Sunday, January 20, 2008

Colloidal Silver, Part Three: Homebrew

See also:
- Colloidal Silver, Part One: Backstory
- Colloidal Silver, Part Two: Explanation
Coming soon:
- Colloidal Silver, Part Four: Results

[ Disclaimer: Any time you write about something related to health and medicine, it seems you need a disclaimer. So here's mine. I am not a doctor. I am not an expert. I cannot be responsible for what you do or don't do. I am not making any claims, nor selling a product. Be careful, be reasonable, be intelligent. Do your own research. I'm just hear to share some experiences. Insert all the standard disclaimers here: Void where prohibited. Not a Flying Toy. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball. ]

If you read this whole series, you'll notice I'm doing a lot of disclaiming and hedging and using lots of conditional words. The truth is that there hasn't been a ton of research on this, and there are many more anecdotes than published studies. Yesterday I referenced a source that says that there has not been a documented case of argyria (that permanent blue/gray skin condition) from low concentrations of colloidal silver. However, there have been cases of people contracting argyria from homemade colloidal silver. We usually don't know what concentrations or methods those people used. In fact, it's very hard to find out details about any of these cases at all.

And today I'm going to talk about how to make colloidal silver yourself. The information I have says the method I've ended up with will not cause argyria. But there are plenty of detractors out there, like this woman who contracted argyria and spends her time convincing people that colloidal silver is a bunch of hooey. And Quackwatch agrees. (Quackwatch is generally well respected, but has it's own critics.) You'll often hear of the case of Stan Jones, the Libertarian presidential candidate from Montana who contracted argyria from home made colloidal silver. But critics of this story say his methods were faulty. Back and forth it goes. So don't assume I know everything as fact. And since argyria can't be produced in animals or other artificial conditions, it may be a very tough question to answer. A lot of people use colloidal silver, and the number of actual cases of argyria is very small. So that's about all I can figure out on that front. If I ever start turning gray, I'll be sure to let you know... Meanwhile, on to the actual topic of this post.

To make colloidal silver, you need three key ingredients: Silver, electricity, and water. And to do this safely (disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer), we need to get fairly specific for each of these, so let's break them down:


This is actually fairly easy. You need very pure silver to do this. At least 99.9%, though it's just as easy to get 99.99% pure silver. 12 to 14 gauge wire is easy to find and to work with. I found two six inch lengths of 99.99% pure 14 gauge wire on eBay for about eight bucks. A local jeweler may be a good place to check as well.


I mentioned the uber-simple phone jack design in the previous post, but as it didn't work for me, we'll pass over that.

The traditional low-tech method for making colloidal silver is usually called the "three-nines" design. This is a dual reference to the three 9-volt batteries used and the three nines in the 99.9% purity of the silver you need. The very simplest battery-based design has you snapping the three batteries to each other in a staggered fashion that's easier to see a picture of than to describe. I don't have a picture handy, and when I tried this method, the middle battery became very hot and started hissing, so let's just call that one Not Recommended. From there I got some little 9-volt battery snaps from Radio Shack and wired them together in series. I added a little on/off switch and a lightbulb to test whether the connections were good. Honestly, after several experiments, at this point I'd pass on any 9-volt battery based design. It's inconsistent, and the results end up quite a bit murkier than I'd like.

Another method is to take the power supply from an old cordless phone or other device, cut the end off, split and strip the wires, and hook each to a length of silver wire submerged in water. Higher voltages are supposed to be better, so a 12-volt transformer would be preferred over a 4.5 volt one. If you're uncomfortable playing with wires in such a manner, you can buy a 12-volt adapter from Radio Shack that has two holes at the end of the cord that fit 12 to 14-gauge silver wire perfectly. This type of setup is supposed to work well, but like the phone jack method, I couldn't get any results at all. User error, I'd assume, but I didn't feel like spending a lot of time on it.

The one I finally settled on for myself was to take an old solar-powered car battery trickle charger I had laying around, and using it as my power source. You can find these on eBay as well, for about $25 or less. No batteries needed, nothing to plug into a wall socket, and for me it gave good results. Some electrical tape and a couple alligator clip wire ends, and I was in business.


This was more significant than I expected. I knew that tap water wouldn't work, but I thought that our fancy water filter would do the trick. But I think the fact that our water is softened, and therefore slightly saline was the problem. I don't think any water filter can take salt out of solution. Otherwise there'd be no need to build multi-million dollar desalination plants in some parts of the world. Anyway, the salt content was high enough that my little test lightbulb lit up even without the wires touching in the water. And the results were not good. Bottled water was better, but still not acceptable. It turns out that distilled water is really the only way to go.

Other stuff

You'll need some sort of vessel to make the stuff in. I'm using a mason jar with a plastic lid. (A metal lid wouldn't be a great idea since we're working with electricity.) I drilled two holes in it about an inch and a half apart for the wires to go through. You want the wires mostly in the water, parallel to each other, and an inch or two apart.

You may also want some sort of electrolyte to accelerate the whole process. "Electra who?" Okay, you've got three easy choices: salt, honey, or vitamin C (ascorbic acid) powder. The book I'm using recommends the vitamin C powder as the best option. And we're talking a tiny, tiny amount. The author uses a square wooden toothpick as a spoon. I just use the smallest amount I can manage to pinch between my fingers. Too much and you'll end up with a grayish cloudy mess.

So that's the parts list.

Here's the end result for my particular setup:

The solar panel is taped to a small wooden block to give it a nice 45-degree angle. My little multi-meter says it generates about 15 volts through the window screen and glass on a sunny day. Or 20+ if I put it outside. But I haven't found any need to. The two wires that come out of the panel are hooked to my two silver wires by way of little alligator clips. Some tape to hold it together, and then just aim it at the sun for about half a day. The higher your voltage, the quicker your results, though faster isn't necessarily better. I had much better results from the 15-volt solar charger than I did with the 27-volt "three nines" design.

If everything's working, you may see some bubbles forming on one or possibly both of the wires. One or both may also darken. If it looks like it's giving off big gray smoky wisps, or if the wire is getting really black, it may not be going well. You can clean the wire off periodically, and this may help. Or it may not be enough. If the water turns gray and/or cloudy, it's not going well. When you're done, you can use a clean scrubbing pad (like ScotchBrite) to clean the wires off.

As for the liquid, what you want to end up with is something that has a golden color to it, about like a cheap American beer. It may have a blueish or grayish tinge to it that comes and goes depending on the light source or angle. But you don't want a really cloudy gray.

Here's a photo of a good batch (foreground) and the start of a problem batch (background). On the background batch, you can see there's some pretty smoky looking wisps coming off the wires.
I didn't clean off the silver wires with my little srubby pad before starting. Usually I stop and clean them every so often while the batch is "brewing", but I couldn't find the pad and didn't really need to make more anyway. I just set this up for photos.

If you shine a flashlight (or sunlight) through good colloidal silver, you'll see the beam of light converge almost to a point as it passes through the liquid. This is a form of the Tyndall effect, and is supposed to indicate a good batch (disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer). Here's a photo to illustrate:

For a cool little science experiment, don't put the electrolyte in right away. Wait for 15 or 30 minutes. The water will probably still be clear. Drop in the electrolyte and it'll instantly start turning the water yellowish.

Anyway, that's all I've learned about making colloidal silver. If I get a bad batch, I just use it for non-internal purposes. Homemade colloidal silver can be inexact. But as a commenter on the previous post points out, even if you buy it from somebody else, you need to do your homework on which companies are reputable.

I've tried using colloidal silver for a wide variety of (mostly trivial) things... which I'll tell you about that in the next post.




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