Doug stelenes at
Tue Apr 14 17:32:26 EDT 1998

Lee Davidson wrote:

> I have noticed that a little bit of Windex is an effective means of
> grounding and killing flies, wasps, and so on, and also seems to put
> roaches and spiders out of commission. My guess has been that it
> clogs up their respiratory system, suffocates them and all. But that's

> only a guess. Can someone explain to me the mechanism behind the
> fatal effects of ammonia -- as I assume it's that ingredient in Windex

> which is active here?

Ammonia gas (:NHHH, or :NH3) is toxic base (as in "acids and bases")  It
has a single "electron pair" sitting opposite a nitrogen atom with a
tripod like
base of 3 hydrogens.  The causes a strong ploarity in the tiny molecule
that allows
it to get into and around all kinds of biomolecules (proteins and other
designed macromolecules) and tease all kinds of sites until it finds one
to react
with, which isn't hard.  A question like "Why is an acid toxic" would be
similarly.  Except in that case, instead of the reactive electron pair
an acid has
a Hydrogen atom it wants to unload in a reaction with its first
accepting victim

Ammonia reacts with water to form ammonium hydroxide (NH4OH).  I don't
have Windex
handy, but would guess that although some ammonia is continuously
present due to a
natural equilibrium which exists between the two compounds (ammonia and
hydroxide), some of the killing effect is from asphxiation (replacing
oxygen gas with other gases such as ammonia such that not enough oxygen
is breathed
in), some from byproduct gases created by ammonia, which conceivably
could include
chlorine if bleach is present in the solution, as well as the production
of soluble
ammonium hydroxide in the "bloodstream".

Why might ammonium hydroxide toxic in small quantities?  It is probably
because of
"ammonium" which is basically a solublized form of ammonia, which
happens when an
extra proton forms a type of "bond" with the exposed electron pair,
the polarity.

To answer why ammonium is toxic I think still only God knows at this
point.  It is
actually a very important toxicological question even to human
toxicologists.  A
theory, however,  in people (which could be similar in Leps) is that
concentration of ammonium triggers the production of more of one amino
(glutamate) and from glutamate, even more of another amino acid
basically glutamate plus the original Nitrogen of the ammonia that
started this
question).  While both amino acids are normal building blocks for most
including humans, an unmanageable amount of them is believed to directly
brain function.  (as in coma and shutdown).

In people, urea in our urine and sweat is the body's way of disposing of
the extra
nitrogen.  Some unfortunate individuals are born genetically unable to
do this.  If
they do not die of a coma, their whole life is a precious balance of
avoiding N and
the amino acids mentioned.

So your original conjecture that Windex and ammonia "clog" (clog meaning
healthly molecules with denatured gunk), perhaps adding suffocate with
possibility of neural disruption is probably a good one.  The
respiratory channel
is certainly the first part to get vapors including the ammonia and its
nitrogen products, thus is first to react.  However, chemically, I doubt
is special about the way they are attacked, vs. other macromolecules.

Do the insects and spiders drop dead for good, or if you take them out
of the
killing chamber, do they come to again and seem to behave normally at
intervals of time after initial exposure.  That morbid test might be
extended to
determine the extent of asphyxiation vs. permanent damage, although
would not be
conclusive.  I personally would choose a less brutal avenue approach, if

entomological literature and internet fails:  Ammonia toxicity from
water is also a
problem for sea-life especially fish, maybe some conclusions could be

Hope these comments help.


Douglas David Dawn
N.  25º 37.408'
W. 100º 22.003'
Altitude 910 meters
Sylvania Pinus-Quercus

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