General Question

Mozart's avatar

What is the clear liquid inside a Galileo Thermometer?

Asked by Mozart (482 points ) September 28th, 2010

Ok, so I stupidly knocked over the Galileo thermometer that was sitting on top of a shelf, and managed to cut myself a little with the glass too while I was picking up all the mess. A little later I was noticed that the room smelt a bit funny now, especially where the thermometer smashed. I always thought that is was only water in it but I guess not. I googled for a bit and a few links came up, Wikipedia saying that it’s just water, and a Yahoo Answers link claiming the liquid can cause ‘methanol poisoning’ or something (which was more than a little unnerving, I must say). Yahoo Answers isn’t known for it’s content though so I decided to ask you guys. Does anyone know what this stuff is?

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6 Answers

Katexyz's avatar

I have one of those myself, and no need to worry, it’s just water.

zen_'s avatar


Google good.

Lightlyseared's avatar

It can theoretically be any liquid but it’s usually water as water is easily available safe and somebody else has already done all the buoyancy maths.

If you did manage to cut yourself with a piece and it is methanol then it would sting a little but wouldn’t cause you any harm.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Usually it is just water. Sometimes it is mixed with an antifreeze. If you didn’t ingest large quantities, I would not worry too much. The water in Galileo thermometers can get stale, which could account for the smell.

Dog's avatar

It is likely not water.

It does look like water but usually is:

Diethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether 2—(2-Butoxyethoxy) (ethanol)
and Hydrotreated heavy naphtha (petroleum).

If broken be careful that is it not exposed to open flame.

Use damp rag to clean up. Rinse rag extremely well then hang OUTDOORS to vent as rag dries. DO NOT place it wet into a sealed rubbish bin as it can ignite.

Vent room.

If you are concerned about your cut then call posion control- it is free- and tell them the above. They can tell you if you need to take further action.

(I know you do not have this issue but I am adding the following information for anyone looking for help seeing this question later)

If ingested do NOT induce vomiting and immediately call poison control.
If you get it in your eye flush eye for at least 5–10 minutes and contact a doctor.

drdan's avatar

the liquid inside a galileo thermometer is NOT WATER. It is KEROSENE. I just broke mine last night. It smelled like kerosene to me. So after I soaked up the fluid with rags, I tossed them into the fireplace to see what would happen. Guess what, they burned like rags soaked in kerosene. Very volatile stuff. I won’t have one in my house again.

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