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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Midadventures With Bleach

Sometimes my cat Rambo misses the litter box. But at least when “number one” gets on the floor next to the litter, I know he at least tried to hit the intended target.

It’s a never-ending battle to keep the stench away. I don’t want people to immediately know I have cats when they open the door to my apartment! Usually the pet-odor removers do the trick, but they cost an arm and a leg. So yesterday I thought I was smart by purchasing regular household bleach.

I uncapped the bleach and started liberally pouring it all over the wood floors (my rental company is cringing right now). The bleach starts to bubble. Ahhh yes, it must be working! But my feeling of accomplishment was soon squashed. As I began to wipe up the excess bleach, my hand started to get very warm. Immediately I knew from science class---there must be a chemical reaction occurring that’s releasing energy. That would explain then bubbling. Then, WHAM! Before I had a chance to finish my thought, I took the most unpleasant breath of my life. My throat was on fire, as I began choking on fumes. I began to lose my balance as I stumbled backwards and shut the door to the litter area. As I struggled to take a clean breath I realized what had happened.

You never mix ammonia with bleach.

I always knew the simple cleaning commandment. But foolishly, I never realized there was enough ammonia in cat urine to produce the same reaction. I called poison control thinking I might have permanent lung damage (I can be a hypochondriac).

Me: Am I going to die?
Poison Control: Well since you are on the phone talking to us right now, chances are, you’re going to survive.

Poison Control said people commonly tell a similar story. The reaction of ammonia and bleach produced noxious chlorine gas. The gas is so powerful it was used as a chemical warfare agent in World War I. How cruel! Can’t they just stick to guns and bombs? But I digress…Anyway, Poison Control told me to open all the windows in the house and breathe some fresh air. I locked up the cats away from the litter box, in a room with all the windows open. We survived. In fact, the litter box room smells great and I’m alive to tell the tale.

I even used the incident as an excuse to skip the gym that evening. Everyone wins.

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