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Turns Out Poppers Are Good for Things Besides Butt Sex

Can my little amber bottles of "video head cleaner" actually clean my video heads?

by David Dancer
Apr 25 2017, 10:37pm

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For years, it's been obvious that poppers aren't exactly the smartest chemical to vigorously huff. It sometimes seems like a new article or piece of research emerges every month emphasizing their potential consequences—eyesight damage, increased risk of contracting HIV, and rarely, sudden death.

But many of us gay men are more than willing to glaze over the dangers of our colorful little bottles for their "bedroom enhancements." I'm as guilty as any of enjoying the burst of head heat they impart. All kinds of aromas can have adverse effects on your body—just try walking into a Bath & Body Works without vomiting.

Because of the risks, getting your hands on poppers carries stigma and red tape. Poppers aren't easy to come by in many cities and states in the US; their sale is illegal in Canada, and they were almost banned last year in the UK. But here in the good old US of Haayyyy, you can still buy poppers online and in adult stores—IF you know what to ask for, because "poppers" are illegal here.

But video head cleaner, room odorizer, leather cleaner, and a whole laundry list of other uses for the tiny amber bottle of amyl nitrates isn't.

These days, every huff of the drug I love brings a concurrent pang of regret. And as I wonder what the hell I'm doing to my body, I'm faced with the question: Is it time to finally put my poppers collection to their intended use? What else am I supposed to do with dozens of lube-sticky amber bottles, after all, if not odorize my rooms?

To answer that, I decided to roll up my sleeves, grab some poppers and get elbow deep… into a Sunday spring cleaning marathon.

Cleaning My Clock

I have two prized vintage possessions in my household: a Hamilton brass mantle clock and a 10 milliliter bottle of poppers under the brand name Fisticuffs, discreetly labeled as "clock cleaner" in fine print. And with the Hamilton covered in grime and dust residue, my clock was well overdue for a polishin'. I dabbed a few cotton swabs into the Fisticuffs and used it to get deep in crevices and corners, and what do you know—the Fisticuffs was fantastic at removing old tarnish and achieving an original factory-like shine. Color me impressed!

What a Crock!

Like most Americans, Sundays in my household are all about watching Long Island Medium and Crockpotting. When I upgraded my Crockpot to a larger stainless-steel model earlier this year, I was able to tackle recipes I couldn't fit into my old model—but over time, splatters would stick to the outer stainless-steel housing and leave dull, crusty marks that aren't easily removed. So I put some of my aerosol Jungle Juice "cleaning solution" to the task. I spritzed a couple of trouble spots, and after letting them set for about ten seconds (and enjoying a delicious shiver from the subsequent headrush), I rubbed them out with a cotton ball. The "cleaning solution" truly did its job—I could nearly see my reflection after. Go to hell, Martha Stewart!

Leather Fetish

For my next experiment, I chose an off-label bottle sold to me under the pretense of "leather cleaner" from a local leather/sex shop. Earlier this year, I bought a vintage leather jacket off Craigslist, sold by the roommate of a man who'd just been sent to prison—the good stuff. It was pristine with hand-painted artwork, but I wanted to remove a reference to a street gang added by the original owner. In an attempt to spot clean this otherwise hardcore punk masterpiece, I dipped a Q-tip into the unlabeled bottle and delicately dabbed off "San Pedro Scumbags" like it was Photoshop's Magic Eraser tool. Much to my surprise, it actually worked as a leather cleaner without discoloring or visibly damaging the area. Maybe poppers really did start as a leather cleaner, and some fisting pig decided to take a whiff while cleaning his chaps? That guy is probably blind and/or dead now, so the world will never know!

Runner's High

I was recently disappointed with the rapid discoloration of my new running shoes—I rarely run outdoors, but that white trim quickly collects scuffs and marks from walking in general. I then took a bottle of Rush—the Nike of poppers—to my black-and-white Nikes. A very fast swipe quickly removed any evidence that these shoes have been used in a Planet Fitness. Perhaps they exclusively grace the pillowy, spotless track of the Beverly Hills Equinox…? I'll never tell.

Video Heads

One of the most common aliases for poppers is "video head cleaner," for some reason. I don't recall my father ever prying open our VCR with a screwdriver and treating the mechanisms with a bottle of Locker Room—I'm pretty sure there was a simple cassette cleaner you could pop in and let it automatically run a short cycle—but with every other poppers brand sold as "VCR cleaner," hell, it's gotta be good.

I have an old VCR in storage (for emergencies!), so I followed a simple YouTube tutorial on how to open and clean its heads with rubbing alcohol. I went with a tall bottle of Blue Thunder 150 "video head cleaner" that I initially christened on a trip to Palm Springs. I gently rubbed the head of the unit with a cotton swab, which then transferred black residue onto the cotton—clearly it was doing something. Ideally I'd test a cassette tape to see if it enhanced the performance of the machine, but I can't remember the last time I saw one in my apartment. But this machine smells as clean as I felt after my trip to the desert.

David's 50 Huff Weekend

In place of a VHS, though, I decided to try cleaning the next wave of home entertainment technology: Digital Video Discs. There are all kinds of DVD spray cleaners and wipes on the market, but I went with the latest addition to my home collection of nitrates, Jungle Juice Black Label. I dabbed a little bit on a cotton ball and made gentle swirls around a copy of Dawson's 20 Load Weekend my good friend Bryan gave to me. As I watched fingerprints and dust from improper storage and handling instantly vanish from the reflective layer, I knew I'd made Dawson proud.

While I was able to make fantastic domestic use of these potions—many of which feature advisory flame illustrations and other general warnings on their adorable labels—I couldn't forget the fact that they're mostly found on the same shelves as buttplugs, XXX movies, and flavored lubricants, rather than at your local Home Depot. And despite those potential vision problems and other health effects, I know a lot more people who ended up in the hospital due to contaminated lettuce than anything to do with poppers, and I know a LOT of piggy bottoms.

If poppers aren't your jam, that's cool. And if you're put off by the research-based evidence that they'll possibly murder your eyeballs, at least now you'll have other alternatives for your leftovers before tossing them in the trash.

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