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Green cleaning ingredients that do not mix  RSS feed

 
master steward
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I've been reading about green cleaning recipes lately and I noticed that a lot of them include "mix vinegar and baking soda together and wait until they stop frothing".  

Something in my memory has a problem with this.  An acid or a base (alkali) each have their own antibacterial qualities.  Some dirt reacts with an acid, others with alkali.  But mixing an acid (vinegar) with a base (baking soda) creates something that is neither.  If my memory of high school chemistry is correct, it creates water and some sort of salt.  Water and salt are good cleaners, but these recipes all claim that mixing baking soda with vinegar gives us the cleaning power of both.

Today I discovered this article: green cleaning ingredients that do not mix

I feel vindicated.

See.

BAKING SODA + VINEGAR = WATER AND SODIUM ACETATE
Baking soda and vinegar are a bubbling combination, BUT those bubbles are not doing any deep cleaning.

The risk: Wasting your money. Baking soda is basic while vinegar is acidic, their reaction produces water and sodium acetate. This is an ineffective homemade cleaning solution of water with a tiny amount of salt in it.



That site is a goldmine of good quality green cleaning information.  

It also gets me wondering about other cleaning recipes that mix two active ingredients to make an inactive one?  Recipes like this that do not work will quickly chase people away from green cleaning and back to pre-packaged cleaning mixes.  

Let's do some myth busting of our own.  
 
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That baking soda + vinegar thing always made me shake my head too.

One thing I always wonder about but never looked into because I just ignore it anyway is the guideline to mix vinegar with water to use as a cleaner. Why would a person want to dilute it? It's a pretty weak acid to begin with. Make it weaker and it starts losing its antibacterial properties. If one is worried about the effects of an acid on the thing they're cleaning maybe an acidic cleaner just shouldn't be used in the first place. Perhaps there's a reason for diluting it, but I've always been happy with full strength vinegar.
 
pollinator
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Way to go, Raven. Here's hoping this gets debunked...I've tried my best to tell folks for years that either one of those ingredients is a good natural cleaner, in different situations, but by mixing them together you've just neutralised both of them and wasted the raw materials. Not very earth friendly.
 
pollinator
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Thanks Raven, I have messed up two of their examples. For instance:


1. HYDROGEN PEROXIDE + VINEGAR = PERACETIC ACID

Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar are both great natural cleaners and sanitizers, BUT combining them in a container creates a corrosive acid.

The risk: Bodily damage and/or damage to household surfaces. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide create an acid when combined. Peracetic acid can irritate your skin, eyes, and respiratory system and can be corrosive to household surfaces.

How to use them effectively: You can use hydrogen peroxide and vinegar while cleaning, but always think of them as one-two punches…NEVER mix them into a cleaning solution onto my white vinegar bottle. I then  spray and wipe with one cleaner and then the other. (This makes a great bathroom disinfecting cleaner when kiddos are sick.)



In my "wisdom" I decided storing only one bottle would be such a space saving benefit instead of two. Warning of respiratory issues was definitely true.
 
pollinator
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Jan

> [dilute] vinegar

Vinegar is surely a _mild_ acid, but even so many times it's full strength is simply not needed. Also, using a dilute solution reduces the _very_ distinctive smell; it does go away, but takes a few hours. For example, I use 1:1 vinegar:water for a mild window wash. If it hasn't been more than a year (!) it works well on inside windows (except in the kitchen, sometimes). Very simple, nothing wasted, etc. And perhaps I could dilute it even more. I use a full strength vinegar soak to remove rust from mistreated tools. Anywhere from 2-3 hours to 2 days removes all the rust every place and it's slow enough that you can keep tabs and not overdo it.

Generally I have found that life's methods are not digital: That is, not limited to either on or off. There is a proportion, a balance, one needs to use; else risk at least a certain amount of waste, or, in many cases, undesired results. All is compromise and balance. It depends... <g> One needs to pay attention to the situation and seek appropriateness. It's a lifetime job.


Cheers,
Rufus
 
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I have mainly heard of using vinegar and baking soda to remove rust/tarnish on metal, or as a mild abrasive for sinks and such. The fizzing probably does help it get into cracks/crevices, and under corrosion to dislodge dirt.

My favorite window/surface cleaner is equal parts of vinegar/rubbing alcohol/water. I read an article that compared all sorts of homemade window cleaners and that mix scored the highest with the nicest looking glass. The rubbing alcohol makes it dry faster.

One interesting fact about using rubbing alcohol to kill germs -- it must set in place until it dries. It kills viruses/bacteria by physically drying the little critters out. I remember discussing this with my vet, and bringing up how nurses swab your arm with alcohol right before a shot. My vet explained that is just a silly formality so you will believe everything is super sanitary, it doesn't actually kill the germs on your skin unless you wait a few minutes for it to dry!  So while the homemade window cleaner can disinfect it would need to sit in place for a few minutes.
 
pollinator
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Myself, I have an out of control iodine thing going. It drives my wife crazy, but it came from dairy farm life. To sterilize the teats on cows before milking, we had to go to 7% surgical grade iodine. We went from a silver star dairy farm on our bacteria count in our milk, to a gold standard one because our count was consistently so low. BUT the iodine had to stay on the cows for 30 seconds before being wiped off.

But observation showed one thing, if I had a cut on my hand, within a day it was healed. After that it was my go to product for sterilization and cleaning. It just stains your skin...
 
Travis Johnson
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Not really a "green" product, but one that is commonly done, and one that will literally kill you, is cleaning a barn with bleach.

The mixture of ammonia in the manure (especially chickens and sheep) along with the chlorine, will produce Mustard Gas...yes THE mustard gas of World War I.

NEVER USE BLEACH IN A BARN!

Quote from Science answewrs on why it is not a good idea to mix Manure (ammonia) and Bleach:

Because the giant warning on the bottle in bright red print with a skull and cross bones isn't enough, hundreds of people are wheeled into emergency rooms every year after mixing a deadly combination of ammonia and bleach- a corrosive concoction that can cause the lungs to fill with liquid.

Household bleach is 5% sodium hypochlorite. Mix it with ammonia and mono- and di-chloramines are formed. These nasty fellows will cause lovely symptoms such as respiratory tract irritation, tearing, and nausea. To make things better, add water to get hydrochloric acid and nascent oxygen- also known as chlorine gas, the chemical weapon of choice of Nazi Germany in World War II- for the added bonus of drowning in your own fluids!

Should a person misguidedly join these two in a most unholy matrimony, they may feel fine for a short period of time until they notice white spots in their peripheral vision. (That would be the lack of oxygen to the brain.) Then they may feel woozy. Then if they're lucky, they'll wake up on a gurney in the emergency room with a breathing tube down their throat and a totally hot doctor-- who probably thinks they are an idiot.
 
master steward
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In Hands on Home by Erica Strauss (a book which I cannot seem to figure out where I left, grrrr!), she has a marvelous section about bases and acids, and how mixing them makes something very weak/mostly useless.

Acids (vinegar, citric acid, etc): are great for cleaning mineral deposits--think cleaning bathrooms and toilets and showers and all the hard water residue stuff there. If the grime you want gone is INORGANIC, you probably want an acid to clean it. They're BAD for cleaning granite/stone tile/grout because they dissolve the stone. I've also desivered that they've bad for cleaning painted surfaces--they take the paint off my wall! The stronger the acid, the more cleaning power it has.

Bases (soap, baking soda, washing soda, washing soda, bleach, oxygen bleach, hydrogen peroxide): Are great for cleaning up food, poop, etc. If the grime you want is ORGANIC, you probably want a base to clean it. So, kitchen counters, dirty diapers, dishes, dirty hands, etc, are usually cleaned best with a base (unless you've got slug slime on your hands, then you want vinegar!). They're also great for cleaning painted surfaces, grout, tile, granite, etc. The stronger the base, the more cleaning power it has.

De-greasers (vodka, rubbing alcohol, limonene): are great for cleaning petroleum-based grime. So, if the grime you want gone is derived from petroleum, you probably want a de-greaser. So, labels off of jars, grime from car exhaust, gasoline/petrol are usually best cleaned with a de-greaser. Probably the most natural de-greaser could be made by soaking orange/lemon/other citrus peals in vodka for a few months to extract all their limonene. Rubbing Alcohol releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and so isn't as good to use as vodka, but if you have a recovered/recovering alcoholic in the house, it might be a better alternative...

Erica Strauss also has a really spiffy list of acids and bases according to their strengths, as well as some really nice cleaning recipes. I LOVE that book.

....now where IS it?!?!
 
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Vinegar and salt are my go-to copper cleaner.  Pour vinegar on the object, then pour salt on it, rub gently with a scouring pad or sponge, and rinse.  Repeat.  

Vinegar by itself is my cleaner of choice for fruits and vegetables. I soak any fruits/vegies with a thin skin (peaches, peppers, berries, tomatoes, celery, lettuce) in a vinegar/water solution for 15 minutes or so, then rinse and dry thoroughly.  I can tell that the vinegar still retains its antibacterial/antifungal properties because berries that have undergone this treatment will not mold in the refrigerator, as untreated berries will, and they do not disintegrate as they do if treated with sugar (sugar being another extremely effective preservative).

I would second the warning against mixing bleach with ammonia.  Many people have succumbed to the toxic fumes produced by this combination.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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One thought on disinfectants. Lots of things will kill germs, but most only kill certain TYPES.

For instance vinegar kills a lot of gram-positive bacteria (staph, strep, pneumonia, etc...), whereas hydrogen peroxide typically kills gram negative (e-coli, meningitis, etc...).  If there is an outbreak or folks are worried about a specific pathogen then looking up what will kill that specific thing is a good idea. For instance for cold and flu viruses I wouldn't use vinegar, but  hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol is effective (if the alcohol can sit in place until it dries).

Some disinfectants like bleach kill most everything though bleach does have a fairly short shelf life, hospitals are supposed to replace it after 6 months as the chlorine slowly turns to salt and it becomes less effective as a disinfectant, though it will often bleach clothes effectively for over a year (if there is an Ebola outbreak in your neighborhood you want the fresh stuff). Bottles don't typically have an expiration date but the mfg date is listed in a cryptic form (for preppers that want to store bleach then crystals are available to purify drinking water or for making up a batch of disinfectant).
 
Jan White
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I worked at a hotel for years and was constantly cleaning the glass doors of the lobby of handprints. We had a spray bottle of 1:1 water/vinegar for the windows and another of just water for the plants. I would often mix them up when cleaning windows and never saw much difference in performance. Whenever I used up the last of the glass cleaner I always just filled it up with straight vinegar- and then I noticed a definite improvement! That's why I don't bother diluting it.
 
Jan White
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The trick of using alcohol in your glass cleaner sounds good. Slow drying liquid causes streaky windows. I always spray the rag, not the window, and keep a second, dry rag to polish immediately after cleaning and before any streaks dry. I often got comments on how clean the lobby windows at that hotel were :)

I haven't tried alcohol so now I'm curious.
 
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