Weird, gross problem of the day


Nic McPhee is looking for a solution to an odd problem: a bat died and rotted on some fine furniture, leaving a nasty protein residue. Give him some suggestions on how to clean wing of bat off wooden furniture.

This might call for the expertise of a witch.

Comments

  1. Paguroidea says

    It’s fun to see people’s solutions.

    I just went to Unhindered by Talent and didn’t see any comments for the bat post. Sometimes it takes a while for comments to appear after being submitted on that site.

  2. says

    There are now five excellent suggestions (some of which have also appeared here) and some follow-up.

    Comments have to be moderated in response to the never ending flood of spam. Sorry. If I made more time for blog management I’d finally get around to updating my anti-spam stuff and could perhaps make it so that things show up right away, but for now we have the low-tech annoying solution. Sorry.

  3. Observer says

    I did tell him:

    Observer Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    February 4th, 2007 at 16:21
    Goo Gone. It won’t hurt the wood.

    http://www.organize-everything.com/googone8oz.html

    Or Bat Be Gone…

    He’s probably been busy trying scraping off bat goo.

    *****

    Did you see this NG video showing an octopus eating a crab in a tank? The domed tank is pretty cool:

  4. says

    Tell Nic to LEAVE IT THERE!

    The collectors pay big money for that “weathered” look, and antiques with a back-story. Looks like he’s got both. Now all he has to do is find a total sucker. For what its worth, I’d try Pat Boone first.

  5. craig says

    Here I am trying to learn how to use liver of sulphur and other noxious things to get interesting grungy stains ON to things, and someone comes along with a stain so cool I could never hope to recreate it, and they want to clean it OFF.
    Sheesh.

    Incidentally, in case anyone cares, I recently discovered that squirrel pee has a very interesting and not unpleasing effect on copper… that is if you’re looking for varied patinas.

  6. Selma says

    Well, mayonnaise takes out water marks, might work for the poor ol’ batty. Probably the combo of fat and acid. You slather it on, let it sit and rub it with a soft cloth.

    Depends on the finish, he might have to scrape, sand and refinish the top.

    Any kind of pee, sorry for the tech terminology, creates verdigris – the workers who built the Ontario Legislature peed on the roof like crazy to turn it green. At least they said that was the reason they did it…

  7. Toaster Sunshine says

    It may be more economical to buy new furniture than to try this, but perhaps a concentrated solution of a purified protease, like proteinase K, with some EtOH and NaOH might work. If possible, get a proteinase that doesn’t effect Trp-Phe bonds, since it is my understanding that that is the basic monomer of lignin. I dunno what it’d do to cellulose, though.
    Or if you’re really determined, you could strip the furniture of its finish with turpentine and just refinish the whole thing, it’d probably smell better in the end.

  8. says

    1. Introduce leeches to clean up the bat gunk
    2. Introduce beetles to clean up the leech gunk
    3. Maggots for the beetle gunk
    4. Ants for the maggot gunk
    5. And finally, bats to polish off the ant gunk.
    Substitute cane toads for any of the above steps.

  9. says

    Gotta love it when Paul takes up your cause :-). Thanks to everyone for the ideas!

    @Daephex: My mom didn’t suggest not cleaning, but she did think I should write the story in tiny letters on the wood before we re-do the finish. (This was assuming the lacquer thinner approach.) The bookcases in question were wedding presents from my parents, and I calligraphed our initials and wedding year onto both of them before they were finished, so they already have some story and character :-).

    @craig: What do you make the stains for? My wife uses tea to do cool staining in her art, but I’m not sure how she’d feel about using dead bat bits.

    @Markk: I think that’s definitely the best solution on the list. And we just happened to have some cane toads in the basement!

  10. craig says

    Nic, I’m using it for patinas on copper, sometimes bronze, a few other metals. I have a whole gob of chemicals for different effects.
    There’s a squirrel that likes to come in and snoop in my kitchen and he peed on one piece that already had a nice variegated patina on it. He variegated it more.

    The one metal I’m dying to try working with is nickel, but I can’t find a supplier. Since I’m not an industry or university they turn me down for “safety reasons.”

  11. says

    Craig: That sounds really cool, and something my wife would definitely like. Do you have any photos somewhere one could look at? I’d love to help on the nickel front, but all I could find in the couch was some coppers, cookie crumbs, and a shriveled grape working hard on its raisin impersonation.

    I confess, however, to being clueless as to the safety issues surrounding nickel. Is the nickel itself potentially hazardous, or are their common reactions that do/produce bad things?

  12. Flex says

    Craig,

    I assume you have tried connecting up with some the blacksmiths in your area? I’ve run across a couple which have worked with nickel. They may know a source.

    I ran into the metallurgy instructor from our local community college a year ago, and we had a long converstation about casting. We talked about steel, iron, bronze, and copper. I don’t recall that we spoke about nickel, but he was an enthusiast and really wanted to show me how to work molten metals.

    The only place I deal with nickel is with PCBs where we use a nickel barrier between the copper and gold. But I wouldn’t recommend trying to scrounge nickel from PCBs, there is too little there to make the effort worthwhile.

    Good luck.

  13. tominwv says

    Scrape the bat lumps off with a paint scraper, spatula or some similar device working carefully from the edges to the center taking care not to damage the finish. Use metal or plastic, whatever your skill level will allow. Make sure the edge is clean and smooth and the corners are rounded.

    Once that is done the slime can be removed with mineral spirits, available anywhere paint is sold. This is non-reactive with all finished except wax and oil. If you have a poly or varnish finish on the furniture that may have provided the wood with enough protection. If it is lacquer and the bat didn’t penetrate the finish into the wood clean with mineral spirits. If it marred the finish and it cant be wiped off as described, or you have a compromised lacquer finish and it penetrated to the wood, ie, colored the wood, or if it is a shellac finish the finish will have to be removed. Common paint stripper can be used and it wil deal with the organic residue since that is what most finishes are any how. I use it to degrease the crevaces around handles on my frying pans. Sure beats scraping-up the calphalon. Wood damage may be sanded out or cleansed with solvent short of cutting through the wood patina and creating a bright spot.

    Treating a chemical discoloration from the wood being soaked in bat guts will probably require bleaching. This is done with swiming pool chlorinator, oxalic acid or a combination of industrial hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide in order of toxicity. The whole area, such as a drawer front or table top needs to be done, spot repairs create their own problems. After that the color needs to be reintroduced into the wood to match the rest of the piece. Then a clear finish is applied to also match.

    Or you could call a professional.

  14. Jake says

    After removing as much as possible with a scraper, you might try an enzyme product designed to clean up pet soil (now, there’s a euphemism). It worked wonders on some liquified dog scat on an unsealed hardwood floor in our house.

  15. says

    I have seen bats petrified in place where they died aperch (if “aperch” is not a word it should be). Almost as hard as the rock they were clung to. Makes a great index fossil.

    This is definitely a Goof-Off situation.

    The other option is to get additional bats and develop a motif.

  16. says

    OK, it took forever, but thanks to the joys of Spring Break I finally found a few moments to clean the shelf with the dead bat bits stuck to it. A huge thanks to all the people who left their suggestions as to how to sort out the problem both here and on my blog.

    Goo Gone was the most common suggestion, so a trip was made to the local hardware store and said cleaner was acquired. And it worked beautifully! I dripped a little on, let it soak for a few minutes as per the instructions, and then wiped it off. It took a little rubbing in places, but it all came off, and without too much effort. There is much rejoicing!

    Huge thanks too everyone who was kind enough to share their ideas, and especially to those who coveted the new character that our bookshelf had acquired. I’m sorry to say that the Goo Gone has completely removed that character without any markings on the wood whatsoever.

  17. lytefoot says

    Witches like our wing of bat fresh. We struggle as much with the stains it generates as anyone else.

  18. Andrew Price says

    DON’T TOUCH IT WITH YOUR HANDS

    In North America wild bats often carry rabies and dead bats are especially suspect (they died of something…) as are those found indoors.

    Use gloves, dispose of bat bits very carefully.

    Take care with any other detritus you find around too.

    If you find more dead bats, consider reporting to your local public health org.

    :)