More on "Smooth Hands"

This post started out as a comment intended for the Postulates and Pasttimes blog, to be placed in a post titled "What Smooth Hands You Have".  As I often do - I start getting long winded, and by the time I was done, what I had written resembles more of a post than a comment.

So, I did what any lazy mediocre blogger would do.  I proofread it, and make a few minor changes that fully transformed my "comment" into a "post".

(I do have to give credit where credit is due for the inspiration!  This time, it is Postulates and Pasttimes!  Thanks PnP!)

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My first job was at a local neighborhood family owned hardware store.  I worked there for nearly 10 years.  I learned a lot while I worked there, and heard / saw even more!  Your tale reminds me of one of the more memorable events that happened during my tenure at the store.

One Saturday afternoon, a guy come in for some supplies to do a "quick" job he wanted to do before having to leave for a wedding he was in (as a groomsman) that evening.  He was doing some fall insulating around the exterior of his house, and came in to purchase a can of Great Stuff - Expanding foam sealant.  You may know the stuff... It comes in an aerosol can with a straw.  After being dispensed, it grows and grows into a very lightweight (yet high insulating value) closed cell foam.  (Much like what Gorilla Glue sound like - although I have never used it.).  Great Stuff comes with all sorts of warnings and instructions, cautioning the user about the potential for problems while using the product.  A couple notable warnings include...

- Read directions and plan ahead for safety and best results.

- Extremely sticky. Prevent skin and eye contact. Wear gloves and protective eye wear.

- CLEAN UP: On solid surfaces, uncured foam dissolves with acetone. For skin and solid surfaces, cured foam must be mechanically removed or allowed to wear off in time.

Great stuff used to have (stored in the cap) a sheet of instructions on a waxy paper like sheet, with a plastic glove attached to the other side.  I warned the guy to be sure to read the instructions, and to use the glove (as I did with everyone who bought the Great Stuff), and sent him on his way.

Close to an hour later, he returned to the store with Great Stuff smeared all over his hands.  He could not get it to come off.  He looked me up in the store, and told me what had happened (he had ignored my advise) and needed help getting it off his hands for the wedding that evening.  He had tried everything that he had in his garage (gasoline, turpentine, paint thinner, etc...) and nothing worked.

We went to the solvent isle, and started looking through the products. 

corrosiveHe found a couple of products that he wanted to try.  Acetone (cleans "uncured" Great Stuff), and a mild paint stripper.  He went to the cashier and bought them, then asked if he could use our bathroom to try and clean the stuff off.  I let him, and went to help - warning him that he is doing this by his own accord, and that I recommended following the directions and let it "wear off" over time.  He again spoke of the importance of getting this off his hands for the evening's wedding festivities.

The first two products did not work.  What they did do was cause him some "discomfort".  He complained about how they made his skin burn.  Yet he was adamant that he keep trying stronger products to try and get this stuff off his hands.  I warned him about chemical reactions, etc. - but (just like with the instructions) he choose not to listen.

We returned to the solvent isle, and he grabbed the strongest solvent he could find.  It was a gelled "carpet adhesive remover".  As we read the back label, it was filled with warning, after warning, after warning.  Do not use without adequate ventilation, do not get in eyes, and do not allow product to come in contact with skin.  He was sure this would work.

After purchasing the product, I again escorted him to the back bathroom, and as he opened the can, the first thing I noticed was how the air "distorted" or appeared wavy as the fumes (no product yet, just the fumes) emanated from the can.  No kidding - you could actually watch the fumes cascade down the can...  I had a bad feeling about this one. 

This guy proceeded to gloop some of the gel on his hands, and started scrubbing away. 

Dangclass8The overwhelming odor of the fumes alone forced me to step out of this tiny bathroom, and it was not long before the guy really started writhing in pain with how badly his hands hurt.  I went back in to help him rinse the stuff off.  His hands were burning by now, and he wanted only cold water to try and "cool" the burning sensation. 

Water did not seem to help.  Within minutes, this guy was kneeling on the ground, with his hands still in the sink, screaming and crying in pain (literally).  I asked him over and over if he wanted an ambulance - to which he continually refused. 

After what seemed like an eternity, I left this guy to keep rinsing his hands (there was nothing more I could do for him).  I'd check on him from time to time, and found him (more than once) still crying - trying to reduce the pain from the burning.

45 minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom with skin that looked (what I can only describe to be) like raw flesh.  It was bright pink, and flaky - almost "dusty" in appearance (dead dry skin sloughing off).  He was sweaty, had bloodshot eyes, and a tear streaked face.  He said his hands were tingling, and the pain was still "significant" but tolerable.  He was obviously favoring his hands as he thanked me for trying to help him, and he headed out of the store. 

The Great Stuff was still visible on his hands.


  1. Wow. I hope this guy didn't reproduce.

  2. And you thought you only dealt with idiot in your CURRENT profession.

  3. Oh the things we'll do to hide our supidity!

    Though I stopped at the "varnish remover," which at first was cool and tingly, but which quickly turned painful, I can certainly understand what drove him.

    Poor guy. The fact that this stuck in your head tells me how bad it must have been.

    Phew! Ouch!

    BTW: I've used Great Stuff and you're right, it's IS sticky. It has a weird, oily stickiness, like I imagine napalm would be like.

    But, the Gorilla Glue is finally all gone. i think the last flaked off in the bed (nice thought that) Saturday night!


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