So, these days, if you’ve had a cartilage piercing at a piercing shop, you will have been sprayed with ‘freeze spray’, aka, ethyl chloride.

For those not up on their organic chemistry, Ethyl Chloride is an alkane with a Cl group bonded to a carbon. It’s formed through the hydrochlorination of ethene, which changes it into a, chemically, very interesting substance. 

Aside from being used as an anti-knocking agent in engines, a blowing agent (yes, giggle away) and cosmetic thickening products, it’s most commonly used within medicine and modification.

So, how does this work?

Well, as most people know, different substances have different boiling points, and ethyl chloride has a very low boiling point. Water, obviously, changes from a liquid to a solid (water to steam, duh ><) at 100C, whereas ethyl chloride has a boiling point of just 12.3C!

This means, when it hits anything above this temperature, it boils immediately. So, when that piercer of yours sprays it on your skin, it boils!

But, because it has such a low boiling point, as it boils, it draws the heat from the area. This means, as soon as it hits that ear of yours, it’ll boil, and draw the heat away from your ear, making it colder!

This, in turn, has its pros and cons!

The Good:

  • Nervous clients calm the f down when it’s sprayed, it’s like a placebo effect that actually works (sometimes)
  • It’s not that economically unviable (not that anyone really cares about that ><)
  • It, on the whole, numbs the area and makes it a little more pleasant.

The Bad:

  • It can actually make the piercing process harder, as the skin hardens, meaning more effort is needed to get the needle through, which can cause excessive trauma.
  • It can be dangerous is overused.
  • If it’s used on mucus membranes, like the nose, sexual organs, and mouth, then you can welcome necrosis with open arms!

The Ugly:

  • If overused by an incompetent piercer (there are a lot of them!) The following can happen. Please note, this is my navel piercing, which was botched, due to ethyl chloride misuse and clamp closing.

This documents the progression of the burn:

TWO HOURS IN: Note, that redness around a new navel isn’t uncommon, but when it hangs around for more than a few hours, then watch out!

DAY TWO: Bruising becomes more pronounced and darker


DAY 7: It’s started to calm down now, but, 18 months on, I still have the scar!

Right, so, now we know what ethyl chloride is, and how not to use it!

If you have any questions at all, just head over to the ask box! I’m here to help guys!

*I am aware I have an awfully hairy stomach… ><

Posted: May 27, 2011 • 9:19 PM
With: 13 notes
Filed Under: #piercing #ethyl chloride #navel #freeze spray #what not to do #emily's piercing guides
  1. revam1ss reblogged this from awfulmodifications and added:
    Ughhh that photo. Vomittt.
  2. nomorepiercingguns reblogged this from hayflick and added:
    Not necessarily about piercing guns, but good info to have anyway.
  3. awfulmodifications reblogged this from hayflick
  4. hayflick reblogged this from hayflick and added:
    So, these days, if you’ve had a cartilage piercing at a piercing shop, you will have been sprayed with ‘freeze spray’,...
  5. moondustforbrains said: holy shit! I would be sooo pissed about that! that’s an intense scar!