How Understanding Chemistry can help you in Daily Life

Forget your high school chemistry textbooks. Learning the atoms and molecules isn’t going to help you get that coffee stain off your shirt or pants.

In our daily routine life, Chemistry may not seem a big deal to many of us. But the truth is, Chemistry itself is an important and essential component that can both affect us and help us almost every single day. In workplaces, homes, schools and even in camps or hikes, knowing how to apply chemistry (as opposed to chemistry theories) in everyday situations can help you a great deal in getting simple tasks done, and it may even help save a life!

If you are thinking along the lines of a mad scientist mixing nitric acid with cotton just to get nitrocellulose to create a bomb, well…you may be a little too imaginative but that also means you are on the right track. Creativity does play a big role in our ability to make good use of chemistry at the right time.

1) The workplace:

Oh no! You have accidentally knocked your coffee cup over and now your shirt/blouse is stained with coffee! What do you do? First, take in a deep breath and relax. There’s no need to panic. While coffee stains can be tough to remove, it is not impossible to do so.

Step #1: Wash the stain under running cool water or soak for about 20-30 minutes in cool water.

Step #2: Blot, not rub, the stain with a detergent. Do avoid using soap however, or any other forms of chemicals containing natural soap, as soap can make the coffee stain permanent!

Step #3: Repeat steps #1 and #2 until the stain is completely removed.

2) At Home:

You find that your gold and silver jewellery are starting to tarnish and turn black, but do not do have the appropriate solution to keep them clean. Fret not, as there are a few simple ways to make your jewellery shine again:

For a slightly milder wash:

Step #1: Sparingly moisten your silver/gold jewellery with water.

Step #2: Place them in your palm, then pour a generous amount of baking soda over your jewellery.

Step #3: Gently rub with your fingertips until all the tarnish is removed.

Step #4: Finally, wash with cool water and leave to dry.

In particular, to achieve a stronger cleansing effect especially for gold jewellery, toothpaste makes a better option, as its sodium fluoride content makes it a more abrasive solvent. To keep it clean,

Step #1: Use a soft toothbrush and dampen it before scrubbing lengthwise so as to reduce the chances of scratching or marring the metal surface.

Step #2: Rinse in cool water.

As baking soda and toothpaste are both abrasive solvents, their use as cleansing agents should be left as a final resort though, if other alternatives are not readily available.

3) In Schools:

With the ballpoint pen being the most commonly used, accidents of getting ballpoint ink stains are more likely to happen. If the ink gets onto a uniform, here are a few steps to get rid of it:

Step #1: Put on some rubbing alcohol on the stain. After that, add vinegar.

Step #2: Repeat the procedure until the stain lightens.

Step #3: Coat the stain with table salt.

Step #4: Rinse it under the tap in very hot water.

As an alternative, you can also try using hair spray as a form of solvent to remove the ink stain.

4) Out on Camps/Hikes

Lastly, if you are of the more adventurous type and going on hikes or camps is commonplace to you, then here are some tips on how you can make good use of chemistry to protect yourself from harm, or even to prevent a potential fatal death!

Keeping snakes (especially poisonous ones) away:

Sulfur is most commonly used as a chemical to keep these wiggly reptiles away. Its infamous smell of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is so obnoxious that no snake will dare to come anywhere near it.

Treating bees and wasps sting:

If one gets stung, the wound can usually be treated simply by:

Step #1: Removing the stinger immediately as swiftly as you can.

Step #2: Apply a meat tenderizer to the affected area. Papain, the enzyme in meat tenderizer, is known to break down the protein in bee venom responsible for causing pain and itching. If you have the papaya fruit with you, use it as a substitute as papaya is rich in papain. Don’t leave it on for more than 30 minutes though, or it can cause skin irritation.

Step #3: To further purge the toxins from the wound, the skin calming calamine lotion can be used. Moisten baking soda and water can also give a similar effect.

Step #4: Finally, to prevent a potential anaphylactic shock from setting in, always keep the wound lower than the heart.

From these simple applications of chemistry to solve the routine problems that can be encountered anywhere and at anytime, we can’t deny the fact that chemistry does affect us in our daily lives, and more importantly too, understanding chemistry also paves the way to a safer, easier and more meaningful lifestyle.