Violating Federal Law:

It is, I am informed on the warning label, a violation of federal law to use my new bottle of Fantastik™ brand heavy-duty kitchen cleaner "in a manner inconsistent with these directions." Really?! So if I don't shake well before use, or I use on porous materials, I'm violating federal law? I've started noticing this little tagline on lots and lots of labels for lots and lots of products (I'm something of a compulsive label-reader) -- does anyone know what federal law they're talking about?

Wild stab, but can something in the ingredients be used either for making some drug or an explosive?
8.21.2008 11:40am
Big E:
If it's an ammonia based cleaner you can mix it with a chlorine bleach to make your own WMD.
8.21.2008 11:44am
Michael B. (mail):
Probably something to do with meth - like you didn't already know.
8.21.2008 11:48am
I think it's the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
8.21.2008 11:52am
Perhaps this: 7 U.S.C. § 136j(a)(2)(G) makes it "unlawful for any person . . . to use any registered pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling." This not my area of expertise, but the definition of "pesticide" in § 136(u) seems awfully broad.
8.21.2008 11:52am
Frog Leg (mail):
Insecticides have the same warning. FIFRA in fact specifies that any product licensed under FIFRA has to be used in a manner consistent with the directions given. (Of course, this doesn't apply to Fantastik.)
8.21.2008 11:52am
Frog Leg (mail):
Oops, DC beat me by a few seconds.
8.21.2008 11:55am
More likely it refers to the inhalation of the product to produce a high, or "huffing."
8.21.2008 11:58am
Frog Leg (mail):
Other reason why this might be on many product labels: Corporate lawyers see putting such a warning as a deterrent against misuse, thereby possibly lowering the number of product liability lawsuits. It might be false, but it's a falsity that no one could sue them on.
8.21.2008 11:59am
DC2 (mail):
The EPA includes "Kitchen, laundry, and bath disinfectants and sanitizers" within its understanding of the term "pesticides."
8.21.2008 12:04pm
one of many:
I suspect it really is 7 USC 136, absurd as that sounds. It's the phraseology that lends credence to the pesticide claim, the EPA mandates that exact warning for several products. 7 USC 136.
8.21.2008 12:06pm
DiverDan (mail):

If it's an ammonia based cleaner you can mix it with a chlorine bleach to make your own WMD.

Actually, what you'll get is Nitrogen Tricloride, which is too unstable to be used as a WMD; it will precipitate out of the liquid as a yellowish gel, and is so unstable that even loud sound waves or a gentle touch can set it off, even when wet. The chemist who discovered it lost three fingers in the process. You are much better off mixing ammonia with tincture of iodine, which will produce a much safer contact explosive, Nitrogen TriIodide, a reddish brown precipitate that is perfectly safe when wet, but when it dries completely it can be set off by a touch, or even loud soundwaves. Not really a WMD, but great for schoolboy pranks (paint it while wet onto those old black Toilet seats you can still find in some older schools - first one to sit on it after it dries will get a most unpleasant surprise!)
8.21.2008 12:25pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
So, what happens to me if the feds find out that I'm using (say) carpenter ant poison to kill hornets?
8.21.2008 12:25pm
Houston Lawyer:
Must be the same law that makes it illegal to remove the tag from my pillow.
8.21.2008 12:25pm
DiverDan (mail):
whoops - "Nitrogen TriChloride"
8.21.2008 12:27pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Remember, kids, don't try this at home!
8.21.2008 12:41pm
one of many:

Actually, what you'll get is Nitrogen Tricloride, which is too unstable to be used as a WMD.
I suspect the OP was referring to bertholite (chlorine gas), an occasional product of ammonia cleaner/chlorine bleach interactions, the chemical part of the NBC triangle of WMDs (not everyone considers chemical weapons to be WMDs but what the hey, we can consider it one). Whether or not you will get bertholite from any given ammonia cleaner/chlorine bleach is questionable but I recall reading of a case where pool cleaner mixed with brake fluid of all things created bertholite.
8.21.2008 12:49pm
Richard Campbell (mail):
"pool cleaner mixed with brake fluid of all things created bertholite."

Pool cleaner mixed with anything strongly organic will produce fire and chlorine gas...brake fluid works extremely well.
8.21.2008 12:58pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
8.21.2008 12:58pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
The Law of Unintended Consequences.
8.21.2008 1:01pm
Bored 3L:
I always thought the Volokh Conspiracy was a good name. I didn't realize the commenters were *serious*. Muriatic acid (werx toilet bowl cleaner) plus tin foil in a closed container = werx bomb. Growing up on a farm is fun.
8.21.2008 1:02pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
Aw, but you shouldn't worry about being prosecuted.

I mean, unless you are in the Central District of California.
8.21.2008 1:05pm
PatAtty (mail):
How many federal statutes does this thread violate?
8.21.2008 1:16pm

How many federal statutes does this thread violate?

For more on this, see Prof. Volokh's article in the Stanford Law Review on Crime-Facilitating Speech.
8.21.2008 1:32pm
Matt Bramanti (mail) (www):
"Must be the same law that makes it illegal to remove the tag from my pillow."

Actually, you can remove it. The seller can't.

The point of the law is to require disclosure of the materials, so consumers know whether they're getting a mattress or pillow stuffed with new material, or one with recycled material that could contain vermin.

The relevant statute is 15 USC 70c.
8.21.2008 1:50pm
David Warner:
"does anyone know what federal law they're talking about?"

I'm curious why this question is formulated in the singular rather than the plural. Is there any doubt that several could be found to apply if need be?
8.21.2008 1:57pm
theobromophile (www):
I noticed the same thing on a container of foamy bathroom cleaner the other day. Wondered if I was violating federal law by using it to also clean other surfaces.

I also wondered what "inconsistent with this labeling" really means.
8.21.2008 2:04pm
It's all preposterously-unconstitutional nonsense, of course, unless you happen to live in DC or on a military base. NOT that I'm volunteering to be a test case, I should hasten to add. :-(
8.21.2008 2:10pm
"The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws." -- Ayn Rand
8.21.2008 2:11pm
I used to store bagged cat litter and lawn fertilizer in the same location of my garage until one day I accidentally poured fertilizer into a litter box. My outraged cat found a different place to urinate and I lost a good pair of shoes.
8.21.2008 3:37pm
rjschwarz (mail):
You assume Federal Law means the Federal Government and not Joe Federal who like his cousin Murphy has lots of laws about consequences.
8.21.2008 4:03pm
rjschwarz (mail):
To bad Darwin had a theory and not a law because that would make for fun packaging.

Warning, it may be a violation of Darwin's law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with these directions.

That might get more attention.
8.21.2008 4:05pm
DiverDan (mail):
Actually, using some products in a manner inconsistent with the directions might win one a Darwin Award
8.21.2008 4:33pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Bored 3L -

"I always thought the Volokh Conspiracy was a good name. I didn't realize the commenters were *serious*. Muriatic acid (werx toilet bowl cleaner) plus tin foil in a closed container = werx bomb. Growing up on a farm is fun."

I'm sure it's a violation of federal law to ask this, but: Do you mean real TIN (Sn) foil or common aluminum foil? Also, what's the mechanism here - gas pressure buildup?

When I was a kid growing up in Boston - a couple of blocks from what is now Senator Kerry's town house - we used to drop bits of aluminum into a lye and water solution; this was mixed in a glass quart ginger ale bottle (it gets hot!) and along with the heat, releases lots of hydrogen gas which we would collect in a balloon held over the bottle neck. The balloon, when full, would be released with a fuse attached to drift over Beacon Hill and explode a few hundred feet up. I don't suppose anyone ever noticed, but it made us feel gloriously naughty.

Now, if we had thought to tie on some streamers of aluminum foil instead, we might have had fighter planes coming to investigate, this being the hot part of the Cold War....

Just remember, we're all grownups now, and we're not supposed to do this sort of was fun, though....
8.21.2008 5:05pm
Brooks, it's aluminum foil. 2xAl + 6xHcl --> 2x(AlCl3) + 3x(H2). The H2 part is a flammable gas.
8.21.2008 7:05pm
K1avg (mail) (www):
Oren is correct. In AP Chemistry, we used to put a bunch of mossy aluminum chunks in an Erlenmeyer flask, pour in some reasonably concentrated hydrochloric acid, quickly stopper it up with a rubber stopper with a tube through it, light the gas discharge coming off the end - basic flamethrower. Great for pranks and other such tomfoolery.

We tried it once with powdered aluminum and quickly decided that probably wasn't a good idea after the flask more or less exploded and spewed HCl over our lab station and the stations on either side.

Oh high school...
8.21.2008 8:36pm

It was also possible to get military air bases really excited about UFO's with hot air balloons dangling aluminum foil strips. And very, very easy.

Get a pair of foot long balsa strips and glue them together in a X with a nail through the center. Stick a light weight, but not small, candle on the nail. Glue some foot long aluminum foil strips to the balsa X. Glue the ends of the balsa X to the four corners of ye olde plastic laundry bag.

Voila! A small and, at night, invisible hot air balloon which produces a relatively large radar reflection, at least at close range.

Go to a military air base and find a spot as close as possible to the one of the runways which also lets you escape by vehicle real fast. Wait until midnight. Fluff the laundry bag open, ignite candle and wait for the balloon to take off. Then get out of there.

The close-in invisible balloon (emphasis on aluminum foil strips dangling from it) wafting to and fro in the breeze a mile or so from the base's traffic control radar will seem, on the radar, to be a larger UFO much farther away darting around at incredible accelerations and speeds.

I can hear them black helicopters now.
8.21.2008 8:43pm
8.21.2008 9:34pm
If Zombie bin Laden ever reads this thread, there's gonna be hell to pay.
8.21.2008 9:58pm
I suggest following my approach to this problem. To minimize the risk of violating Federal law, I don't clean my kitchen.
8.21.2008 10:04pm
Curt Fischer:
Photo of Oren's chemical reaction in action:
8.21.2008 10:45pm
Ya NEVER shoulda tried taking it onto an airplane! Good luck and say hi to your new roomies in Guantanamo :)
8.21.2008 11:29pm
Jmaie (mail):
Pool cleaner mixed with anything strongly organic will produce fire and chlorine gas...brake fluid works extremely well.

I recommend a coffee can, looks like a propane torch with a very large aperture.

Substitute Pepsi for the brake fluid and you get a very nice volcano. Best done outside.
8.22.2008 12:00am
Two science-fiction writers I know (well, one of them published only a few stories) developed, produced and used their own home-brew phosgene recipes for gopher control.
8.22.2008 12:02am
>The close-in invisible balloon...will
>seem, on the radar, to be a larger
>UFO much farther away...

I'm guessing this won't work the way you're expecting it to given that RADAR stands for Radio Detection And RANGING
8.22.2008 4:42am
Thatguy (mail):
hehehe, leftover helium tank after fire dept open house + garbage bags + empty beer 12-packs + aluminum foil + chem lights + bored firefighters = lots of fun.

Also, it takes 10 garbage bags of helium to lift a (safely tethered) obnoxious little dog off the ground.
8.22.2008 9:51am
jb9054 (mail):
Show me the man; I'll find you his crime.
8.22.2008 10:14am

That depends on the unit. Computers have made the things much, much better than they were 35-40 years ago.
8.22.2008 12:31pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
It is a combination of statutes, court precedents and practices, and administrative practices, not all of which are published, or admitted to. Here is an incomplete list:

1. Evevything that is not mandatory is prohibited.
2. It is prohibited to lie to a governmment investigator.
3. It is prohibited not to answer questions of a government investigator.
4. It is prohibited to seek redress against a government investigator who violates your rights.
5. All government employees and contractors are investigators.
6. It is forbidden to privately prosecute a public right.
7. It is forbidden for a private person to take a complaint to a grand jury and receive an indictment authorizing him to conduct a private criminal prosecution.
8. It is forbidden to inform members of a trial jury that the charge is unconstitutional.
9. It is forbidden to demand that official acts be presumed unlawful until proved lawful.
10. It is forbidden to seek or get remedies from government officials.
11. It is forbidden to win in court without being represented by an expensive member of a profession whose members are under threat of removal from that profession if they challenge corrupt or abusive practices of government that threaten powerful interests.
12. It is forbidden to present proof that government witnesses are lying, or that the judge is lying about what the law is.

Every one of the above can be found in many actual cases.
8.22.2008 1:19pm

Now I remember how it worked - spoofing the radar operators into wrong assumptions. They'd get a large enough radar reflection up close, apparently on or just beyond the runway, to indicate it should be something visually observeable, but couldn't see anything visually because the puppy was so tiny. So they'd assume equipment error and that it was a really big object farther away, and one behaving exactly like a classic UFO.

F-4 Phantoms scrambling at night on full afterburner produced a really awesome tail flame.

It probably couldn't work these days due to computers improving the radar readings, and really good night vision equipment.
8.22.2008 2:31pm
Tim A. (mail):
I should have known I was violating the law every time I used oven cleaner to remove the crappy chrome from the parts in the old plastic model kits.

Oven cleaner works great for that as long as you don't leave the plastic parts in there for too long.
8.24.2008 5:33pm