Fireballs -- an easier variant on the paper brick (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Mon, 01 Oct 2012

Fireballs -- an easier variant on the paper brick

I wrote, some time ago, about making burnable paper bricks as an alternative to shredding sensitive paper material that also helps keep you warm in winter.

We recently got pulled in to help with disposing of quite a large cache of sensitive paper, and have discovered a much faster method than the "let sit and stir occasionally" technique.

[goosh the soft paper into balls] The trick is to use hot water, ideally with a little soap added. Hot soapy water breaks down the paper quite quickly; the soap helps it break down, and may also help the paper stick together better as it dries.

Stir the mess around a bit, and in as little as a few hours you can fish up handfuls of paper goosh them into nice compact tennis balls. (Though if you can let it sit overnight, so much the better.)

Try to squeeze out as much water as you can, and keep the balls reasonably small, so they'll dry quickly. Ours have been ranging from tennis ball sized to softball sized.

[fireballs, drying] Then put the fireballs out in the sun to dry. We have them on a tarp in the backyard. If anyone visits, tell them it's an art project.

They feel fairly dry on the outside after a day or two, but of course the insides are still wet -- I'd let them sit for at least several weeks before throwing them into the fireplace. Don't want to smoke up the house! Fortunately, with temperatures in the nineties, I don't think we'll be needing the fireplace terribly soon.

[oops, maybe this wasn't the  best bucket to use] Do check first whether your bucket's in reasonable shape. The first bucket we tried turned out to be brittle, and the bottom exploded a bit after putting the paper in. Oops! Brittle Bottom Syndrome seems to be a common fate of buckets that sit out in the backyard for too long.

But at least this photo shows the state of the paper after a short time sitting in the soapy water. I don't think anybody's going to be reading names or credit card numbers off any of these documents, whether or not they're gooshed into a ball.

We're accumulating so many fireballs that I'm hoping to try burning a pyramid of them some time this winter.

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