Is it Unsafe to Use a Gas Stove Without a Flue?

A caller to my radio show on 2UE asked about the hazards of either a woodburning stove or gas stove used without a flue.

It’s a good question.

The problem potentially is that both carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are produced by a burning stove and if the levels are high enough they most certainly represent a hazard.

If you did find yourself in an environment that contained toxic levels of either of these gases, you would simply feel sleepy, fall asleep, and never wake up. So it’s important to know that the levels in your home are safe.

Fortunately, this is a concern in many industrial environments as well, and as a consequence, small, battery powered air monitors are readily available from either safety shops or even EBay.

The way these devices work is that you leave them running on a bench top, or clip them onto your belt, and if they encounter a toxic environment they emit a LOUD alarm.

My (educated) guess is that a gas stove (that you were using for cooking) would not generate enough CO or CO2 to be a problem, but a woodburning stove (used for heating the house) without an adequate exhaust may well present a hazard.

How Do Batteries Work?

There are many different types of batteries around us.

From the lead acid batteries in our car, to be batteries in our torches, to the tiny batteries in our watches, we are daily surrounded by these remarkable energy storage devices.

And that is what they are – devices that contain energy that can be extracted, and in some cases put back.

The lead acid batteries in our car are one of the oldest batteries in existence, and the design is almost 200 years old. The only technology on cars that is older is the glass.

Any battery contains two electrodes – the anode and the cathode. Different reactions occur at each electrode, and the difference in energy of these two processes can be used to do things, like making a torch shine or a car start.

Imagine we had two water tanks, that were connected by a hose, with a tap between them. Suppose that one tank had more water in it than the other. If we opened the tap, the water woule flow from the full tank to the empty tank. This water flowing is now a source of energy that we could use – for example a little paddle wheel that would turn to make electricity (this is how hydroelectric power works).

In this example, when the water levels were the same, the paddle wheel would stop turning, and no more energy may now be extracted from the system.

This is exactly how batteries work – electrons flow from the anode to the cathode – when the energy of the two systems is the same, the electrons stop and the battery is “flat.”

There are many different designs, to serve many different purposes. Tomorrow we’ll start looking at them, starting with the battery in your car.

Getting Bloodstains Off

On my first Saturday show with Rod Tiley, a caller asked about getting bloodstains off a bedspread.

Blood is a bit tricky, as it’s a deep red colour and sticks to most fabrics strongly. The red colour is the haemoglobin molecule,

a complex organometallic molecule which has iron at the centre.

To break it up, and remove the colour, we need to break up this structure. There are two potential ways to do this:

1. Treat it with a chemical that has a greater affinity for the iron than the porphyrin ring of the heme molecule. A good choice here is citric acid. My daughter cut her finger a while back and got some blood stains on our carpet. I rubbed in some citric acid that I had and removed it immediately.

Unfortunately, citric acid is not available over the counter for some reason, so you have to look elsewhere. The best source that I know of is limes, which contain about 4-5% citric acid. Squeeze some lime juice onto the blood stain ane see how it goes – just leave it and see if it does anything. It may not work that well as it’s not very concentrated.

2. Use an enzyme based cleaner, like Biozet, or Preen. Wet the fabric, add a bit of detergent/prewash, and work it in gently. You don’t have to rub hard – let the chemical do the work. Perhaps leave it for a few minutes to allow the enzyme to do its stuff, then swab it off with a dry rag. Repeat as many times as you need to in order to remove it. It may be a slow process, but it should work eventually

My Favourite Products #4: Ajax Powder Cleanser

Another one of my favourite products is Ajax powder cleanser:

This product, I suspect, is simply a repackaging of the old Bon Ami cleanser which has now disappeared off the market.

This kind of thing happens all the time – products are sold from one company to another, but they are usually not rebadged. In 1985, for example, when Pea-Beu was bought from Ciba Geigy by Reckitt & Colman they kept the name.

Apparently, however, Ajax decided their name had more currency than Bon Ami. Fair enough.

You’ve never seen ads for this stuff, which is a sure-fire indicator of a good product. That is, people buy it because it actually works, not because they have been told that it works, which is the case for any advertising campaign.

So what’s in this stuff? Essentially it is a powdered bleach (calcium hypochlorite – the same stuff you buy as pool granules), some inert abrasive (alumina I suspect) and a bit of copper.

The bleach is to oxidise and disinfect anything it encounters, the abrasive is simply to rub off any dirt or material on the product you’re cleaning, and the copper is simply to go blue when it gets wet, and this is because people associate blue with clean.

So there you go – Ajax Powder Cleanser – an oldie but a goodie.

My Favourite Products #3: BAM Easy Off

Soap scum isn’t easy to remove.

It’s a baked-on alkaline salt from soap and calcium and sticks to the glass like glue.

To get it off you need an acid – but not too strong or it’ll dissolve the alloy beading in your shower.

I remember one day I was browsing in the cleaning section of the supermarket, and I was bemoaning the fact that no-one seemed to take shower cleaning seriously.

“Why” I asked myself “don’t people put sulphamic acid in these things?”

Sulphamic acid was made for cleaning showers. it’s almost, but not quite, strong enough to dissolve alloy, but is certainly strong enough to dissolve soap scum.

Then I came across this:

Anyone in the supermarket watching when I read the ingredients would have thought I was nuts because I went “YES – sulphamic acid!”

It’s actually quite unusual to see a cleaning product that uses a completely different formula to its competitors.

But this is one.  It’s competitor – AJAX – uses phosphoric acid: which is nowhere near as effective.


But the people at Reckitt’s have sure got this one right, which is why it’s one of my favourite products.