Tidbit Tuesdays: Effectiveness of Homemade Cleaners

Most of us (I hope), have a general understanding that you can’t trust everything you see on the Internet, however, it is so easy to just believe what is seen because it seems logical, or because the results seem to speak for themselves.

I’ve found home made cleaners are an excellent case for this. To keep it short and sweet:

Acids and Bases

I’ve seen many recipes for laundry detergents and dishsoap calling for a mixture of (usually) castile soap (often Dr. Bronner’s) and vinegar or citric acid (for example this one). Castile soap is a base, and vinegar and citric acids are… well… acids. Dr. Bronner’s website has a good explanation of what happens when you mix the two products. Long story short, the castile soap reverts back to its constituent oils. It probably appears to work, because the hot water in a dish washer and the mechanical action will rinse the grime and (if hot enough) sanitize the dishes for the most part, and and remaining oil will give a clean sheen if noticeable at all. Now, it should be noted that there is citric acid in many soaps and detergents. This is for its use as a chelating agent for hard water. As Ms. Bronner explains in her comments, each soap is tested to see how much citric acid is the exact right amount to use per formulation. And of course, vinegar is a great rinse agent after cleaning. (It should be noted there is a bunch of commentary about the potential of vinegar to damage gaskets and other components in dishwashers and washing machines. I do not know if this is true or not at this time.)

Similarly, mixing baking soda and vinegar will produce a lot of fizzing as they undergo a couple reactions and ultimately produce carbon dioxide, water, and salt. The vinegar has some disinfectant qualities, but in terms of something like cleaning drains, it is really the hot water and baking soda that gets the grime moving. The Internet tells me the volcanic eruption of the baking soda and vinegar reaction help dislodge the gunk, but perhaps it would work better if the drain is plugged immediately after the application of vinegar to force the pressure downward. Or perhaps it would just lodge the gunk in deeper. Anyone up for an experiment?

According to the CDC (in relation to healthcare facilities):

“Some environmental groups advocate “environmentally safe” products as alternatives to commercial germicides in the home-care setting. These alternatives (e.g., ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, Borax, liquid detergent) are not registered with EPA and should not be used for disinfecting because they are ineffective against S. aureus. Borax, baking soda, and detergents also are ineffective against Salmonella Typhi and E.coli; however, undiluted vinegar and ammonia are effective against S.Typhi and E.coli 53, 332, 333. Common commercial disinfectants designed for home use also are effective against selected antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Link of Interest: Acid Base Reaction


J.G. Hovey

Just another person out there in the world. Follow the author's other endeavors at: A Parent With Glass, and ALTsapiens, and G+.

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