A thorough electrolysis resource: let's make one

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Forum topic by FeralVermonter posted 01-19-2013 02:47 PM 1064 views 1 time favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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100 posts in 2171 days

01-19-2013 02:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: electrolysis

OK, I admit it… sorta cheating here. But only sorta. I’m in the middle of researching electrolysis for my own purposes, and I don’t have the best research skills, nor much of a background in chemistry, so it’s slow going.

But from what I’ve learned so far, I’m pretty alarmed at some of the resources I’ve found (including discussions on this site). There are real dangers inherent in electrolysis, and in the disposal of the fluids produced, and in all too many cases, these aren’t even mentioned. But more than a discussion of proper safety procedures, I’d like to produce an all-around resource on the topic: a little background science, a few “recipes,” and a discussion of best practices. I like to really understand what I’m doing, the basics at least. And I doubt I’m the only one.

I keep running across these too-simplistic treatments of the project and worrying about some poor bastard blowing himself up because they don’t even mention the fact that electrolysis produces pure hydrogen and oxygen, a very flammable combination. Or poisoning his garden because he’s read that electrolysis fluid is “completely non-toxic.” So I’m not just trying to weasel out of doing my research, here. I’m concerned about curtailing the spread of dangerous misinformation.

Since I don’t have the knowledge, what I can contribute is editing and moderation (and my meager research skills). Once I get enough material together, I’ll try to write it up and post it as a blog, so we have everything in one place.

Lumberjocks… UNITE!

3 replies so far

View FeralVermonter's profile


100 posts in 2171 days

#1 posted 01-19-2013 02:49 PM

For starters, here’s something I found in another LJ discussion, via chrisstef and Sodabowski, about the disposal issue (post #27 from this discussion:

I posed the question of disposal to our resident scientist LJ Sodabowski and here’s what he had to say ….

Well, basically, all the crap you put in there in the first place will always be there in the end.

Just a bit WORSE.

The acidity of the bath can raise as gasses start to bubble and dissolve in there (hydrogen WILL be produced and WILL dissolve), and you add to it all kinds of metal oxydes from whatever crap is on the metal part firsthand. Also, the paint used for metal can contain boatloads of very dangerous stuff, like LEAD, which is an absolute poison for… whatever.

I still have some copper oxides from a small electrolysis experiment I did waaaay long ago when a teen (12 or so) in a test tube. These oxides can be very stable if you know what’s inside, but with iron and generally speaking industry-made tools, moreover vintage stuff, you never really know what’s inside. The cast iron could be of the unpurified sorts and contain all sorts of poisonous metals, and you don’t want them back in the biosphere, or in your garden (try growing anything edible afterwards… I WOULDN’T).

Best thing to do with such baths is to leave them to evaporate, scratch the dry residue and keep it in a glass container until you have enough accumulated (say a full jar) to bring it to a safe disposal facility. At least that’s what I would do if doing big time electrolysis with tools, and that’s about what they do at the university’s chem labs, when they aren’t sure what’s inside and they can’t neutralize it themselves.

All depends on whatever parts you put in there, and what you add to your bath for it to conduce electric current. I would use caustic soda for it’s easy to neutralize afterwards using hydrochloric acide (which would end up being salter water once you’ve neutralized the solution). You have a little math to do to ensure the proper quantities to end up with a neutral solution, but it’s by far the best eco-friendly solution (using table salt from the beginning is OK but it’s loaded with other minerals and as such it produces gunk on its own and can leave chloride inside the metal parts, which would cause them to oxidize after the fact if you don’t rinse them properly immediately after the electrolysis).

View smokey1945's profile


75 posts in 3582 days

#2 posted 01-20-2013 12:08 AM

I’m going to “watch” this one! Thank you for starting it and good luck in your endevor!

-- TheShadeTreeWW If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11063 posts in 3628 days

#3 posted 01-20-2013 12:17 AM

Me too, smokey.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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