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Bad Pickle


#1

Hi there, does anyone in orchid land know anything about fixing bad
pickle? When I mix up fresh Sparex it is a brown granule, not white,
and creates a brown transparent mixture. Within a few hours a greasy
dark brow substance forms on top, then anything can happen. I’ve seen
crystals grow on the basket overnight, green pickle, dark brown
pickle, anything but the clear to blue colour Sparex normally is.
This chemical is labeled Sparex from the supplier. Has this happened
to anyone else? How do we fix it?

Thanks, Jocelyn Henderson


#2

Jocelyn, The pickle you have is contaminated by the metal container.
Sparex usually has a coating on the inside of the can and if you look
its probably pealing off. I’ve had the same problem and started using
a pickle from Gesswein which comes in a plastic container. Karel


#3
 When I mix up fresh Sparex it is a brown granule, not white, and
creates a brown transparent mixture.  Within a few hours a greasy
dark brow substance forms on top, This chemical is labeled Sparex
from the supplier.  Has this happened to anyone else? How do we fix
it? 

Who knows what that brown crap is. My bet is that Grobet is being
really cheap, and using some industrial grade of sodium bisulfate that
comes as some sort of waste product perhaps, or is otherwise
contaminated. Certainly, that brown junk has no useful purpose in
the pickle, other than to make a mess, and yes, it happens with every
container of Sparex I’ve seen in the last decade or two, maybe
longer. You can, if you want, wait for that scum to form, and then
just skim it off with a paper towel or the like. I think it may be
some sort of wax or grease, or combination thereof, perhaps a residue
of some sort of metals processing from which this chemical was the
byproduct. Who knows. That’s just a guess. But that damn scum is
one reason why more than a few of us have switched to other sources
of the chemical. Sodium bisulfate is often sold as a pool/spa
chemical for reducing the ph of the water. Product names are things
like “ph down”, “spa down”, and the like. The stuff you buy this
way is much purer, mixes up colorless with no annoying scum, and is
often not more costly. Sometimes it’s even cheaper than sparex brand,
depending on where you buy it, perhaps. I get it at the local
hardware store. As a pickle, it’s identical in utility and function
to Sparex or other such products.

Peter Rowe


#4

Buy yourself some swimming pool acid (sodium bisulphate)at your
local hardware store.Cheaper, cleaner and better than Sparex in my
experience.Colin.


#5

Hi Jocelyn,

In my estimation, the quickest & easiest way to solve the problem is
to dump the Sparex down the toilet. Depending on where you live,
stop at a swimming pool/spa supply store & get a container of Ph
Minus. It’s chemical name is sodium bisulfate, that’s basically what
Sparex is except Ph Minus doesn’t have the brown gunk in it. Another
nice thing about Ph Minus is that it’s usually less expensive than
Sparex. If you live in a sunny clime where pools are popular, you may
find Ph Minus in grocery & drug stores. A 7 lb plastic container of
Ph Minus is around $7.00.

Dave


#6

I have been fighting that brown goo for ages. I have bought sparex
from several distributors, and each batch has the same oily scum.
I was told to transfer the fresh batch into either glass jars or
plastic jars , but that did not help. I’m off to get some sodium
bisulfate as Peter Rowe recommends. Sparex should be renamed
Exon Valdez special. reserve. Alma


#7

This happened to me too, so I threw it out. I was told that the
product has some impurities (true or untrue I don’t know, but I don’t
like dealing with the mess). Also I was told that a chemical from the
pool and spa store is the same chemical without the brown scum. Maybe
another orchidist can confirm this.


#8

Hi Jocelyn, I called the people at Sparex (I can’t remember the
parent co.'s name…) and asked about this. After some moments of
puzzlement , the gentleman at the other end of the line said “Oh…
You must be referring to the amber hue”. I was told that it’s no
problem and was left with the implication that the amber hue somehow
beneficial and a hall mark of quality. I believe, like Peter, that it
is simple a waxy impurity that is left in the granules as a result of
laziness and cost cutting mindset.

Andy Cooperman


#9

G’day Sparex is sold by jewellery supply people to use as a
pickle to clean up sterling and carat gold after soldering or other
heating. It is supposed to be sodium bisulphate, but as I
understand from many Orchidians it often seems to contain some brown
scunge or other. So let me tell you how sodium bisulphate is made .

It is a byproduct made during the production of hydrochloric acid.
That acid is made by heating common salt; sodium chloride, NaCl
with concentrated sulphuric acid; H2SO4, which to give the proper
name is dihydrogen sulphate So the chloride part of the salt
combines with the hydrogen of sulphuric acid, and the poisonous gas
hydrogen chloride is given off. This gas is extremely soluble in
water and so dissolves up to a maximum strength of 35.5%

What is left in the reaction vessel is the combination of the
sulphate part of the sulphuric acid plus some hydrogen together
with the sodium part of the sodium chloride to make sodium
bisulphate, or correctly, sodium hydrogen sulphate NaHSO4. All the
chemicals used are colourless. So is sodium bisulphate. Therefore
brown Sparex must contain impurities. It is the hydrogen part of
sodium bisulphate that dissolves copper oxides and silver sulphides
to act as a pickle. It will of course also dissolve the borax and
borates from the soldering flux.

Finally, to those who don’t like the thought of dumping used pickle
into the sewage system, please remember that in England and in New
Zealand (and other countries) a commercial product called Harpic is
sold for cleaning and removing the incrustation of lime that may be
found in baths, wash basins and toilet bowls. And what is Harpic?
Well, whisper it - mainly sodium bisulphate! Understand whatever you
use.

Cheers for now,
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ


#10

Thanks for the responses on the bad pickle, we’re currently using it
at my school. I have used ph minus myself and have looked up the
WHMIS sheet for it, and it is pure and clean sodium bisulfate, no
impurities. I’ll relay the info to the school and hopefully we can
get some good pickle happening.

Thanks, Jocelyn


#11

Hi, John, Thanks for the interesting and informative description of
sodium bisulphate and how it works. Now I wonder if you would take it
a step further, to satisfy my curiosity and protect my health. At one
studio where I teach, the files are all very dull. The other night,
I finally became so frustrated seeing my students work with these
rediculous “tools”, I decided to try an experiment. I took a really
dead file, and put it in some used pickle for a couple of minutes. It
bubbled gaily, turned a lovely copper color, and–gasp–came out
usably sharp. Which is all what I expected. What I didn’t expect is
that, in spite of the exhaust vent, I got one good snootful of fumes.
It was quite unpleasant, and actually made me briefly lightheaded.
So, what did I breath? I definately don’t want to repeat the
experience! Thanks for your bounteous expertise, oh sage of the
chemical world! --Noel


#12
I got one good snootful of fumes. It was quite unpleasant, and
actually made me briefly lightheaded. So, what did I breath? 

Dear Noel,

You probably had a good whiff of hydrogen gas. If you are worried
about health effects, make sure you are well away from any flames
(hydrogen gas combusts explosively).

Francine Haywood
Sydney


#13
I took a really dead file, and put it in some used pickle for a
couple of minutes. It bubbled gaily, turned a lovely copper color,
and--gasp--came out usably sharp. 

That is an old technique for sharpening files. Assuming it was a
sulfuric pickle the fumes would have been Sulfur Dioxide and they
belong up the vent. jesse


#14
the fumes would have been Sulfur dioxide

Iron placed in sulphuric acid produces hydrogen!

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040