and the glue to start setting. The best part was that one of the English classrooms opened up into the hallway right there at the end of the hall. Obviously, the fumes could’ve been worse, but even so, that could hardly have been a pleasant after-class surprise for those kids.

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