For the Love of God, Stop Recommending Household Products for Self-Defense

I was listening to a local radio show recently when the discussion turned to the utility of knives and various other tools for self-defense. The producer had given one of the hosts a knife for his birthday, explaining that he thought everyone should carry a knife for self-defense. While he obviously meant well, I cringed a little at the thought of just handing out knives to people regardless of training (or, specifically, it’s distinct lack). Yes, knives are powerful tools for self-defense, but if you lack training to use it, a knife can be as much a liability as a benefit in an altercation.

As radio show discussions often do, the conversation devolved into callers recommending various moronic substitutes for self-defense products. It frustrates me to no end that there are people in the world who recognize the need for self-defense, but who think it is somehow more morally correct, more civically virtuous, to employ an improvised weapon whose overt purpose is more innocuous. It didn’t take long for some idiot in the audience to recommend a household cleaner product — in this case, Lysol.

I have to admit that Lysol is a new one on me. I’ve heard people recommend wasp spray and oven cleaner, and even the old hairspray-and-a-lighter trick, but never simple disinfecting spray. Even in my home state of New York, where everything is illegal, pepper spray is not. Why you would carry a household spray, or recommend one, over purpose-designed pepper spray for self-defense is an absolute mystery to me.

I’m not a huge fan of pepper spray. Just firing a Kimber Pepper Blaster produces enough noxious odors that your tongue will start to burn when the discharged weapon is held at arm’s length. I dislike the fact that pepper sprays are messy, imprecise, volatile, and prone to leaking (especially when subjected to temperature changes, such as locked inside a hot car). I hate that when you use pepper spray in self-defense, you’re likely to end up breathing some of it. I hate that you can never really predict where every drop of the stuff is going to go. I hate wondering if I’m likely to inadvertently release the stuff when I’m carrying it on my person in my pocket.

And it’s still a better choice than household cleaners.

Just how a person would choose to tote around a can of Lysol rather than a much smaller keychain pepper spray unit is never explained by the imbeciles who recommend this tactic. Have you ever met anyone just walking around with a can of Lysol? Can the average woman’s purse, no matter how huge, accommodate one? And how, when attacked, are you supposed to deploy this giant, slick-sided cylinder?

Even if you walked around all day with a can of the stuff in your hand, ready to go, using it presents other problems. Cleaning products are extremely unreliable for self-defense. Either they do little to nothing or, worse, they permanently blind your attacker. Think you’re having a bad day when you get mugged? Try explaining to a judge or a jury why you dumped a can of wasp and hornet spray — or worse, oven cleaner — into the assailant’s eyeballs, burning them out forever. You’d be surprised how little understanding juriesĀ have for that kind of thing. That’s not to mention the level of premeditation you’re demonstrating by staging a caustic chemical for “self-defense” before the fact.

So, consider the options. On the one hand, you have pepper spray, which is likely legal and which is a socially acceptable form of self-defense product. It does no permanent harm, it’s compact, it’s easy to carry, and its results are reasonably predictable, even if it is not always effective. On the other hand, you have the unpredictable results of a household chemical that is difficult to carry, awkward to explain, and which presents particularly troubling legal liabilities. Depending on the product, it may do gruesome bodily harm in a way that our legal system will interpret as malicious and gratuitous. Which would you, a reasonable citizen, choose to carry?

For the love of God, stop recommending household cleaners and bug spray products for self-defense. It’s time to put this myth to bed once and for all. And then to drag it out of bed and throw it into a deep hole. With a stake through its heart. Before covering it in dirt. And cement.

I mean, come on.

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