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A full bottle of jewelry cleaning (links product and material safety data sheet below) broke in my car and went unnoticed for a few days. Now the car has a sulfur-like smell whenever I go into the car. It dissipates within a few minutes, but then returns very quickly once I leave the car.

The primary chemical components are alcohol ethoxylates, and can decompose into carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide nitrogen Oxides, sulfur oxides and other toxic gases.

I have cleaned the area and had the carpet (rear driver) shampooed from a car detailer, but still the smell remains.

What chemical compound can I use to neutralize the smell permanently (enter equilibrium)?

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  • $\begingroup$ Did you break a bottle with a cleaner for gold or one for silver? $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Dec 20 '14 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ Klaus, you're pretty amazing. I thought it was for gold, but you are right, it is for silver (my wife just woke up and confirmed). $\endgroup$ – Brian Dec 20 '14 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ Brian, don't tell her that it would not have happened with a cleaner for gold ;) $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Dec 20 '14 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ The reason the smell "dissipates" after a few minutes is actually that your nose starts to ignore it. $\endgroup$ – Geoff Hutchison Dec 20 '14 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ ""The primary chemical components are alcohol ethoxylates, and can decompose into carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide nitrogen Oxides, sulfur oxides and other toxic gases."" Absolute Nonsense $\endgroup$ – Georg Dec 21 '14 at 22:49
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I guess that it actually was a silver cleaner, not one for gold or precious stones.

The latter mostly contain nonionic surfactants, which are made by the reaction of water-insoluble long chain alkanols (C12 - C15, from natural fatty acids) with oxirane. These washing agents dissolve well in water and help to remove grease and fingerprints from the jewelery. Their action isn't much different from that of a dishwasher for manual cleaning.

These cleaners don't smell the way you described and the car retailer probably used similar cleaners for the car.

Silver cleaners are a different league. The do contain the same surfactants (washing agents), but in order to actually remove the tarnish (silver sulfide) from the silverware, they do also contain a bit of acid (typically sulfuric acid) and thiourea, which probably is responsible for the smell.

Repeated shampoeing probably is the best method to get rid of the thiourea without ruining the carpet.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why wouldn't you recommend a basic detergent or shampoo to neutralize the acid? $\endgroup$ – Nick Dec 20 '14 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Nick Acidity did not seem to be the problem, thiourea is. Since this is everyday-chemistry, I'd always suggest the most skin- and material-friendly method, which seems to be solubilisation of the thiourea plus dilution of the acid rather than neutralisation. $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Dec 20 '14 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ Ammonia might break up the thiourea, but then ammonium sulfide would form and last! Some hydrogen peroxide or hypo bleach might solve the problem, but beware any textiles. $\endgroup$ – Georg Dec 22 '14 at 16:37
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Homemade Carpet Fresh I would recommend a home made dry cleaning using diatomaceous soil compound. This will eliminate the problem of toxins and erosion of the metal interior under the carpet. Use some DAP mixed with your favorite dry detergent and vacuum it up. If plaster of Paris is not available basically any spackle will work. Mix 1/1

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