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Mozart's avatar

What is the clear liquid inside a Galileo Thermometer?

Asked by Mozart (489points) 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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11 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.

Kanan's avatar

I had a Galileo thermometer on my cherry entertainment center. While dusting the shelf, I hit the brass magnifying glass on the shelf and it slid into the base of the glass thermometer and cracked it. The fluid came gushing out as I went to move it. Within 30 seconds of trying to wipe it up, the liquid dissolved the finish and removed the stain on two shelves and down the door. There was an alcohol type smell but obviously another liquid was in the cylinder also. My unit is ruined. Be careful if you have one of these thermometers. Would like to know if anyone knows what liquid could have been in the thermometer.

DLeach's avatar

For anyone interested here is the link for the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for the liquid in the Galileo Thermometers… Just a heads up…. no it absolutely is not water!!!!

PatrynXX's avatar

Glad I’m not the only idiot knocking one over. The one we have/had has the Blue water glass for air pressure next to it. Always hated it because the Blue water pressure thing would never come out of the wood stand but the Galileo would often tip over right on out of the wood stand. And well this time I’d taken it out of the stand so I wouldn’t knock it over and viola knocked it over tried to catch it, exploded, blood coming out in strange patters and clearly it’s NOT water. :( One hand is white in spots. Brother things it’s a mix of Oil and possibly Keroscene. (it smelled like gas) So at least for the Cheney ones, for ruse not just water. I remember there being a bit of a warning about it. have a window open because the fumes really aren’t good to breath and here mom is laid up with a new knee and everyone else left so that wasn’t fun.

kristineb's avatar

I also broke my galileo thermometer. It fell off unto my wood floor and splashed all over my clothing on my right side. I went into cleanup mode, it was all over and the first thing I noticed was how oily it was. I cleaned it up with a number of rags and my basic H cleaner. It didn’t reck any finish on my floor or furniture. But I cleaned it up and forgot about it until the next morning I woke up with a solid red rash all over my right side. I didn’t relate the two, but the itching was horible. I went to the Doctor and She said you got into something. So then it dawned on me and I told her about the thermometer, She didn’t seem alarmed but accepted it as the answer. She gave me some cream, but 4 days later most of the red is gone but I’m still using the cream for the itch. Got me concerned so her I am checking it out. I’m not sure if I feel better or worse after reading everything.

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