Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Home Keeper's Glossary Part II

More cleaning terms:

Ammonia: NH3 -- a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen. Ammonia is a very strong base. It is a powerful and inexpensive cleaning agent. It is an ingredient in many cleaning formulations, but many home keepers prefer to buy a bottle of inexpensive ammonia and dilute it themselves for a variety of cleaning purposes. This saves a lot of money when compared to buying already formulated cleaners. Ammonia can be used to clean jewelry, used in laundry, to clean windows, to clean bathrooms, to clean drains and traps, and for other household uses. Warning: Ammonia is very strong, with very strong fumes. Never use in an area in which you have just used a product containing chlorine (bleach), for the combination produces a noxious gas. Also, follow directions on the bottle for safe handling. Wear gloves. Use ventilation. As with all cleaners, make sure that you keep it out of reach of little ones. While ammonia is strong, it is a naturally occurring chemical and is actually a precursor to fertilizer for plants. Thus, when used properly and according to directions, it is not toxic to the environment.

Borax: A naturally occurring chemical that has a variety of cleaning and household uses; Borax is made up of sodium, boron, oxygen and water and is sold in powder form for household uses. Borax can be used as a laundry booster, mixed with water to soak baby clothing or stained clothing, to eliminate odors in clothing, to clean bathrooms, to dry flowers, to repel roaches (though it does not always work), to condition laundry and remove hard water chemicals, diluted with water and sponged on carpets to clean them, to clean counters in the kitchen, and other uses. It's pretty inexpensive and pretty safe, so it's a great addition to have in your cleaning arsenal. Note: Most modern laundry detergents already have boosters in them. If you decide to use borax with your laundry detergent, add it a few minutes after your laundry cycle starts so that it does not compete with the boosters in the detergent.

Baking soda: Bicarbonate of soda -- a natural, inexpensive, safe substance that has so many uses in the home I can't list them in this glossary. Most keepers at home keep this in their pantry and use it for at least a few purposes. If you want to be a frugal home keeper, research the many ways that inexpensive baking soda can be used. You might be surprised to find some ideas you had not thought about.

Bleach: A bleach is something that whitens a fabric and removes color and stain, often by the process of oxidation. There are many types of bleaches. Even the sun can act as a bleaching agent. For purposes of this glossary, we'll concentrate on chlorine bleach, which can be used in laundry and cleaning. It is an inexpensive cleaner. Most of us are aware of the many uses of chlorine bleach. We are also aware that it must be used safely. (Though some of us -- cough cough -- have been known to forget to wear an apron when cleaning with bleach and accidentally bleach one's clothing.) While bleach is strong and must be used with care, it does break down into chemicals that are non-toxic to the environment. Bleach is a strong germ killer, and the Chlorox site offers information about using bleach to help keep down H1N1 germs.

Biodegradable: If a substance is biodegradable, it will break down into smaller parts by biological processes. Such substances are generally organic in nature, and microorganisms can transform them or break them down so that they are not a waste problem or remain toxic to the environment.

Buffer: Have you ever seen "buffers" on the list of ingredients of a cleanser? Buffers are added to cleansers to help keep the PH stable. Buffers usually don't change much when a little acid or a little base is added. Most buffers actually consist of a weak acid and a weak base that, together, resist drastically changing when another acid or base is added to the formulation.

Caustic: strong alkaline substance which irritates or injures skin tissue. Care should be used when handling a caustic cleanser, such as ammonia.

Enzymes: Enzymes are a type of protein, made as all proteins are of amino acids, and produced by biological organisms. The enzymes in your cleansers are taken from microorganisms that are purposefully cultivated for this purpose. These enzymes are added to cleaning products. They improve the laundry process. Proteases act on stains that contain proteins. Amylases act on starch based stains. Lipases are effective in removing oil and certain food stains, as well as oils from the body.Cellulases are general cleansers and are effective in removing dirt stains.


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