Thursday, January 28, 2010

My laundry, the volcano experiment

So I had my fun with vinegar and now it is under my kitchen sink, ready to be employed at a moment's notice.

But, my God, there is another? Another super-cleaner that has been sitting in my cabinet for years, used only to make cookies or in my fridge to deodorize?

Once again strolling in Costco, I saw the 13.5-lb. bag of baking soda and couldn't resist buying it for $4.99. Fresh from my acidic cleaning experiments with vinegar, I was ready to go basic.

(Full disclosure. I'd actually just used up my cooking-size can of baking soda for two different projects: cleaning silver over the holidays and creating a rocket out of a plastic milk jug for my son. Neither project turned out well. The silver did not become shiny; I was left with a large metal pot filled with soggy tin foil and hot, tarnished silver. Regarding the rocket, let's just say that experiment ended with Owen and I cowering in the house while we waited for a milk jug to explode. Maybe I'll explain more about these at a later date. But I digress, even though the rocket project has some bearing on the laundry volcano.)

We just put our house on the market, and we had an open house coming up. As an experiment, I wanted to clean using baking soda throughout the house.

Tile grout: I poured a half-cup of baking soda in a small bowl filled with water, then used it on an grout-scrubbing brush to scrub the grout between the tiles of my kitchen floor, which had become dark-grayish. This seemed to work well; it turned a brilliant white. But then when it dried, I saw that it was just a film of baking soda. My husband thought it looked bad. Using a sponge mop and bucket of water, I tried to rinse it all off. I believe the abrasiveness of the baking soda somewhat cleaned the grout to a lighter shade of gray. Could have just been the grout-scrubbing brush and my elbow grease though. Grade: C+

Cleaning counters: I sprinkled some baking soda on a wet sponge and wiped down kitchen and bathroom counters. Seemed to work OK and rinsed off cleanly. It got a little in the kitchen's tile counter grout, but I followed up quick with a clean, wet sponge and we were in business. Grade: B

Carpet and diaper pail freshener: One of our cats must have gotten stuck in the upstairs walk-in closet. The closet smelled awful, and I found evidence in the far back corner on Scott's side. After cleaning up the mess, I poured tons of baking soda on the area, and the closet smells regular again--like old clothes. And the diaper pail, probably the most disgusting thing in our house, it too was freshened by judicious baking-soda sprinkling. Forget Febreze or Lysol! Grade: A

Cleaning stove burners: This didn't work. I'm always searching for new ways to clean the black stuff off the little pans that hold the stove burners. I soaked the burners in the sink with a half cup of baking soda, then scrubbed them really hard. No good. Only steel wool works on those guys. Grade: D

Laundry: Apparently, baking soda helps the detergent to clean clothes better? Something having to do with the pH. Now, my friend had suggested using vinegar in laundry after my vinegar blogpost, and I've been doing it pretty regularly since then. (Vinegar in the rinse cycle helps reduce the buildup of detergent on clothes, working as a fabric softener.) And, silly me, forgetting all chemistry classes and past experience, I dumped a half cup of baking soda in a load of whites, then put in the detergent in the soap hole and slopped some vinegar into the fabric softener area. Of course, as I twisted the knob to turn on the washer, I realized immediately what I had done. Ever made a "volcano" as a science experiment? Ever set off a baking soda/vinegar rocket? Who knows what even happened in there, whether there was some sort of fizzle or the lid came just shy of exploding off or what. The laundry seemed soft afterward. Grade: B

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