Problem with Sulfur Smell

In summary, @dawtomb broke a thermometer that contained mercury, found information on the internet that suggested covering the mercury with sulfur to neutralize the mercury, did this, but the sulfur dust from this process spread throughout the apartment, stayed on the walls, on the furniture, literally everywhere. The floor where it was sprinkled with Sulfur still smells. Cleaning with water and soap doesn't help, ozonation doesn't help, airing doesn't help, is there any way or any methods that can be used to clean this floor so that it stops smelling?
  • #1
6
1
I have a problem from 3 weeks…

I broke a thermometer that contained mercury. The mercury balls hid in the cracks in the parquet in the floor.

I found information in some chemical webiste, that the only thing what I can do, is to cover this mercury with ground sulfur to neutralize the mercury.

So I did this, and after a few hours sulfur was vacuumed.

Unfortunately, the dust from this sulfur spread throughout the apartment, stayed on the walls, on the furniture, literally everywhere.

I washed and vacuumed the walls, floor and furniture several times and I try to eliminate this dust from the all place in my flat.

Unfortunately, the floor where it was sprinkled with Sulfur still smells. It's such a sweet sour smell.

Clean floor with water and soap doesn't help, ozonation doesn't help, airing doesn't help, is there any way or any methods that can be used to clean this floor so that it stops smelling?

I read that I can clean the floor with hydrogen peroxide mixed with water, or a hydrogen peroxide mixed with baking soda, but I dont want worsing this case.

I have a request for users
on this forum and ask for help on how to neutralize the sulfur smell coming from the cracks in the floor.

maybe in the cracks in the floor was some sulfur dust invisible to the eye, which reacted with the water when I mopped the floor and now gives off this smell.

Is there any safe solution that is able to oxidize, neutralize, purify the sulfur left in the cracks on the floor? so that I can stay safely in this room and eliminate the smell of sulfur?
 
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  • #2
Wow, best I can find is this website:

https://www.bondcleaningnewcastle.com.au/remove-smell-sulphur-house/It looks like Baking Soda or vinegar may work. The baking soda box could be opened and just let it sit in your room to soak up the smell. Its going to take awhile I imagine. You could sprinkle on the spill area.

It looks like you can squirt the vinegar where the smell is strongest and hope that it will neutralize it.

However, your best bet is a cleaning company that can handle it.

Here's a PSA on proper cleanup methods:

 
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  • #5
Hello, thanks for that, but this case is regarding to Sulfur Dust, not mercury.

Any movie with terrible story about mercury dont help me, I am looking for solutions to remove/neutralize the smell of sulfur coming from the cracks in the parquet.

The point is not to cover the smell of sulfur with another smell, but to remove it completely.
 
  • #6
Peroxide or bleach are probably your best bet. They oxidize the sulfur and the hydrogen sulfide into sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide still smells a little (at least to my nose), but it's much less potent than hydrogen sulfide, which is generated when sulfur is in contact with water. That said, some people are more sensitive to smells than others, so YMMV.
 
  • #7
TeethWhitener said:
Peroxide or bleach are probably your best bet. They oxidize the sulfur and the hydrogen sulfide into sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide still smells a little (at least to my nose), but it's much less potent than hydrogen sulfide, which is generated when sulfur is in contact with water. That said, some people are more sensitive to smells than others, so YMMV.
Thanks for the information.

is it possible for sulfur to react with water at room temperature to produce hydrogen sulfide? I read that sulfur does not react with water, so I don’t know what to think about it?
 
  • #8
dawtomb said:
Thanks for the information.

is it possible for sulfur to react with water at room temperature to produce hydrogen sulfide? I read that sulfur does not react with water, so I don’t know what to think about it?
It's very slow but H2S odor is detectable at a very very low level. SO2 not so much.
 
  • #9
Sulphur does not have a smell.

For a broken thermometer, you would probably need 3 - 5 grams of sulphur. I think 10g would be a reasonable excess to use. How much did you use?

Sulphur does not react with water. (If it did you wouldn't find elemental sulphur lying around at volcanic sites as any rain would react with it.)

From what I just read on dealing with mercury spills, it recommends NOT vacuuming up the residue. Perhaps any excess sulphur came in contact with the hot motor when vacuuming and you were smelling the products of burning it. Or if you used large excess some may have got through the vacuum bag as fine dust and perhaps slowly oxidising on a radiator. But it seems a bit strange that you are having this smell for a prolonged time.

And unfortunately you probably couldn't use the method I used a couple of times to mop up mercury- sweep together with small sheets of paper, put a cork ring around the drops, add liquid nitrogen, and pick up the solid lumps with tweezers. Although it usually took a few repeats as tiny solid bits tended to melt on contact with the tweezers.
 
  • #10
DrJohn said:
Although it usually took a few repeats as tiny solid bits tended to melt on contact with the tweezers.
Try plastic, or bamboo, tweezers.
 
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  • #11
DrJohn said:
Sulphur does not have a smell.

For a broken thermometer, you would probably need 3 - 5 grams of sulphur. I think 10g would be a reasonable excess to use. How much did you use?

Sulphur does not react with water. (If it did you wouldn't find elemental sulphur lying around at volcanic sites as any rain would react with it.)

From what I just read on dealing with mercury spills, it recommends NOT vacuuming up the residue. Perhaps any excess sulphur came in contact with the hot motor when vacuuming and you were smelling the products of burning it. Or if you used large excess some may have got through the vacuum bag as fine dust and perhaps slowly oxidising on a radiator. But it seems a bit strange that you are having this smell for a prolonged time.

And unfortunately you probably couldn't use the method I used a couple of times to mop up mercury- sweep together with small sheets of paper, put a cork ring around the drops, add liquid nitrogen, and pick up the solid lumps with tweezers. Although it usually took a few repeats as tiny solid bits tended to melt on contact with the tweezers.
thanks.

sulfur has no smell if it doesn't react with anything, I think so, but I'm not sure.

if sulfur does not react with water, why do I smell the place where I washed sulfur dust? and in other places I don't smell it.
 
  • #12
dawtomb said:
thanks.

sulfur has no smell if it doesn't react with anything, I think so, but I'm not sure.

if sulfur does not react with water, why do I smell the place where I washed sulfur dust? and in other places I don't smell it.
Elemental sulphur has no smell. Trust me.

The trouble is what you are describing doesn't make sense to me. If you accidentally made H2S the smell would be dreadful. It's also more poisonous than HCN but the smell is so incredibly strong and horrible that you can detect it at very low concentrations, luckily for you. But not for me, as when playing with my chemistry set when young my parents complained from a different room about the stench from H2S which I didn't notice. I suspect I had passed the danger level where it kills your sense of smell, and then you. So it has permanently damaged my sense of smell!

Is it a rotten egg smell? If so it's H2S. Why not find someone with access to a mass spectrometer at Uni and get them to come in with an evacuated glass bulb, open the valve to suck in some of your smelly atmosphere and close it again, then take the sample to the Mass Spec to get it analysed?
 
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  • #13
Could this be a mercaptan, the product of sulfur and a cleaning agent? Those also can be smelled at a very low level.
 
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  • #14
PS Did anyone see Robin Williams in his lesser-known film Dead Chemists Society? "Oh nercaptain my mercaptan"!"

It was kind of a stinker.
 
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  • #15
DrJohn said:
Elemental sulphur has no smell. Trust me.

The trouble is what you are describing doesn't make sense to me. If you accidentally made H2S the smell would be dreadful. It's also more poisonous than HCN but the smell is so incredibly strong and horrible that you can detect it at very low concentrations, luckily for you. But not for me, as when playing with my chemistry set when young my parents complained from a different room about the stench from H2S which I didn't notice. I suspect I had passed the danger level where it kills your sense of smell, and then you. So it has permanently damaged my sense of smell!

Is it a rotten egg smell? If so it's H2S. Why not find someone with access to a mass spectrometer at Uni and get them to come in with an evacuated glass bulb, open the valve to suck in some of your smelly atmosphere and close it again, then take the sample to the Mass Spec to get it analysed?
that's a good idea, I spoke to a company that can rent a gas detector and I booked device "Crowcon Gas-Pro Gas Detector" for Thursday. This device can detect SO2, and H2S.
 
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  • #16
At a sulfur plant, we would usually use an oxidizer, (bleach, hydrogen peroxide) to get rid of the sulfides (predominately dissolved H2S), which are the source of the odor in elemental sulfur as stated above.

I'm not sure 3% H2O2 or store bought bleach (~5%?) will be strong enough to do what you like, at least quickly. Sulfur and its compounds are pretty good at permeating porous (concrete, grout) and even what most would consider non-porous surfaces (steel). Steel used in sulfur storage will carry the odor of previous use for a very long time.

We typically used 5-10% H2O2 and about 15% Sodium hypochlorite to oxidize sulfide residues (spills). These concentrations are higher than store stuff and you will need to pay attention to safety handling rules. Hypochlorite has its own "fresh" smell and that may be more desirable. Both of these can cause burns, have reactivity with some things you may not like, and can make things much lighter in color (oxidizes dyes, stains, and colorants in addition to sulfur compounds).

If it was mine, I'd skip the industrial stuff and just use commercial bleach, possibly some with a scent additive, wash, rinse, and repeat, and see what I get. It will probably take a few tries and some time.

Some people are more sensitive to sulfur smells than others, and once they have become attuned, it can be difficult to overcome.
 
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  • #17
Hi, I borrowed from a local lab, detectors: SENKO SGTP-SO2 - dedicated for SO2
and
SENKO SGTP-H2S - dedicated for H2S
and
GasAlertMicro5 PID - dedicated for H2S/PID (VOCs)/CO/Combustible gases

...detectors found nothing...
but still - I smell some sulfur mixed with something sweet.

I cleaned the floor several times with 3% hydrogen peroxide, the smell has lessened a bit but I can still smell it. I'm afraid to use chlorine so that the varnish on the floorboards doesn't discolor, and I’m afraid that after using chlorine some new poisonous compounds will be formed? I dont know.

What other things could the sulfur compounds have formed in the cracks in my floor? I have access to many detectors but I don't know what to look for, what sulfur compound have little bit sweet smell?
Do you have any ideas?
 

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