That Time I Nearly Made A Chemical Weapon In My Bathtub

It was an accident, before I get put on some sort of watch list. And it was all a spider’s fault.

(There are no pictures of spiders in this post, I am not a monster.)

My hatred for spiders is legendary. Once, at about three o’clock in the morning, having been standing on my sofa unable to get off for several hours because a big hairy one was running around on the living room floor, I called an emergency locksmith to come and get rid of it for me.

“You’ll have to break into my house,” I told the bemused person on the phone, “because I can’t get off the sofa. Then you’ll have to kill a spider for me. Can you get someone to do that?” They sent a very pleasant Romanian man who told me horror stories about the size of the spiders in his home country, and who seemed to think the giant beast in my flat was fairly cute.

After the locksmith incident, I went on a “cure your spider phobia” day at London Zoo. The day involved a triple whammy of education, hypnotism and hands-on experience. The education bit was interesting, although now I know things I really wish I didn’t know, like how those giant spiders that come scuttering across your floors in the autumn live inside your walls all the time and only come out because they want to make baby spiders and need to find a mate. Also, they can survive being washed down the plughole, and can survive being hoovered up. Spiders are very hard to destroy.

The hypnotism bit didn’t work, because apparently I am almost impossible to hypnotise. The hands-on experience bit was exactly as horrible as it sounds.

The London Zoo day helped a bit. It made me OK with small-to-medium spiders, which previously had also struck fear into my bones, and which now I just regard as an annoyance. But the big hairy ones? NOPE NOPE NOPE.

So far I have lived in this flat for three years, and until yesterday there had been four substantial spiders. When the first one appeared, I ran to the Post Office where my friend works and begged him to come rescue me, which he did. The second time it was 1am and the Post Office was shut, so I ran out of my flat in my pyjamas and socks, down the street in the rain, and arrived sopping wet at the door of a local pub, which I banged on until the person inside opened up. “Are you afraid of spiders?” I asked him, and explained my dilemma. He gave me a bit of an odd look, but agreed to come and kill it for me.

The third time I had people over, so one of them got rid of it for me. And the fourth time I’d just taken the bins out and was turning to go back inside when I saw a big hairy one right in front of the door. I tried to wait it out, I tried to scare it away, but instead it ran towards the door and I realised it was going to end up inside the house. At that point I ran down the road until I found one of my neighbours, whom I’d never met before, unloading his car. I explained the situation and he came and rescued me, looking like he couldn’t decide whether to be amused or just despairing.

Every time this happens, I give myself a pep talk about how I have to be able to deal with them on my own at some point. For one thing, asking strange men to enter your house in the middle of the night is not a great idea. Also, my retirement plan is to move to a remote cottage in the Scottish highlands, and if it’s anything like the country houses I’ve lived in before, it will have many big hairy spiders.

For this reason I’d sort of been hoping for an opportunity to try not to be so terrible with them, and I’d also been hoping that my first solo dance with a big hairy spider would be in the bath (it, not me. Definitely not both of us), because then at least it’s contained.

So when I was sitting on the toilet last night and happened to glance to my right and notice a fucking huge one in the tub, I thought Right. This is it.

I was pretty calm about it, all things considered. I went into my bedroom and tied my hair back (nothing like those little wisps of hair that feel like spider legs, amirite?), put some clothes on (no way was I dealing with this fucker naked), and devised a plan.

And then I nearly set off a chemical weapon. Whoops.

The thing is, now I’ve been on the spider course and know how resistant these evil beasties are, I wanted to make sure it was definitely dead. So I took several steps to ensure this would happen (if you’re at all squeamish or sad about the prospect of a spider dying, do not read the rest of this post).

  • First I poured a big bowl of water into the bath, to wash it down to the end that has the plughole so I could see it better
  • Next I sprayed it with Raid to immobilise it (what they don’t tell you about Raid is that it will make them stop moving eventually, but they’ll take their sweet time about it, extending your mini heart attack for at least a minute)
  • Then I poured an entire bottle of bleach on it, since from previous experience I know this kills them
  • Then I washed its corpse down the plughole
  • Finally, just to make extra sure it was definitely dead and gone, I poured a bottle of drain unblocker down the plughole too

Once I’d done all that, I congratulated myself on my (admittedly slightly overenthusiastic) kill and triumphantly texted my BFF. He replied with a “Yay! Well done!” but then pointed out something I hadn’t known…

So I looked it up, and yes it does. Mixing bleach and ammonia creates a dense gas that was used as a chemical weapon in WWI and that kills you by essentially melting your breathing apparatus. I ended up in a Google hellhole which told me that since the gas is denser than air, you not only need to leave the place the chlorine gas is in, you also need to evacuate any downstairs neighbours.

Great, I thought, this is going to be a fun conversation.

But then I kept googling, and I realised the type of drain unblocker I’d used happened to be OK with bleach, so I wasn’t gassing anyone. Also, apparently most household cleaners don’t have the right concentration of ingredients to actually create a chemical weapon, which is a good thing when idiots like me exist.

Next time I’ll just set the house on fire instead.


    1. When I was in South Carolina I found a GIANT bug in the bathtub of my motel room. It was some sort of cockroach beast, I’d never seen anything like it before. Luckily the motel owner got rid of it for me!

      Liked by 1 person

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