I guess the question is only marginally on-topic here, but
I'm sure people here know more about the chemistry of
the various woods than people in a chemistry newsgroup
would know the practical aspects of the various woods :)
So that's the thing. I wonder if mixing cedar chips in a
50% ethanol solution and leaving it there for a week or
two (sealed) would be asking for trouble.
Would it produce toxic substances or gases? Could it
simply cause an explosion due to continuous gas
production as a result of some chemical reaction?
Thanks for any comments / safety tips,
I am not sure about the flammability of 50% ethanol, but it might be
flammable on it's own. I don't think that mixing it with wood would
have any reactions other it removing water from the wood. I have read
about using acohols on green wood and assumed that was the purpose. I
have training as an analytical chemist, but on experience in your
question, other than my assumptions.
I have interested in the source of your question however.
For what end purpose?
I think the premise that woodworkers inherently know more chemistry
because they work wood than a chemist is flawed... :)
I had a fair amount of chemistry and minor in ChemE and have done quite
a lot of woodworking and can't say as I know the absolute answer to the
My inclination would be there wouldn't be any gas-producing reaction
from anything I can think of that would be conducive to a
But, I come back to the initial question...
Hehehe, you're right, of course. it was not meant as an
"absolute" unconditional assumption; I guess it goes to
the issue of practical knowledge; woodworking people
are likely to know a variety of facts about wood, including
chemistry. For a chemist, I guess one can not expect that
they will know the practical details about *everything*.
Anyway, coming back to the topic...
The idea is to make tincture (you know, like you make
herb tinctures for nutritional/medicinal purposes --- like
chamomile, various mint herbs, linden, etc. etc.).
Obviously, the cedar tincture is not for human consumption;
I'm planning to use it as insects repellent, specifically ants.
I know there's a myriad of commercial products for this,
but I'm somewhat reluctant to trust those products (not
their effectiveness, but rather regarding their effects on
That, plus I once read (it was somewhere online, though,
so credibility is not necessarily high) about cedar *oil* as
being a very efficient insect repellent. Since I have not
found such thing commercially, I'm guessing I could try
the closest to it, which I know how to do (well, I've made
my own herbs tinctures for a while --- I'm guessing/hoping
the process should be similar?)
If you think there's some red flag on my assumptions
regarding the use I'm planning for the cedar tincture,
especially whether it may be equally harmful for our
health as commercial presumably toxic products, I
will sure be glad to hear some more from you guys!
Anyway, thanks for the answers so far. I will let you know
how it goes (in particular, if it does explode, I will surely
let you know... that is, I *hope* I'll be in shape to let you
know! :) )
Unless you are wanting to do it yourself, you can google "cedar oil"
and buy oils or extracts that are much more concerntrated than you can
make on your own without doing a distillation. A likely cheaper also.
I have used some to soak cedar strips in for repelling moths in
closets. It wasn't very expensive.
In that case you may wish to consider Isopropanol, as it will do a
better job of disolving the cedar oils than Ethanol. With Isopropanol,
while you can not sample your raw materials you will also not have to
pay the tax to the government. At one time the tax was several hundred
percent of the cost of the Ethanol. ie $10 worth of Ethanal cost about $100.
hmmm, two things:
(1) Isn't Isopropanol a more "toxic" substance than ethanol?
I'm probably splitting hairs here, and was definitely going by pure
intuition --- ethanol is what one uses for the herbal tinctures
intended to be *ingested*... Isopropanol (which I'm not sure
if it's exactly the same as the Isopropylic Alcohol that we buy
in pharmacies?), ok, we can rub it on our skin, and it is not
toxic, but as far as I know it is highly toxic if ingested, no?
(2) If I go to the Liquors store and try to buy 95% Ethanol, yes,
they charge me about $100 for 1.14 litres of it ... If I go to the
pharmacy and by *rubbing alcohol* that says "Ethanol 95%",
then I pay $5 for 500 ml ... That's more or less the proportion
that you're saying for the taxes .... BTW, I'm in Canada, so not
sure if the alcohol taxes issues are exactly the same from where
you're writing from --- I know the alcohol taxes here are *very*
high, in any case. I wonder if that's a loophole? Or maybe the
ethanol one buys from the pharmacy is not really good enough
for drinking it? (I would certainly not try ingesting a single drop
of that thing !!! :) )
Denatured alcohol is ethanol with poisons and flavorants added to discourage
internal consumption. It is not subject to alcohol tax. I don't recall what
I pay, but it's about $12 to $15/gallon at home centers. I use it in the
shop for shellac and some cleaning.
The original poster said he was going to put it on his skin as an insect
repellent, and my comment was based strictly on the solvent properties
of the two alcohols. Isopropanol would dissolve a greater percent of the
cedar oils which when evaporated would leave more cedar oils on the
skin. Before he proceeds he should check the toxicity of the oils from
Isopropanol is another name for Isopropyl alcohol. Since there is an
odd number of carbon atoms in the Isopropanol molecule, it is a poison
like Methanol (Methyl Alcohol). Therefore, yes, it should not be taken
internally. Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) which has an even number of carbon
atoms in the molecule.
Isopropanol is the same as you get in the pharmacy, thought the percent
water may will vary depending on the intended purpose of the alcohol.
My pricing is slightly out of date, since it is what we paid for 100%,
200 proof Ethanol when I managed a laboratory, but as every one knows
taxes never go down. The price of Ethanol is also based on whether it
is denatured. ie a solvent is added to the ethanol so it can not be
used at a party. There are many type of solvents used as denaturants.
Do you know the most dangerous chemical in the world today? One which no
one is considering regulating to prevent people form being exposed to it.
I think that it was last year that one of the more foreward thinking
communities in the People's Republic of California actually got to the
voting stage when someone pointed out the common name for the chemical.
Hmm... Big misunderstanding here! :) I am the OP (and am the
same person you were replying to).
And I may have used the wrong term (English is not my native
language, so misunderstandings often happen when I'm involved
in a conversation in English:) ) --- but no, I meant exactly the
opposite --- *not* to be used on humans... Insect repellent as
in, spray it around the perimeter of th house to keep ants and
other crawling insects away... as much as possible anyway. it
would seem like the term "insect repellent" specifically means
the mosquito-repellent type of thing?
Anyway, as you point out, yes, I would be a little scared about the
effect of cedar extract/oils on my skin. I mean, maybe they're ok
and 100% absolutely harmless.... but I do not know if that is the
case, so I wouldn't feel like trying.
Intuitively, using it for spraying next to the house, but outdoors
nonetheless, sounds harmless enough.
Polychlorinated Bipheniles?? :) (though I doubt that those are not
regulated). Are you referring to DEET?
Professional exterminators have access to insectisides than can be
sprayed around the foundation of a building for insects that come out
of the ground.
Additionally, they also have access to insectisides that can be
"painted" around the base of a room that dry and leave a residual bug
poison on the floor that kills the bugs (ants) when they walk across
it, get it on their legs and take some back to the nest.
Neither one are available to across the counter consumers.
No chemist would call it that. The IUPAC-approved name is 2-propanol.
Toxicity has absolutely *nothing* to do with an odd or even number of carbon
atoms in the molecule: butanol, with four carbons, is toxic. For that matter,
so is ethanol -- less so than any of the other simple alcohols, but toxic just
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