Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Liver of sulfur revisited


#1

Hi everyone,

A couple of questions about liver of sulfur that I haven’t been able
to answer through the archives…

  1. How long does a batch (made up of dry stuff) normally last (how
    can I tell when it is bad)? The batch I made up is a pea yellow/green
    color and now has a light frothy coating over the surface. Is this
    normal?

  2. Is there any down side to re-heating it in the microwave? How
    warm would the piece have to be if I were using l of s at room
    temperature? Would running it under hot water be good enough?

  3. Is it safe to immerse stones breifly 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?

  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?

Thank you in advance for your help!

Carrie Otterson


#2

I have found that heating the Liver of Sulfur on a mug warmer works
really well. I mix it in a heavy drinking glass and I cover it with
the lid from a Pringles can (too much junk food in the studio) and it
usually lasts a few days. You only need it to be warm, not hot,
never boiling. Sometimes if I’m in a hurry I just set a chunk of L
of S in a dish and wet a toothbrush with warm water and touch it to
the chunk and then put in on the piece. It’s a very forgiving
substance so don’t make it harder than it needs to be. You’ll know
it’s bad when it doesn’t work anymore. Deb


#3

As far as item #2 is concerned…keep the liver of sulfur out of the
microwave…if you ever expect to cook in it again. When I use liver
of sulfur I dissolve the chunks in very warm water if I want it to
act fast, or let it cool a bit if I want slower action and varying
degrees of darkening. Also, as much as practicable, I take the stuff
outside to work with. The fumes are noxious and pervasive, (in other
words, they’ll stink up your whole house–if you are working at
home.) If you have the liquid form (which doesn’t have too long a
shelf life) pour off as much as you need into a glass or plastic
container and set it into a bowl of hot water to warm it to the
desired temperature. You should use a fresh batch every time.
Dee


#4
1) How long does a batch (made up of dry stuff) normally last (how
can I tell when it is bad)?  The batch I made up is a pea yellow/green
color and now has a light frothy coating over the surface.  Is this
normal?

If it is clearish it is dead. Usually lasts only a few days. Put in
brown glass, keep it in the dark. It is really pretty cheap to buy
the solid form and make a new batch as needed.

2) Is there any down side to re-heating it in the microwave?  How
warm would the piece have to be if I were using l of s at room
temperature?  Would running it under hot water be good enough?

Don’t know this one, I only heat the piece not the liquid as I do
bronze sculpture. Running the piece under or putting it in hot water
would do well.

3) Is it safe to immerse stones breifly 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?

Don’t know about pearls but not a problem with opals. It is really
pretty benign in reactivity, being really reactive only with copper.

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?

We too are on septic in the country. Actually wouldn’t hurt to to
put in on your plants. We are VERY sulphur short and most ANY form
of sulphur helps. Huge amounts of many forms of sulphur are used
every year on pears, apples, some nuts, grapes and many other fruits,
vegetables and flowers. Sulphur is a very important nutrient for
both soil biological activity and plant growth. If nothing else,
leave the container of liver of sulphur open for a day or 2 and in
the sun and it will neutralize itself. As and additional note, there
are many forms of sulphur spays available at your local nursery which
are much more stable than liver of sulphur mixes and work just as
well or better. Poly sulfide is one, it is cheap, works well on
copper and is relatively stable. Just a thought.

John Dach


#5
    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
bath.

    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; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ