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Simple, easy DIY test for mg/mL nicotine. A Follow Up on DVAP's Method

Discussion in 'DIY E-Liquid' started by Þornbjörg, Oct 19, 2009.

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  1. Þornbjörg

    Þornbjörg Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Sep 27, 2009
    Tampa, FL
    Credit mostly goes to DVap. I modified his 'simplified' method, to use readily available supplies, and avoid having to dilute very strong HCl. See end of post for links.

    This is the test I use, and you can assemble your own kit for about $20.

    The Reason:
    Since there are no true production standards, and people like to mix their own liquids, this will allow you to test liquid for nicotine levels easily.

    The Kit:
    .12N Sulfuric Acid
    Bromothymol Blue
    Distilled Water
    10mL Graduated Cylinder, .1mL markings is optimum
    A paper towel

    The Test:
    1. Pour some distilled water in the cylinder, swirl it, dump it out.
    2. Repeat step 1.
    3. Repeat step 1.
    4. Dry cylinder with a sliver of paper towel.
    5. Put 1mL of eLiquid in the cylinder
    6. Add 2 drops blue
    7. Fill cylinder to the 3mL mark with distilled water
    8. Swirl to mix
    9. Add a drop of acid
    10. Swirl to mix
    11. If the color of the solution didn't turn pale yellow, repeat 8-9
    12. Measure the final volume
    13. Subtract 3 from the number you read in step 12
    14. Multiply the result of step 13 by 19.4712
    15. The resulting number is the mg/mL
    Notes on measuring: Always measure from the center of the liquid, where its at its lowest point. Never measure from the high point on the sides.

    Notes on adding to the cylinder: Avoid dribbling liquids down the sides, as it will skew results, since some will add to the amount when you swirl to mix. For an accurate end result, exactly 1mL eliquid must be used.

    Note on step 10: Over several drops, the color will go from blue to bluish-green to green, and when you've reached the 'magic drop', it will suddenly all turn yellow.

    Note on final result: If the manufacturer added acids for preservatives, it should not skew the results enough to matter, as they use very minute amounts. Also, as most DIY'ers can't read volumes to several decimals, bear in mind there is a small margin of error. I tested 12 different bottles, 10 of the results were within 1mg of their rated, all just slightly low, probably due to flavoring being added.

    Car, Caution, Cleanup:
    The .12N sulfuric acid and blue are designed for use by average home owners. They are quite safe to use. The acid is very diluted, so it won't eat holes in things. If spilled, the blue will stain.

    The distilled water has several safety concerns, if you're unaware, please see the many dangers it poses at the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division. Since this may catch someone who truly doesn't get it, think H2O.

    The real danger of testing is posed by the e-liquid. If you're testing high nicotine content liquid, a mL would be enough to kill childrens, pets, animals, even you. If you're working with very high strength, I'd caution you to use latex, rubber, or vinyl gloves.

    Disposal of solution after test should be as you would dispose of e-liquid. The most toxic part is the nicotine content. Unless you just poured out bleach or drain-o, you should be fine pouring it in the drain, so long as you flush the drain after with some water.

    After liquid disposal, rinse your testing equipment clean with plain old tap water, shake off excess water, and let air dry. The liquid does get sticky, and gets hard to clean if left to dry on.

    Cylinder is rinsed well.
    1mL of liquid labeled 24mg is added to the empty cylinder.
    2 drops of blue are added
    Distilled water is added until its at 3mL
    The solution is swirled
    A drop of acid is added, then its swirled, and this is repeated ...
    The solution turns yellow after several 'drop and swirl's
    The final volume is measured at just over 4.2mL
    Subtract 3 to get 1.2
    Multiply this by 19.4712 to get ~23.3, which is the actual mg/mL

    Where to get supplies:
    The acid and blue you can find in a local pool chemical supply store, in the test kit refill section. Both will be labeled with their actual chemical names. The magic number '19.4712' requires that the acid be .12N acid. Also, do not buy 'total alkalinity indicator' as its not the right chemical (the acid is usually right next to it).

    Distilled water must be distilled water, not mineral, not filtered, not tap, not carbonated. You can find it at the grocery store.

    Cylinders you can buy in hobby shops, for chemistry set piece replacements.

    If you want a handy little bottle for putting the water in, you can buy clean, sterile 60mL dropper bottles from tattoo supply shops for about $1 each. Just make sure you give it at least 3 rinses with distilled water before filling it.

    For those that don't have the options available to them that those in big cities have, and rely on internet ordering, here's a few links for you...

    Inexpensive lab equipment for DIY chemistry...
    10mL Glass .1mL-Graduated Cylinder

    Taylor pool testing chemical supplies...
    .12N Sulfuric Acid
    Bromothymol Blue

    The original 'simplified' method by DVap can be found here.
    The original 'expanded' method, also by DVap, can be found here.
    • Like Like x 5
  2. NightShadow

    NightShadow Super Member ECF Veteran

    Sep 30, 2009
    Tacoma, Washington
    Very handy, and the links etc make it easy for any to get the right stuff.

    Thanks to all who contributed!

    A few questions, may seem silly but I am sure others will ask that are not chemistry oriented:

    Is the tested liquid then safe to pour down your sink? (ie how to dispose of safely)

    Should people wear gloves or eye protection using this stuff?
    (what would happen if someone dripped the blue or acid on thier skin...accidentally)

    Do I need a rubber suit/apron? (people tend to think acid makes thinks like people melt like the evil witch)

    Must a glass container be used for this? (ie if I put the chemicals in plastic as thats all I had, will it either skew the results and or melt through and make a rather huge mess)

    While I did attempt to ask the questions in a humorous manner, I am not trying to make fun of anything, and seriously think at least a few will ask those types of questions after reading this. :)

    Thanks again!
  3. amione

    amione Full Member

    Jun 4, 2009
    Brilliant ! What many people have been looking for since quite some time.
  4. Þornbjörg

    Þornbjörg Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Sep 27, 2009
    Tampa, FL
    The most dangerous part of the whole process is the eliquid. Treat as such. Unless you just poured bleach or drain-o (lye) in the drain, you should be fine as long as you run some water afterwards.

    If you're a true-blue klutz, all of the above, and a helmet, and elbow pads.

    Seriously though, since the very-diluted-acid and blue come in dropper bottles, you'd be hard pressed to have spills. If you did spill, the acid would itch a bit until you rinsed it off, and the blue WILL stain.

    Remember, the dangerous part is the eliquid. If you spill, splash, fling, drop, toss, chuck, ram, or do anything else to it, treat as you would an eliquid spill.

    This isn't Oz, and the acid is over 99% water. No special apparel needed, unless you're trying to impress your friends, then just get a lab coat with pocket protector, and thick rimmed coke-bottle glasses.

    Again though, treat as you would eliquid.

    Not required, but recommended. Plastic likes to collect dust and chemicals in it, will discolor over time, and will warp when its around heat. Glass is less prone to the many things that plague plastic in testing equipment. Honestly, spend the extra $2 for glass. If the only thing you have is plastic laying around, it'd work in a pinch, but you need to increase the margin of error.


    Seriously though, the most dangerous part of the whole test is the eliquid. If you're testing some 80mg/mL stuff out, wear gloves. A single mL, if left to soak in, would be enough to kill most people. If you're handling low mg stuff and aren't worried about getting 'sticky fingers' from it, then you'll be fine. Treat and dispose of everything with the caution you give eliquid, since that's what's going to kill your children, pets, spouse, neighbor, or you.

    When I flushed my attys with the acid, I wasn't wearing gloves, and was holding the atty with my fingers. It itches just a little when it gets into the tender area between your fingers, but that's about it. I just washed my hands after and was fine. At .12N the acid really is over 99% water, so even lemon juice is more dangerous to the skin, but I still wouldn't drink it.

    The blue will stain, oh, will it stain. As per toxicity, its used as a consumable in medical testing procedures. I'm not going to say what, or how much, as drinking it will make you very ill. Those who have 'been there and done that' probably know what I'm talking about (they likely received it as a big blue pill), even if they didn't know what was involved. Just know it'll make you sick if you drink it, and if you drink it you'll likely be heading to the hospital in short order thinking you're going to die. I only ONCE used it in a prank, and the mark didn't talk to me for a few months after.. since they ignored me and went straight to the hospital. I went with, and got a stern talking-to from the doctor. Perfectly safe to handle though.

    If you're worried about the safety of distilled water, feel free to look up the many dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide. One city even tried banning products that contain it, lol.
    • Like Like x 2
  5. Scottes

    Scottes Super Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Aug 31, 2009
    Boston, MA
    That stuff will kill you!!

  6. raven9mm

    raven9mm Super Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 15, 2009
    awesome, thanks for the added info on supplies!
  7. jerrydon10

    jerrydon10 Unregistered Supplier ECF Veteran

    Thanks for posting this. I ordered this morning!
  8. NightShadow

    NightShadow Super Member ECF Veteran

    Sep 30, 2009
    Tacoma, Washington
    Thank you,

    I was not worried myself about doing this, simply playing devils advocate with the questions I felt people would be asking about it :)

    I fully support the banning of the Evil Dihydrogen Monoxide in its pure form however, as I am addicted to Mountain Dew and seem to use it instead. :lol::lol::lol:
  9. Þornbjörg

    Þornbjörg Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Sep 27, 2009
    Tampa, FL
    I figured as much, hence, why I took a light hearted approach to my reply.

    I still can't stress this enough though, very high strength eliquids are very toxic, and will kill pets, children, or even healthy adults if you spill a mL.

    Especially the 54mg and higher that some people are starting to sell.

    The kit itself is quite safe, if you keep it away from children and pets. The solution you end up with after testing is very toxic, due to nicotine.

    Dispose of it carefully.
  10. Doctor Vapor

    Doctor Vapor Super Member ECF Veteran

    Oct 9, 2009
    Charleston, SC USA
    Nice test !! Being a chemistry geek, I actually enjoy doing stuff like this, and that it can be done with readily available materials is fantastic. Thanks for posting.
  11. Frost

    Frost Full Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 22, 2009
    Chemistry geek aka an actual chemist in the forum? That would actually kinda put me at ease that an actual chemist approves the math here lol ... although I really have no way of confirming your qualifications lol
  12. DVap

    DVap Nicotiana Alchemia Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 26, 2009
    An actual chemist approves the math.

    My qualifications are on the thread where I documented the source method(s) for this determination along with quite a bit of validation work, see the references in Þornbjörg's original post if you need more information. :)
  13. Jason365

    Jason365 Super Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 18, 2009
    Where does this number come from? 19.4712
    I know its probably right in front of me to see but it would be nice if this is explained in the directions.

  14. Vaporer

    Vaporer Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 23, 2009
  15. Vaporer

    Vaporer Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 23, 2009
    If that isn't enough...............
    Look here:

    Or an excerpt from here:

    "To win a bet while I worked for a video game company, I smoked a cig while I had two 17mg snus packs in my mouth, and two nicotine patches on, immediately after chewing high strength nicotine gum for 10 minutes... without getting light headed, dizzy, or having heart palpitations. The bet was won by my not vomiting. Yes, there was medical personnel present, armed and waiting for my collapse."

    Interesting reading I think.
  16. popsec

    popsec Unregistered Supplier ECF Veteran

    Apr 19, 2009
    The only problem I see with this method is that many e-liquids contain acid(s). As such, the test will not provide extremely accurate results. For example, all four recipes at the wikipedia article list a concentration of acid from 1 - 2.5%.
  17. exogenesis

    exogenesis Super Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 1, 2009
  18. Jason365

    Jason365 Super Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 18, 2009
    I told you it was right in front of me. rofl. And yes I did read that thread.
  19. Þornbjörg

    Þornbjörg Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Sep 27, 2009
    Tampa, FL
    So people can understand where my magic number comes from...

    This post...
    ... shows where I ask DVap -who not only has a degree in Chemistry, but also works in a lab- for a little help with math (I'm so very very rusty... sigh... what you don't use, you do start to lose... don't ask me to calculate quadratics, lol).

    This post...
    ...shows my math, if you'd like to verify it yourself.

    My qualifications don't include college, but involve hands-on lab work side-by-side with a high caliber chemist for a few years. Sadly, haven't worked in anything resembling a lab environment for about 10 years, unless you count cooking or mixing drinks.
  20. Kate51

    Kate51 Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Mar 27, 2009
    Argyle Wi USA
    I'm in! THANKS very much...I have a whole Big bottle of VG nic that is either mis-labeled or faulty, will soon find out which.
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