Shannon Lush gets it wrong #6

Shannon Lush once again regaled us with her home cleaning tips on 6PR today.

My general comment on her expertise is that about a third of what she says is good advice; about a third of what she says will work, but is exceedingly complicated (and a much simpler solution is available), and about a third is completely wrong.

In the second category, Simon B asked her how to get coffee out of carpet. Her answer was a complex, three-step procedure involving paper towels, glycerine, and a soap stick. Would it have worked? Probably, but if you understand the chemistry of coffee there is a much simpler solution.

The brown colour produced by the roasting of coffee beans is a class of chemical called melanoidins, the naturally occurring result of any roasting process with sugars and amino acids. The same class of chemical is responsible for the brown colour of the crust of bread that has been baked, for example, or any biscuits.

Consequently, there is a very simple and obvious way to remove these compounds – enzymes. Spray some White King Stainlift laundry prewash on the coffee and you’ll see it disappear after a few minutes – no wiping or scrubbing will be required. An alternative would be to oxidise it with Preen Oxy-Action, but the enzymatic formula of the White King would probably work better.

Image result for white king stain lift

In the third category was her advice to replace 2/3 of your laundry powder with bicarb soda.

Unfortunately, this advice is as wrong as it could possibly be. Bicarb soda has weak cleaning properties at best. If you use it as a paste its scouring effect, along with its mildly alkaline nature, will clean some things. But as I’ve said before, anything bicarb will do, washing soda will do better.

But a few spoonfuls tossed into your wash will achieve zero, zip and zilch.

Washing powders are highly sophisticated formulas that contain up to 9 or 10 different components (surfactants, enzymes, oxidizers, builders, alkaline salts, fluorescing agents, antiredeposition agents, free-flow agents, fragrance, softeners), and you simply cannot replace these with any one chemical – particularly bicarb soda, which has almost no cleaning properties whatever. If a chemical existed with such magical properties, you can be sure that I would know about it, as would the thousands of chemists worldwide that formulate the laundry products that we see on our shelves.

But then after this we learned that apparently using bicarb will make your clothes dry faster, and stop them getting stained as easily in the future. No mechanism was given for this. She seemed not to be aware of the fact that bicarb soda is water soluble and it will all wash out in the rinse and spin cycles.

 

Warm is the new hot

It used to be when you were using the HOT cycle on your washing machine it would just pump hot water straight in. WARM would pump both hot and cold, and of course COLD would just pump cold water in.

But that now appears to have changed. My LG top loader pumps both hot and cold water when set to the HOT setting. The resultant temp is 40 degrees. If I turn off the cold tap and just allow it to only pump hot in, it finishes up at about 50 degrees.

The reason for this, no doubt, is that modern laundry powders are heavily based on enzymatic cleaners, and enzymes work best at about 40 degrees.

So I’m curious to hear from others on this. You may not have an IR thermometer handy like I do, but I’m curious to know whether your machine pumps in both hot and cold water when set to the HOT setting. Please comment below, and remember to tell me the brand of machine.

What can you use vinegar for?

The farmer’s almanac gives us the following uses for vinegar. I’ll copy and paste from their website and comment accordingly:

  • Bring a solution of one-cup vinegar and four tablespoons baking soda to a boil in teapots and coffeepots to rid them of mineral deposits.

Yes this will work, as long as you don’t add the baking soda. Vinegar is acidic and therefore is the right pH for removing alkaline mineral deposits. But adding the baking soda will partially or fully neutralise the vinegar and reduce its effectiveness. The chemistry of vinegar/baking soda is explained here

  • A solution of vinegar and baking soda will easily remove cooking oil from your stovetop.

It will work a little bit as long as you don’t add the vinegar, as the vinegar will neutralise the baking soda. But baking soda is only mildly alkaline, and you will get better results with the more alkaline Washing Soda

  • Clean the filter on your humidifier by removing it and soaking it in a pan of white vinegar until all the sediment is off.

This will not work very well at all. Presumably this is cleaning dust, and dust is essentially dead skin that contains fat, so it is oily when you wipe it with a wet sponge. It therefore requires an alkaline cleaner, such as an oven cleaner. Spray it on, wait about 30 seconds, then just wipe it off.

  • Saturate a cloth with vinegar and sprinkle with baking soda, and then use it to clean fiberglass tubs and showers. Rinse well and rub dry for a spotless shine.

Baking soda and vinegar neutralise each other. Far better results will be achieved with washing soda

  • For a clean oven, combine vinegar and baking soda, then scrub.

If you use just use washing soda for this, you won’t need to scrub

  • Clean and deodorize your toilet bowl by pouring undiluted white vinegar into it. Let stand for five minutes, then flush. Spray stubborn stains with white vinegar, then scrub vigorously.

This could work. Harpic used to make a range of cleaners that used hydrochloric acid as the active ingredient. The beauty of toilet bowls is that the porcelain is impervious to almost any chemical.

  • Clean windows with a cloth dipped in a solution of one part white vinegar and 10 parts warm water. This works for dirty TV screens, too!

Ammonia will work better, as it has grease-cutting properties that vinegar doesn’t. Also it will leave a positively charged surface that will repel further dust (which is also positively chatged

  • To clean drip coffeemakers, fill the reservoir with white vinegar and run it through a brewing cycle. Rinse thoroughly by brewing two cycles with water before using.

Yes, this ll work by removing mineral deposits

  • To remove bumper stickers from car chrome, paint on vinegar and let it soak in. Next, scrape off the stickers. Decals can be removed similarly.

No this will not work. Use acetone – it will work instantly, as it dissolves the adhesives

  • Rid your refrigerator and freezer of bad odors by cleaning the insides with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water, then wiping dry.

Yes this could work. Vinegar is acidic, and many fridge smells are amines, which are both volatile and alkaline – so the vinegar neutralises them.

  • To remove smoke odors on clothes, hang them above a steaming bathtub filled with hot water and a cup of white vinegar.

Not sure about this one. But it’s possible.

  • To prevent mildew, wipe down surfaces with vinegar.

Yes – it could work – the biomass probably wouldn’t like to adhere to an acidic surface

  • Use a sponge dampened with vinegar to clean shower curtains.

Yes, this could work, as most of the deposits would be alkaline minerals

  • To loosen a stuck jar lid, hold the jar upside down and pour warm vinegar around the neck at the joint between the glass and the top.

Hot water (without the vinegar) will work here

You’ll notice that baking soda is often used as a sidekick to vinegar. Find out more helpful household uses for baking soda here, and see a list of more natural household cleaners.

It is used as a “sidekick” simply because they foam when added together, and for reasons dating back about 70 years, people associate foaming with cleaning. This is the only reason. Explanation here 

REMOVE CLOTHING STAINS WITH VINEGAR

  • Vinegar naturally breaks down uric acid and soapy residue, leaving baby clothes and diapers soft and fresh. Add a cup of vinegar to each load during the rinse cycle.

It is true that the vinegar will react with the urea (from the urine) but it also breaks down mineral deposits (scale on clothes)

  • To remove chewing gum, rub it with full-strength vinegar.

????  Can’t imagine why this would work, but I haven’t tried it. If you put the garment in the freezer, you will be able to pull away the frozen gum easily

  • Soak paint stains in hot vinegar to remove them.

If this works, it’s the heat that’s doing it. Try a steam cleaner

  • To remove salt and water stains from leather boots and shoes, rub with a solution of 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 1 cup water. Wipe over the stained area only, and then polish.

I can’t see why this would work, but I haven’t tried it

See our page on how to remove stains for more tips.

NATURAL REMEDIES WITH VINEGAR

  • For brunettes, rinsing hair with vinegar after a shampoo makes hair shinier. Use one-tablespoon vinegar to one-cup warm water.

Correct, because you are neutralising the pH of the alkaline shampoo. A conditioner would achieve the same result

Haven’t tried this. It’s possible.

  • Place a vinegar-soaked brown bag on sprains to ease pain and aid recovery.

There is some history to this (Jack and Jill fixed a “broken crown” with vinegar and brown paper). I’m not sure of how much science there is behind it, however.

  • Rub cider vinegar on your skin to repel insects.

Very possible, if you had no Aerogard (or equivalent) available

 

Shannon Lush gets it wrong #5

Yesterday on 6PR Shannon Lush once again gave us her cleaning advice as part of her regular show. As before, however, a substantial amount of that advice was wrong.

  1. The presenter, Simon Beaumont said that he had overspray from bore water on his car and it had left white marks.  Shannon told him that these marks had damaged his paint and he was to use “sweet almond oil” to attempt to cover it up. This advice is completely incorrect.  The white marks are simply dried mineral deposits from the water and are easily removed with any acidic kitchen or bathroom cleaner.  Ajax Spray and Wipe (lactic acid), Shower Power (citric acid) and a host of other cleaners will easily remove these marks.  Alternatively, they can simply be polished off with Brasso. Paints on modern cars our extremely advanced two pack formulations and are very chemically resistant.  The days of overflowing petrol leaving marks on your paint (acrylic) are long gone, and there is no commonly available chemical or product that you have lying around the house that you cannot use on your car with complete safety.
  2. A listener asked how to get residue off his bathroom floor that had been left by a rubber mat.  Shannon’s advice was to put salt on it and then brush it away.  I suppose an abrasive like this may work eventually, but a far quicker approach is to use acetone
  3. A couple of callers had questions about glass.  The first question was how to get paint overspray off glass.  Shannon’s advice was to essentially use a paint scraper as you shouldn’t use any chemicals that may damage glass.  This was followed up by a question about glass that had been damaged by soap scum. For a start, glass is extremely chemically resiliant, and there is no chemical you might want to try to get paint off with that will damage it. I have explained the chemistry of glass (shower screens) elsewhere but with the paint on the glass I’d try acetone first. Failing that, use a heat gun – the paint will blister up and peel away. But don’t blast the window with the heat gun on it’s highest setting immediately or you might crack it. Warm it up slowly.
  4. The last one falls into the “has anyone ever actually done this?” category – a used tea bag in a panty hose to get retic overspray off an anodised window frame?? Please tell me if you have actually done this. For a start, contrary to the advice that was given, anodised window frames will not be damaged by irrigation water. That’s the whole point of the anodising – it’s an extremely stable proprietary coating that is resistant to anything it encounters in and around the home. The irrigation (mineral) marks will be easily removed by any acidic kitchen or bathroom cleaner (Easy Off BAM is perhaps the product of choice with its sulphamic acid)

Once again, please bear in mind that Shannon Lush is not a chemist. She has no formal training in chemistry whatsoever.