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Make your own Oxalic Acid for wood bleaching?  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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Hello y'all, please let me know your thoughts on this, pro or con, as I have no knowledge of this myself.


I just bought a house, pulled up the awful "burnt orange" carpet, and whaddya know, there's wood flooring underneath, woohoo!

There are a few stains, and internet research tells me that a common industry fix is using Concentrated Oxalic Acid to bleach the wood without changing the natural wood color; cool! (but also, it cost money and acid can be dangerous).

Oxalic acid can be found in many plants including Rhubarb and Wood Sorrel(which I have  a TON of right now in my yard).


The question is...can I harvest, blend up, and strain my Wood Sorrel and use the resulting liquid to bleach my wood flooring?  Or will the plant matter just stain it green instead?
 
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:Hello y'all, please let me know your thoughts on this, pro or con, as I have no knowledge of this myself.
I just bought a house, pulled up the awful "burnt orange" carpet, and whaddya know, there's wood flooring underneath, woohoo!
There are a few stains, and internet research tells me that a common industry fix is using Concentrated Oxalic Acid to bleach the wood without changing the natural wood color; cool! (but also, it cost money and acid can be dangerous).
Oxalic acid can be found in many plants including Rhubarb and Wood Sorrel(which I have  a TON of right now in my yard).
The question is...can I harvest, blend up, and strain my Wood Sorrel and use the resulting liquid to bleach my wood flooring?  Or will the plant matter just stain it green instead?



At close to $11 for 12 oz at Home Depot, I see why you would want to make your own. Wood floors are beautiful and if you are lucky enough to have one that can be salvaged, I understand the WOOHOO. Organic components can be unreliable: I left a pumpkin on a shelf that was made of oak as fall decoration. It created a dark black stain, which I expected, but upon looking close, it had *eaten* into the wood. i.e. there was a *hole* in stead of the smooth surface I had lightly stained and varnished.

Oxalic Acid can indeed be dangerous, especially if you are treating hives: (It is an excellent treatment for varroas). When you run a current through, it heats and will burn wood if overdone. It creates fumes that will send you to the hospital if you take a good whiff. [You will know it instantly: It takes your breath away!]
But sorrel is also very good for other things. Here is a link talking about the level of oxalate in sorrel and how to measure it.
http://file.scirp.org/Html/12-2700650_35199.htm#Table%201

I have not worked with the stuff to bleach wood but it the wood underneath is worth saving, it is well worth any effort you can put forth. If I were you, I would be tempted to get a few sticks of the wood you think it is and scramble some sorrel juice and let it sit on the wood. It would probably ruin your sample, but it would give you and idea of how green the wood will end up and if it will stain it irretrievably.
An alternate method is to clean the stains as best you can then rent a floor sander. If you suspect the stains are deep, I'm afraid no amount of sanding will work and I would put a rug over the area that bothers me.
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Testing on scrap is a good idea - it's not like it would be a waste of it(or the Wood-sorrel, I kill some anyway just to clear for planting).

I will be renting a floor sander when I refinish the floors(linseed oil/beeswax mix), they don't have to look perfect(I don't want them to) but a few stains are a little too conspicuous.

I'm sure the Oxalate levels are comparable, but I actually have Oxalis pes-caprae, not Rumex Acetosa; funny how totally different plants can share common names - I forgot about the other sorrel, as it is not as common a "weed" in my area.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:Testing on scrap is a good idea - it's not like it would be a waste of it(or the Wood-sorrel, I kill some anyway just to clear for planting).

I will be renting a floor sander when I refinish the floors(linseed oil/beeswax mix), they don't have to look perfect(I don't want them to) but a few stains are a little too conspicuous.

I'm sure the Oxalate levels are comparable, but I actually have Oxalis pes-caprae, not Rumex Acetosa; funny how totally different plants can share common names - I forgot about the other sorrel, as it is not as common a "weed" in my area.



I giggled myself silly when I realized we were not talking about the same plant. That is why when I look up a plant, I always do a Wiki search to get the Latin name. My sister in France does the same thing: When we talk plants, it is incredible how many local names there are, so we both do that.
I guess you can get oxalic acid out of both types, but the Oxalis pes-caprae seems to contain more. Pity you have to remove it just for planting: It makes some pretty flowers.
Do you have a recipe to make the linseed oil/ beeswax mix? We are thinking of removing the old gray carpet and give it a new life in the alleys of the garden. We will put in a wood floor and since I have the beeswax...
 
Dustin Rhodes
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It's pretty, but wildlife and my wife won't eat it - but the bees like it, so I may keep a little.


An approximation of an historical wood finish for furniture that i found is a 1:1:1 ratio of (melted)beeswax, linseed or mineral oil, and turpentine, simply mixed together and rubbed on with a cloth after finishing sanding.

But we may go with this product instead: Tried & True Wood Finish

Just for sake of ease and finishing the flooring more quickly(still labor intensive application process though).


I'll post pictures of my Sorrel "Wood Bleach" test sometime next week as I go along.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:It's pretty, but wildlife and my wife won't eat it - but the bees like it, so I may keep a little.
An approximation of an historical wood finish for furniture that i found is a 1:1:1 ratio of (melted)beeswax, linseed or mineral oil, and turpentine, simply mixed together and rubbed on with a cloth after finishing sanding.
But we may go with this product instead: Tried & True Wood Finish
Just for sake of ease and finishing the flooring more quickly(still labor intensive application process though).
I'll post pictures of my Sorrel "Wood Bleach" test sometime next week as I go along.



I'm bookmarking this Tried & True Wood Finish. It sounds a lot better environmentally than the wax & turpentine mix my hubby used on his deck up north.
Do you keep honey bees? I was wondering what quality of wax you would need. The fancy wax from the caps are pretty expensive, but I might use some lesser quality, like from brood comb. [Not the real dark stuff but not the best either like from dead outs].
I checked the range of that plant and it is an invasive, hard to get rid of because it makes little bulb that stay behind when you yank them. Thank goodness it can't live in Wisconsin. If you have chickens, they will probably clean up that patch for you! they scratch mercilessly, and in our sand, they'll go body deep.
I call my rooster Attila! [wherever he roams, grass never grows again] ;-)
 
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hau Dustin, If you were to cold soak the ground up sorrel you should get a not-to-green liquid form of oxalic acid, another option would be to hot extract then distill but you need glassware for that method.

when I boil sorrel roots I get a clear brown liquid, this might be another option for you. OR you could dry the sorrel plant top first which would take out the "green".

I use the linseed oil, bees wax polish on some of my NA flutes and it works very well. (I have since switched to bees wax, carnuba wax and lemon oil, this ends up harder because of the carnuba)

Redhawk
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Cecile: no I do not have bees, that's not quite on my list of future projects just yet. I imagine that an version of wax would work fine (from a chemistry standpoint), as long as it's cleaned sufficiently.


Dr. Redhawk - Thanks, multiple options to try!
Drying sounds good, I presume one would you extract it with hot water, like a tea?

I'm also assuming you collect the roots/bulbs during the off-season, when they have all the starches stored for next year?
Eating the boiled roots and saving the acid for wood bleach would give me two products, instead of just one - even better!


 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:Cecile: no I do not have bees, that's not quite on my list of future projects just yet. I imagine that an version of wax would work fine (from a chemistry standpoint), as long as it's cleaned sufficiently.




Silly me. Forgive me: I saw the "pollinator" in the left bar and made the silly assumption. I have honey bees but I plant for all pollinators: Some beekeepers think that if you want to do right by your bees and plant something, you should look for something that only honey bees really like. Big mistake because our honey bees are low on the totem pole, and by the time that our bees come out to eat [they are finicky eaters too and will not go out if it is cold or raining], all of *their* blossoms will be pollinated and they will not have anything to eat.
But if you plant for *all* pollinators, then each species will go to its preferred blooms, leaving enough for our girls to eat.
There  are a number of ways to clean dirty wax. Filtering and sun bleaching are my fave. Some folks actually add bleach, but then, you can never reuse that wax in a hive, only for candles, if you select a darker shade. For a floor application, it would probably be pretty good.
BTW, any chemical we put in the hive will ruin that wax: You just can't get it out of the wax, no way, no how...
 
Dustin Rhodes
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So yesterday I harvested some Oxalis and placed it on a screen to dry in the sun - good to go for drying!

Today it rained - not as good for drying.

so, at some point it will dry out, then I will test for oxalic acid extraction.
Oxalis-for-Oxalic(Acid).jpg
[Thumbnail for Oxalis-for-Oxalic(Acid).jpg]
Oxalis pes-caprae drying on a hardware cloth screen in sometimes sunny CA
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:So yesterday I harvested some Oxalis and placed it on a screen to dry in the sun - good to go for drying!
Today it rained - not as good for drying.
so, at some point it will dry out, then I will test for oxalic acid extraction.



Yikes! I hope you had time to throw a tarp on it. It would be a pity to see all that hard work go to naught. [I heard you are getting really piled on by the rain all over California] Hang in there!
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Unfortunately I did not cover it, but no rain today and the forecast is clear throughout the week, so we'll see how it turns out(but dilution from the rain probably ruined this as far as accurate "scientific" testing is concerned - but if I get acid at the end, that's all that matters for now.)
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:Unfortunately I did not cover it, but no rain today and the forecast is clear throughout the week, so we'll see how it turns out(but dilution from the rain probably ruined this as far as accurate "scientific" testing is concerned - but if I get acid at the end, that's all that matters for now.)



That's right. San Diego is not getting much rain. I was just reading "California".
The dilution may be a blessing in disguise, even if it prevents you from making a scientific testing. The science part of it might only have been accurate for the Oxalis that grows in your own area: There are variations as in all organic plants. Let me know how it turns out, though. This idea of bleaching stains out of wood is great.
I might try it on some furniture and on the inside of my hives:
The insides of a hive are not painted usually, but we know that oxalic acid is a killer of varroa that does not seem to harm bees. The regular treatment calls for vaporization of the stuff while bees are in: The varroa detaches  from its host bee and dies very quickly. A death rate of 90-95% is observed in 24 hours. What I do not like about the vaporization is that we also vaporize the wax in so doing. Putting my tongue to the wax after the treatment gave me a very salty taste, so I doubt that I will be able to reuse this wax for honey bees.
If we could get the same results by imbibing the inside walls with oxalic acid, it would be better. Perhaps it would only deter the varroas from attaching?
 
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I don't know about 11$ for 12 oz, but here's 5 lbs for 14$

webpage
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Thanks Bob, that is a much better deal than the local home-improvement stores.

If my first two(concurrent) test runs making it myself fail , I'll definitely make that purchase.
 
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It is cheap to buy and in the quantities you will likely need the amount of time and labour you will need to invest - not to mention tonnage of greens - will likely be prohibitive. You also need to factor in the purification process. How do you intend to purify your plant juices, so that you do't inadvertent end up staining the floor with plant pigments?

You might find this link interesting - oxalic acid concentrations in plants.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxalic_acid#Content_in_food_items[33][clarification_needed]

Even plant with notoriously "high" concentrations are coming in at or below 2g per 100g of plant matter.

Instructions for treating wood suggest mixing 500g of crystals with hot water. So at a most optimistic you would need around 100kg of plant matter to get the needed acid, and likely at least double that as your extraction process is unlikely to be very efficient.
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Hey there Michael:  

See Dr. Redhawk's reply above about minimizing staining, lots of options to try(cold extraction, boiled root concentrate, and dried, then extraction.)

This article: http://www.plantphysiol.org/content/plantphysiol/56/2/283.full.pdf
lists oxalic acid concentrations in Oxalis pes-caprae as 2.5/100g, much higher than common food plants, and even Rhubarb, from which commercial oxalic acid is sometimes derived, is only avg 1% concentration.  So the prospect is not as utterly hopeless as you imply.

Furthermore, I am not just looking to "get" cheap product, but am finding a viable use of a waste product and invasive species on my land, which adds considerably great educational and ecological value to this endeavor.

Finally, I do not need it to be a perfect analogue of commercial product, as I only want to lessen severity of staining, and have no need to remove it completely.


Even educated, well attempted failure is more valuable than doing nothing just because "the internet" says it's possibly not going to be as good as the Commercial Behemoth.
 
Any sufficiently advanced technology will be used as a cat toy. And this tiny ad contains a very small cat:
Perennial Vegetables: How to Use Them to Save Time and Energy
https://permies.com/t/96921/Planting-Perennial-Vegetables-Homestead
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