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What is Household Ammonia?

Updated April 17, 2017

Household ammonia is a versatile product that helps in tackling many tasks around the home. Instead of overcrowding your shelves with specialised cleaners, one bottle of ammonia can be used to make solutions that are appropriate for all those tough jobs.

History

Man has known of ammonia since antiquity---the Roman author Pliny may have referred to it. A form of liquid ammonia made from fermented urine was used for dyeing clothing in the Middle Ages. By 1897, Sears, Roebuck & Co. listed ammonia in their catalogue of household items. In the early 20th century, German chemists synthesised ammonia from nitrogen in the air and used it to make explosives. Ammonia was also used as a refrigerant before the introduction of Freon and other chloroflourocarbons. Ammonia is a major component of most fertilisers today.

Properties

Household ammonia is an aqueous nitrogen-based solution. It consists of five to 10 per cent ammonium hydroxide (NH3) in water, often with added detergents. It may also have added clarifying agents. It is a caustic liquid that gives off a pungent vapour.

Cleaning

Household ammonia can be diluted with water to make a streak-free window cleaner. It is also used to make cleaning solutions for floors, walls, shower stalls, counters, hobs and appliances. Mildew, scuff marks, tarnish and some stubborn clothing and carpet stains can be removed with ammonia.

Repellent

Lacing your garbage cans or gardens with ammonia will keep dogs and raccoons from rooting around where you'd rather they didn't. An ammonia treatment will also banish moths from your clothing drawers and closets.

Precautions

Do not allow household ammonia to come in contact with your eyes or in prolonged contact with your skin. Avoid breathing ammonia vapours and always use the product in a well ventilated area. Household ammonia is a caustic that can damage rubber and some plastics. Never mix ammonia and bleach---it unleashes toxic chlorine gas. For that reason, be careful not to allow household ammonia to mingle with bleach-based toilet and tile cleaners.

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About the Author

Maxfield Carroll is a writer and artist whose work has appeared on various websites and in newspapers. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and journalism.