What is sulphur useful for in the home?

One of Evil Ex-Roommate’s many dubious legacies is a large jar full of sulphur. I have no idea what he was doing with it, first of all, and what he thought it might be useful for.

My guess is some kind of home remedy (it was produced by what seems to be a pharmacy supply company), but I honestly can’t figure out what. Any help?

      • Laxative? I have seen small jars labelled as this… why he’d have a huge jar I dunno. Stinkbombs? Did he keep a lot of black powder around as well?..

I’ve seen two home uses for sulfur – both involving fruit trees.

First, wetable sulfur is used as a dormant spray on stone fruit trees to prevent several fungi. Also, when you dry fruit, you can stack the trays of cut and pitted fruit under a tarp with a small pile of sulfur. The sulfur is then ignited and the sulfur dioxide produced helps preserve the fruit. The trays are then left out in the sun for the fruit to dry.

Sulfur is used by some people to repel snakes, but I’ve not seen anything supporting that it actually works in that regard.

It’s also been used to treat scabies, dandruff, and ringworm.

If I remember from Boy Scouts correctly, sulpher sprinked on the socks and pants legs will repel ticks and chiggers. Your roomie big into hiking and camping?

Sulphur can be used to kill ticks, but generally you’d scatter it on your lawn. Never heard of it being applied to clothes - permethrin is a much better solution.

Sulphur can also be used to fumigate for pests. A product called a “sulphur candle” is marketed in the UK for this purpose - it’s just a tin of powdered sulphur with a cardboard wick. You’re supposed to use it to clear out all the bugs in a greenhouse.

If melted, sulphur can be used to make very dimensionally accurate castings. I’ve used a melted sulphur candle to cast internal threads for an accurate measurement of the thread profile. You can apparently use it to take castings of footprints made in snow, if you’re into forensics. You can also apparently use it to seal metal posts into holes in concrete, although this may have corrosion issues.

Sulphur can be used for a few nifty science demonstrations. Molten sulphur dropped into water forms “elastic sulphur”, a rubber-like material. Unfortunately it soon loses its elastic properties. If sulphur is mixed with iron filings and water is poured on top, it will begin to steam and melt from the exothermic formation of iron sulphide. Pile dirt on top and you have a neat model volcano.

A more energetic version of the sulphur-iron reaction is the sulphur-zinc reaction, that has been exploited by amateur rocketeers to make solid rocket motors.

Finally, there’s always the home gunpowder industry, if your room mate was into that sort of thing. Rather frowned upon these days!

Did he also leave a beautiful rose garden out in the back yard?


It can be used to arouse nausea.

Sulphur is also good for fertilizing hot peppers. Or so the message boards for chili-heads claim.

Next year I’ll likely do a comparison of sulphured vs non-sulphured plants.


We used to have sulphur candles that looked exactly like wax utility candles with a cloth wick, except they were hard, brittle pale yellow sulphur. I understand the point was to leave one burning in a closed up room to drive off mold and mildew and insects and vermin (because of the acrid SO2 smoke).

IIRC, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ story contains a description of sulfur burning as a way to reduce contagion in sick rooms.

Burning sulphur and a devil outfit can really scare off the door-to-door proselytizers.

On a side note, does sulphur=sulfur? This has always confused me.

Sulphur = Sulfur
Blame the Americans, or the British, for your confusion.

Using molten sulphur?!? How? (I suppose if you sprayed it as a very fine mist, it might condense as a hard shell on the inner surface of the footprint… is this even close?)

It is used for cleaning up mercury spills. Granted, you probably don’t have a lot of mercury in your home … but if you have your own do-it-yourself mercury barometer, you are prepared in the very small occurrence of a mercury spill.

I highly doubt this was the intent of your ex-roommate.

One of Evil Ex-Roommate’s many dubious legacies is a large jar full of sulphur. I have no idea what he was doing with it, first of all, and what he thought it might be useful for.

Two words, STINK BOMBS!


Back in my carefree days of youth, I used to make my own gunpowder, and sulphur was a key ingredient.

Amazingly, I still have all 10 fingers.

There are some big sulfur rocks around here that when set on fire will hiss and drip ooze and generally make an ugly (but fun!) mess for quite some time.

Sulfur is the official IUPAC spelling as well as the usual American spelling. Seems fair to me since the un-Americans got aluminium as the official spelling of that element.