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Re: [Orchid] liver of sulfur revisited
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John Burgess Sunday, July 01, 2001
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>         1) How long does a batch (made up of dry stuff) normally last
>     (how can I tell when it is bad)? 

    G'day Carrie; Liver of sulphur when in the presence of water, is not
    very stable. Indeed I would suggest that it would be of little use
    after a day.  It is composed of sulphides of potassium, but in the
    presence of oxygen (air) and water it quickly oxidizes to potassium
    sulphates, and the sulphur atom in sulphates is fairly well locked in
    and unavailable for combination with metals like silver and copper to
    produce black sulphides. 

    The suggestions above also apply to lime sulphur - calcium
    polysulphide - which deteriorates quickly - and similarly -  but is
    the far cheaper and more readily available option for metalsmiths. 

>         2) Is there any down side to re-heating it in the
>     microwave?....  

    There isn't much point reheating; it is so cheap that one should make
    up a solution that is  sufficient for one's immediate needs, and when
    finished, throw away the remnant. It could be heated by microwaves
    easily enough, but it might stink out your nice oven! Lime sulphur
    liquid is so cheap that there is little to gain in trying to save a
    diluted solution or squeeze  the last drop of usefulness out of it. 
    One would dilute the liquid to around 10%, use clean, grease free
    metals and use it warm - say below hand hot - though you wouldn't need
    to put your hand in it; that just gives an idea of the working
    temperature which isn't important anyway.  The hotter it is the
    shorter is the time it lasts though. 

>         3) Is it safe to immerse stones briefly in it?  I assume pearls
>     wouldn't be okay, likewise maybe opal, any others or should I steer
>     clear of all stones in the solution? 

    It seems to me that any stone based upon calcium or phosphate, or
    softer than about Moh 6 would be unsuitable for putting in a sulphide

>         4) Is neutralizing the solution with baking soda all I need to
>     do to dispose of it safely?  We are on a septic (I read the
>     discussion about that) and I do not have access at all to city
>     sewage (we are very rural).  Any other considerations for disposal? 

    I too have lived in 2 (different) rural areas where sewage disposal
    is the responsibility of the house owner.  Yes, we had septic tanks -
    which worked very well for at least 12 years in each place until
    overtaken by sewage reticulation and disposal  by the local council.
    And yes, I disposed of sulphide discard in both.   When one considers
    that a whole variety of bacteria earn a living by breaking down
    sulphur bearing compounds and converting them to sulphate, others
    convert sulphate to elemental sulphur, and yet others start on the
    sulphur - a regular jungle of fierce competition in the sewage lines! 
    Which is why modern sewage systems work.  Agreed, many heavy metals
    such as copper, arsenic cadmium, chromium, lead... will poison a
    septic system, but not noticeably if the amounts are small.  Anyway,
    there exist bacteria that even tackle these when well diluted. As for
    copper, many vertebrates use copper in their blood instead of iron. 

    One should also take into account that in sewage one might find every
    possible compound that can exist, but there is so much of the stuff
    that inclusion of a litre or so of substances bad for the bacteria,
    form literally a drop in the ocean.  It is only when huge amounts of
    deleterious chemicals - chlorine, sulphite cyanide, heavy metals and
    so on from industry enter a system that bad things happen. 

    However, having said all that, if you really want to be
    environmentally squeaky clean, you could mix the discard with baking
    soda solution until the fizzing stops, then pour it into sawdust
    (rural areas have plenty available).   Spread it out and let the sun
    (if any!) dry it off. Bundle it in newspaper and dispose of it in the
    usual way for solid rubbish. Or simply scatter it over the local
    rubbish tip. Apartment dwellers might have to buy 'kitty litter'. --
    Cheers now, John Burgess;   johnb AT of Mapua Nelson NZ  

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