Copper sulfate is found in many household products that you may use throughout your life. Its primary use is as a component of fertilizers, as a pesticide, but rarely will you find it in your everyday cleaning products. Copper sulfate can be toxic if taken in a large enough quantity, but poisoning rarely occurs unless it is consumed through oral ingestion.
Is Copper Sulfate Dangerous To Work With?
Copper sulfate is really only a dangerous product if you ingest it as a solid, or breathe in large quantities of mist. The compound can cause hemorrhaging in the digestive system, heart rhythm problems, bleeding, convulsions, paralysis and death in insects and other creatures, including humans.
Precautions When Using Copper Sulfate
When using copper sulfate make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after, avoid the release of the product into the environment and wear protective gloves/clothing/eye protection and face protection.
Product One: The Mary Poppins Chimney Cleaner
Copper sulfate is used as a chimney cleaner, especially for metal chimneys of wood stoves. When wood burns, certain chemicals such as resin may not be completely vaporized unless the fire is over 250 degrees. Fireplaces burn wood above that temperature, but wood stoves often burn at lower temperatures. When that, happens a substance called creosote builds up. If copper sulfate is applied the creosote burns off.
Product Two: Herbicide/Fungicide to Protect Your Tomatoes
Copper sulfate is also used to clear drains of tree roots. When a root is clogging a septic system, copper sulfate is flushed down the toilet to kill the roots. In the same way, for areas of high humidity where roof algae or lichens are a problem, copper sulfate may be sprayed on the roof to prevent buildup. Likewise, copper sulfate can be used as a spray to prevent fungus from growing on tomatoes.
Product Three: Fertilizer For Deficient Vegetables
Commercial fertilizers have copper sulfate in their ingredients, from all-purpose fertilizers to specialty fertilizers for orchids, azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias, plus those suggested for growing vegetables. Copper sulfate is added as a copper source. Mild copper deficiency causes leaves to dry out at the tips and a more severe deficiency results in twisted leaves and leaf death. Leaves produce the sugar of the plants so that vegetables may lose flavor due to copper deficiency.
Product Four: Animal Pesticide to keep Unwanted Insects At Bay
Snails and slugs are serious pests for gardeners. A wet mixture of copper sulfate and lime painted on tree trunks and garden walls is an effective barrier to snails and slugs. This mixture is often used by organic gardeners. Copper sulfate is poisonous to all insects and animals, so follow all precautions on the manufacturer's label.
Andy Watkins has a B.S. in biology with emphases in botany and genetics from San Diego State University. Watkins has written on biology and earth science, K-12 education, gardening with native plants, techniques for dry walling with natural rock and travel in the southwest, Canada and England.