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In the context of the "occupy" protests, I've head a couple of times that you should carry a bandana or cloth soaked in vinegar with you, and in case the police uses tear gas/irritants, you should breath through it, or cover your face with it.

Here is one recent source.

Setting aside legal and moral aspects of preparing for such a situation, say you have a good reason... (and also the fact that is stinks...):

Does it work? If so, how?

I'd actually expect the contrary. The vinegar vapors would open up your airways and you would be incapacitated even faster.

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What kind of tear gas do they use? In West-Germany in the 80ies, there was the older CN-Gas, and a more aggressive CS-Gas in use. The myth of vinegar was known then, and known to be a myth, but I don't have any source - we didn't use the Internet over then. :) –  user unknown Oct 27 '11 at 15:48
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I know in WWI, soldiers in trenches would urinate on their handkerchiefs when there was a chlorine or mustard gas attack. The water reacted with the chloride ions to produce HCl (hydrochloric acid), which was pretty much what happened in the lungs of the target. I leave this as a comment because I don't know what chemicals are used in tear gas and don't know if there's a similar reaction. –  pfyon Oct 27 '11 at 18:47
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"incapacitated" is probably the less funny but more appropriate word choice. "decapacitation" appears to be a Biology term involving sperm. –  horatio Oct 27 '11 at 21:06
    
@user unknown, good question. I think in Germany they mostly use pepper/capsicum spray (fired by hand from spray bottles/guns), or CS/CN/pepper, depending on the state, mixed into the water in water cannons. Classic gas grenades are rare, probably because it is hard to control where it goes in an urban setting. I have no idea what's used in the US, I assume some sort of Mace (containing CN).... –  jdm Oct 28 '11 at 0:36
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Having been in CS gas while training for the army I can say this wouldn't work. CS gas will sting painfully any exposed flesh that it damp. It will sting you mouth, nose and throat but also you eyes, you armpits, your crotch, any scratches on your hands. Even if the vinegar works, you'd have to bath in it and wear the bandanna over your eyes. –  Rincewind42 Oct 28 '11 at 14:29
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1 Answer 1

Tear Gas is acidic, so is vinegar, so vinegar won't neutralize tear gas (if that's the thinking behind using vinegar).

Greek protesters use the indigestion remedy Maalox as an antidote to tear gas, indigestion remedies neutralize acid.

Sources:

BBC News Report

Properties of CS Gas - Royal Society of Chemistry's ChemSpider Database

Properties of acetic acid (vinegar) - Royal Society of Chemistry's ChemSpider Database

Properties of Magnesium hydroxide (the principal ingredient of Maalox) - Royal Society of Chemistry's ChemSpider Database

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