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I recently came across a suggestion in an old (first published 1893) book that a solution of ~1% cresol soap in water could be used as a way to store a particular kind of root without allowing it to dry out or rot.

I've tried searching, but have been unable to determine what cresol soap might be. The closest I can find are several shady poorly-translated websites selling Lysol as cresol soap, or possibly a mixture of the two.

Does anyone have a clue what this book could be referring to?

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  • $\begingroup$ Best guess is that it's just cresol (not sure which isomer). Phenol itself is considered an antiseptic agent that was the substance put forward by Joseph Lister for sterilization before surgery: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenol#History $\endgroup$ – Zhe Nov 14 '16 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ @orthocresol just felt like tagging you here, no reason ;) $\endgroup$ – getafix Nov 14 '16 at 5:32
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I suspect there are many other recipes that involve mixing soap, water, and crude cresol preparations of various kinds. In the era of cresol soap's invention and popularity, coal was far more ubiquitous than now, and the cresol sources were probably crude fractions of distilled coal tar that were enriched in various isomers of cresol. In those days awareness of potential toxicity from cresols was also not as developed as now. The "tar acids" in Jeyes' fluid probably include a variety of cresol isomers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Toxicity is kinda par for the course in a disinfectant -- they presumably started using it because it kills stuff, and it kills stuff because it's toxic. And, hey, in those days, they were so busy dying early of arsenic poisoning that they wouldn't have noticed the ffects of the cresols. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Nov 14 '16 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent research! I would go ahead and accept this now, except it seems odd to me that an American writing in the 1980's would refer to a product from the early 1900's. I'm going to leave this open for a bit just to see if there is some other niche use of the term neither of us were able to find that another user could be aware of. $\endgroup$ – P... Nov 14 '16 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, I should have accepted this answer long ago. Not sure how it slipped my mind so long, but I suppose better late than never. $\endgroup$ – P... Mar 13 '18 at 21:24

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