What Fume Hoods Are For

The last time I was in California, I bought two pairs of leather shoes. Given the wide range of weather I experience in my current locale, I always treat my shoes with some weather-protector spray stuff.

If you’ve ever used this stuff, you will know that it has a nasty, organic chemical smell. Now, the smartest thing to do would have been do would have been so spray the shoes out on the apt. balcony in California and let them dry out there. But, I didn’t have the spray stuff there, and I knew I did have some in Grad School City and I didn’t want to buy another can of the stuff. So, I brought the shoes back to Grad School City unsprayed.

If I had really thought it all through, though, I would have just bought a can of weather-protector in California and called it a day. Because my apt. in Grad School City is small. So the smell of the stuff would be very powerful in the apt. and would probably give me a headache. And it’s pretty cold in Grad School City right now, so I don’t want to leave a window open.

This morning, I was getting ready for lab when I had an epiphany (if this had been a cartoon, a light bulb would have appeared over my head). I’ll bring the shoes to lab and spray them in the fume hood! Which is exactly what I just did. And I left the shoes in there because they always smell a bit for awhile after you spray them.

The funny thing is, a labmate just went into the room with a fume hood and came back out and said nothing.

Me: Are you using the fume hood today?

Her: I just went in there to get some beta-mercaptoethanol [which we keep in the hood].

[Pause while I wait for her to comment on the pair of shoes in there. She continues what she’s doing.]

Me: So, I suppose you’re wondering why there’s a pair of shoes in there?

Her:  Well, one time I had a lot of perfume on my scarf, so I left it in the fume hood for awhile so I guess I thought it was something like that.

Apparently, nothing surprises my labmates anymore.  Not even shoes in the fume hood.

2 thoughts on “What Fume Hoods Are For

  1. Problem solving like that is part of being a good scientist!

    I once worked with someone who got chewing gum on his favourite pair of jeans. After ice cubes and home freezing didn’t work, they started showing up in the lab. First in the -70 freezer, then the -135. He eventually got the gum off using liquid nitrogen.

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