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Old 07-12-2003, 07:51 AM
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Oh my god... bleach & ammonia

I made a huge mistake... as a kid, I always cleaned my declawed cat's litter box by taking the liner out and cleaning it with bleach.

However, my current cat isn't declawed, and so he pokes holes in the litter lining. Just now, I was cleaning it out... some cat litter had fallen to the bottom through those holes, and I thought nothing of it and simply shook the excess liner into a trash bag.

But when I used bleach (previously had used those expensive disinfecting wipes), I noticed something odd... it got very hot and the bleach burned my eyes.

Then I remembered. Cat urine has ammonia. How could I be so @#$#@ stupid?

I went to the trash bin and threw away the litter box as well as all the cleaning tissues and such, but have I suffered any damage from inhaling this gas? (About a minute or so before I realized what happened) How toxic is "very toxic"?
Old 07-12-2003, 08:06 AM
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Well, another stupid DUH... should've called the poison center in the first place.

Just got off the phone with the Poison Center... apparently they said that if I started coughing and choking, then I should inhale water steam vapors (in the shower) for 15 minutes... thank goodness it turned out okay, I don't have to call the EPA in or anything, and the cats seem to be just fine...

it's surprising how hard it was/is to find information on the Internet for symptoms of ammonia-bleach poisoning.
Old 07-12-2003, 08:11 AM
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Well, chlorine gas is highly toxic and was used as a weapon (mustard gas) in the trenches during the first world war.


IANAD, butI doubt that you've done yourself any permanent damge, reading some other cases of chlorine poisioning, even for higher doses than yours all the symptons have disappeared afer a max. of 36hrs.

Still you should get to your local GP or seek medical advice from a professional.
Old 07-12-2003, 08:18 AM
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Yeah, I'm doubting that the ammonia in cat urine is in sufficient concentration to be a MAJOR danger when mixed with chlorine. Maybe if it were A LOT of urine soaked kitty litter mixed with bleach over a long period of exposure to the fumes in a unventilated area.
Old 07-12-2003, 08:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by dre2xl
it's surprising how hard it was/is to find information on the Internet for symptoms of ammonia-bleach poisoning.
I think this mix forms hydrocloric (sp?) acid.

You should be fine.

A guy I knew worked in a body shop and he poured 1 gallon of bleach into a 3 gallon container containing 1 gallon of ammonia. He sealed the top and walked away. In a few seconds he turned to see what was making that cracking popping sound. (It was the jug he'd just filled.) He turned just in time to see the swollen container explode. He got that stuff all over him but suffered no permanent damage. Hurt like hell though.
Old 07-12-2003, 08:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by MC Master of Ceremonies
Well, chlorine gas is highly toxic and was used as a weapon (mustard gas) in the trenches during the first world war.

<nitpick>
Mustad gas and chlorine gas are not the same. However both were used as chemical weapons during the First World War
</nitpick>

Carry on....
Old 07-12-2003, 09:27 AM
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I thought that this topic rang a bell. There was a GQ thread on bleach and ammonia here yesterday. The link provided by Philster gives comprehensive information on the various reactions between bleach and ammonia (depending on the amounts combined).
Old 07-12-2003, 09:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by cedric45
I think this mix forms hydrocloric (sp?) acid.

You should be fine.

A guy I knew worked in a body shop and he poured 1 gallon of bleach into a 3 gallon container containing 1 gallon of ammonia. He sealed the top and walked away. In a few seconds he turned to see what was making that cracking popping sound. (It was the jug he'd just filled.) He turned just in time to see the swollen container explode. He got that stuff all over him but suffered no permanent damage. Hurt like hell though.
Gosh! Thank goodness he was OK.

"Very toxic" was the most common descriptor I found while Googling... which suggests, one breath and you're dead. Lots of scary descriptions too. :-(

Thanks for the peace of mind Dopers (and PC, too).
Old 07-12-2003, 10:34 AM
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Another reason to clean the box with Pine-SolTM
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Old 07-12-2003, 10:35 AM
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Also note that bleach and/or ammonia should never be mixed with any acid, including cleaning aids lemon and/or vinegar. Same reaction.

Instead of using bleach and/or ammonia for cleaning, you can substitute borax, washing soda, or plain old baking soda. They work as well for most things, and are much less toxic.
Old 07-12-2003, 11:09 AM
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Ammonia by itself is a nasty thing, even without the bleach. The glass cleaning fluid I used to use on the copy machines at work had a bit of ammonia in it, and once I spilled a great deal of it and breathed it in as I was trying to clean it up off the counter. It's a horrific sensation - a very definite feeling of the gas climbing up the nose, through the sinuses, into the eye sockets and to the front of the brain, doing some slash-and-burn along the way.
Old 07-12-2003, 05:00 PM
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A live chemist talking here. The BBC link mentioned earlier was pretty close, but doesn't say much about how toxic.

First off, you can't make safe materials like hydrochloric acid from mixing bleach and ammonia. You may ask how I can say that. Truthfully enough, the chloramine that you make is more toxic by quite a bit than chlorine gas, ammonia gas, or their considerably safer aqueous equivalents (like bleach or household ammonia) or hydrochloric acid. Ya see, chloramine, dichloramine, and nitrogen trichloride are those kinds of materials that probably don't have any chronic long term toxicity because most exposure is acute and fatal (in other words, the idiot who mixes the two dies before he can a long term exposure).

P.S. I've worked entirely too much with bleach, aqueous ammonia, gaseous ammonia, and gaseous chlorine. No serious problems. However, while I'm often told I'm crazy, I'm not stupid. Bleach and ammonia is a brew for someone with more nerves than I have.

Also, regarding the OP, if you can smell the ammonia AT ALL, there's enough there to make a more than fatal dose. On top of all that, urea (in urine) reacts with bleach also and at high pH (such as in bleach) will quickly decompose to chloramine within a few minutes. You are lucky you are still alive and still have a home. Some of these chloramines are explosive as someone already mentioned.
Old 07-12-2003, 05:36 PM
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The Dangers of Mixing Bleach and Ammonia
Old 07-12-2003, 08:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Annie-Xmas
Also note that bleach and/or ammonia should never be mixed with any acid, including cleaning aids lemon and/or vinegar. Same reaction.

Instead of using bleach and/or ammonia for cleaning, you can substitute borax, washing soda, or plain old baking soda. They work as well for most things, and are much less toxic.
AFAIK, you wouldn't have to worry about mixing any sort of acid with ammonia... since ammonia is itself an acid. And for the second, if you substituded baking soda in place of the bleach, it would be fun to watch.

In addition, I got to laugh at our managers the other day. Someone was preparing a bucket of mop water when the manager told him to add a packet of powdered bleach. The mop water dispenser says "do not mix with bleach", and I assumed that it contained ammonia. I warned said manager about that, and she replied that she's always done it that way... there's no reason to worry.
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Old 07-12-2003, 08:22 PM
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Maybe we should be checking the Baghdad supermarket for those WMDs.
Old 07-12-2003, 08:30 PM
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As a stupid kid I once deliberately mixed these two chemicals, because the ammonia cleaning product said "DO NOT MIX WITH BLEACH" and I was curious why. I'm glad I tried this OUTSIDE, because the resulting boiling spattering fumey mess dissipated rather harmfully (though I caught a whiff of it, NASTY stuff! )
Old 07-12-2003, 09:33 PM
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As a grad student, when I should have known better, I dumped some ammonium sulfate I'd been using for protein purification into the same sink that we often dumped bleach into (after using it to kill off bacteria). Sure enough, someone dumped bleach in very shortly afterward. Luckily, we realized quickly that something bad had happened (worked out exactly what afterward), and quickly rinsed it all away before anybody died.

Hopefully the statute of limitations has run out on any environmental laws we broke that day...
Old 07-12-2003, 09:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by chaoticdonkey
AFAIK, you wouldn't have to worry about mixing any sort of acid with ammonia... since ammonia is itself an acid. And for the second, if you substituded baking soda in place of the bleach, it would be fun to watch.
Ammonia is a base, not an acid.
Old 07-12-2003, 10:40 PM
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ocampo: Yikes!

You must be correct-- IIRC, there was NO cat litter left in the box... maybe some fine dust particles... and the box itself was completely dry! Despite that tiny amount, rubbing bleach on it made the towel got REALLY hot... (sigh)

Thank goodness; I was really lucky, indeed...

A panicky question... does anyone have any idea of the timeframe required to determine if you're"safe" or not? I believe some poisons are more slow-acting than others... the cats seem fine, all that. Like, "if 36 hours have passed and you're still fine, you're safe?"
Old 07-13-2003, 12:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by postcards
Another reason to clean the box with Pine-SolTM
Bad advice. From:

http://placervillevet.com/feline%20poisons.htm

Quote:
Household products

Cats are sensitive to many cleaning products. When you mop the floor or clean in the bathroom, let surfaces dry before letting your cat back into the room. Use only soap and water to wash out the litter box, and rinse well. Do not expose cats to Pine Sol, Hexol or cleaners that contain ingredients with "phenol" in their chemical names.

This warning is repeated on other sites, so I'm pretty sure it's reliable.
Old 07-15-2003, 12:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Finagle
Ammonia is a base, not an acid.
Whoa, you're right... I was assuming the ammonia/bleach reaction was an acid-base neutralization, but I guess it's just oxidation/reduction. Thank Og (are we not allowed to use "god"?) that the AP chemistry test is already over. Or would I have realized that back then?
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Old 07-15-2003, 01:13 AM
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Uh oh. Vinegar is my primary cat-urine-odour suppressant mechanism. What am I doing to myself?
Old 07-15-2003, 07:56 AM
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Probably nothing. The vinegar/ammonia reaction is not as strong as the bleach/ammonia.

I checked into some of my non-toxic house books to see what they have to say about cat litter boxes. The recommendations:

Do not use a plastic pan. Use a metal one. They recommended buying a roasting pan from the supermarket. I realize a the image of a cat in a roasting pan will please a lot of non-cat people. But I digress.

Buy a cat litter without crystalline silcia in it. That stuff is harmful to your lungs. Litter Green is the best Supermarket Choice.

Put a layer of baking soda in the pan to absorb pee and oders. Then only use about 1/2 inch of cat litter, and discard the all the litter every day.

Only use soap and water to clean the pan, and rinse it very, very well.
Old 07-15-2003, 04:15 PM
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FWIW, I don't use vinegar in the catbox; I use it for laundering peed-on articles. It works like a charm, but you have to use huge quantities of it.
Old 07-15-2003, 06:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by chaoticdonkey
Thank Og (are we not allowed to use "god
the use of the word "god" is perfectly acceptable here. Og is kind of a SDMB in-joke. It resulted from a typo in a religous debate. It then expanded into a character named Og, a caveman god who likes to smash and smite things. All in good fun.
Old 07-15-2003, 06:25 PM
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ocampo, if you're still checking this thread (or any other chemists)

I got a notice from my local water company that come fall, they'll be switching from using chlorine to using chloramine. If I hadn't read this thread that very day, I wouldn't have given it much thought. But now I'm wondering if you could say a bit more about chloramine in the water.

Specifically, do common household water filters (activated carbon, I think) work to filter out chloramine? The brochure said "see inside for details" but didn't give any details other than "hospitals and facilities that perform dialysis have already been told what to do to filter out chloramine" and "chloramine can't enter the bloodstream through the digestive tract".

What must I do to maintain purity of essence?
Old 07-16-2003, 12:34 AM
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dre2xl You can stop panicking. The effects of chloramines are acute (they dont last long). The only thing I would be concerned about is chemical pneumonia resulting from the exposure. IANAD, IAAC - see a doctor if you start getting chesty. Since you first posted 4 days ago if nothing yet, you are prob. OK.

btw - chloramines, dichloramines, HCl and possibly nitrogen trichloride would be produced in rxn of bleach and ammonia. Not sure about chlorine gas though. I suppose thats what the BBC link had, but its broken.

Chloramines are produced via reaction of chlorine with ammonia, or organic nitrogen compounds. These are serious respiratory/eye irritants.

Chloramines give rise to the 'smell of chlorine' you get in pools. Here it is produced when the HOCl, hypochlorous acid, from the 'chlorine' reacts with ammonia-like compounds.

panamajackDont worry about the chloramine in the drinking water. It is another way of delivering chlorine. It has more available
chlorine than Cl2 and it is less prone to evaporation. Apparently its not to good if you have fish.

Activated carbon should do a good job of filtering out the chloramines. But it wouldnt be worth it, the chloramine is present in very low conc. It is not a problem. Talk to your water authority. Come to think of it, it may be better than HOCl, which may produce halomethanes in the water. I remember reading a while ago about chloroform being concentrated in hot showers.
Old 07-16-2003, 03:31 AM
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What are the products of the reaction of ammonia and vinegar?
Old 07-16-2003, 03:41 AM
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From a vague memory of my cegep chemistry classes, I'm going to suppose that it's ammonium acetate. Is this right? If so, it appears to be a mild irritant - would this be true even from the mixture of 5% vinegar and whatever-proportion-is-in-dried-up-old-cat-pee ammonia?
Old 07-16-2003, 07:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by matt_mcl
From a vague memory of my cegep chemistry classes, I'm going to suppose that it's ammonium acetate. Is this right? If so, it appears to be a mild irritant - would this be true even from the mixture of 5% vinegar and whatever-proportion-is-in-dried-up-old-cat-pee ammonia?
Yep. ammonium acetate
Look up the equilibrium constant for this weak acid/weak base reaction and do the calculation. If it is large, the rxn would proceed mostly to the right.

Ammonium acetate is not very toxic. It is a very mild irritant.
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