Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Clayton Disinfector

A rare photo of the Clayton fumigating a house in 1914.
The Clayton Disinfector was a fumigation device used to combat plague and other diseases spread by rats and insects in the early 20th century. The device emitted sulfur-polyoxide gas, usually diluted to 10-12%. The Clayton worked by burning sulfur in the apparatus and blowing the gas through the fumigation tubes.  The gas passed through a device that cooled the gas before entering the area being fumigated. The gas was left for about eight to twelve hours before being removed. One pound of sulfur could be used to fumigate 400 cubic feet.

The gas was effective against bubonic plague spores, cholera, and typhoid. In small doses, the gas actually worked as a preservative for meat and was not harmful to other food items, with the exception of fruits and vegetables and any type of liquid.

The Clayton Disinfectors were used to disinfect cargo ships to ensure that they did not transport diseases from port to port. They were also used in hospitals and any other infested building. Additionally, the Clayton was used in sewers and drains to kill off rat populations.

When used in ships, the apparatus would be fastened to a small tugboat that could be brought close to the larger ship and the fumigation tubes thrown onboard. For buildings, it was attached to a cart that made for easy transportation of the device.

It could only be used in confined places, as open areas would not be able to hold the gas for the needed time to kill the infestation. Despite this, the Clayton Disinfector had many uses and was one of the best extermination systems available at the time.


For more information on the Clayton Disinfector see:



An illustration of the Clayton fumigating a cargo ship.


Another illustration of the Clayton in action.

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