Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Glow in The Dark Steps for Halloween

"Mix powdered laundry detergent (containing phosphors) with a little water and splatter on your doorstep. Then, switch your porch lights to black light bulbs and your steps will glow!"

Interesting. This image has made the rounds of pinterest but often times with the idea of cutting open glow sticks and dumping them down your stairs, so I'll go ahead and post about why both glow sticks and laundry detergent is a bad idea. 

As I mentioned in my previous glow stick post - glow sticks don't work that way. The writer at Pintology tried this out using glow sticks, and as you can see her results were on par with my last glow stick test - glow stick liquid just doesn't last, and isn't as bright as the original image from pinterest. Here is where I would also like to point out that the original image isn't taken at night - so that is some pretty strong day-glo green they have going on there on the steps. 

So what about laundry detergent like the pin suggests? Yes and No. Yes, certain laundry soaps can glow under black light. The problem comes about by what it IS that makes it glow - phosphorus. It can be in everything from laundry detergent to dishwashing soap, but more and more companies are straying from using it in their products? Why? 

Because it's REALLY bad for the environment. In fact it's already banned in 16 states. 

From Wikipedia: 
"A more profound problem arises from the heavy use of sodium triphosphate, which can comprise up to 50% by weight of detergents. The discharge of soluble phosphates into natural waters has led to problems with eutrophication, or the growth of living things, of lakes and streams, often where it is not desirable. The replacement of sodium triphosphate by zeolites offers some relief to this problem. With respect to the phosphate additives, between 1940 and 1970 "the amount of phosphates in city wastewater increased from 20,000 to 150,000 tons per year." With an increase in phosphates, especially in the absence of species feeding upon algae, algal blooms grow splendidly on the excess phosphorus and can produce toxins, killing fish, dolphins and plants. They can also indirectly cause oxygen depletion at greater depths, through microbial breakdown of dead algal cells."

So why would you be adding this to your STEPS? That can be easily washed away, into your yard, soaking into ground water, washing away into city water systems? Even if you live in an area where phosphates haven't been banned yet so you can still even BUY soap that contains it, why would you want to willing add something like this to your yard - which is where it would end up once you hosed it off.

So back to the glow stick idea - now you're thinking maybe you could just cut up a LOT of glow sticks and try this.. well guess what makes glow sticks glow? It's a nice little mixture of hydrogen peroxide and phenol. What's phenol? Oh, just a chemical found in everything from BPA to paint stripper -
"Phenol and its vapors are corrosive to the eyes, the skin, and the respiratory tract. Repeated or prolonged skin contact with phenol may cause dermatitis, or even second and third-degree burns. Inhalation of phenol vapor may cause lung edema. The substance may cause harmful effects on the central nervous system and heart, resulting in dysrhythmia, seizures, and coma.The kidneys may be affected as well. Long-term or repeated exposure of the substance may have harmful effects on the liver and kidneys." There is no evidence that phenol causes cancer in humans. Besides its hydrophobic effects, another mechanism for the toxicity of phenol may be the formation of phenoxyl radicals" 
I'm honestly a bit skeptical that this image is even of glow sticks or soap - if you look at it it's too well done, too bright, and clearly not taken at night or with the usual hue that a black light would give off. I believe (and I'm unable to find the source of the image to verify) that this is simply steps painted up with day-glo paint.

So all in all - Bad idea all around. Don't do this. Don't pin.


  1. Anonymous22/7/13

    Not to mention that slippery soap, not best thing to put on steps.

    In the dark.

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