How clean is your house?
Dr Chemical Mark Imisides. Picture: Robert Duncan

How clean is your house?

For most of us, the answer to this question probably "not clean enough". It often seems to be a case of one step forward, two steps back. There's always something to dust, disinfect or deodorise.

Well, it needn't take as much time as you think. Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of cleaning products, from off-the- shelf chemical products to advanced cleaning materials based on microfibre technology (such as Enjo) and advanced steam cleaners.

The message is simple - choose the right product, and even the laziest person can keep their house spotless.

However, standing in the way of this are several myths about cleaning that persist in the marketplace, and which can waste people's time and money.

Principal among these myths is the idea that bleach will clean anything. Not so - in fact, there is a fairly limited range of things it will clean.

As a potent oxidiser, it is an excellent disinfectant and easily the most effective disinfectant available from the supermarket shelves. As a cleaner, however, there's a fairly limited range of stains it will remove, and a much longer list of materials and surfaces it will damage.

Essentially, it will attack only organic molecules - food dyes, grass stains or moulds. That's it. It won't clean rust, grout or anything oily. It will destroy any natural fibre, and will damage any synthetic fibre, although it may be used carefully in lower concentrations. My mother used to bleach my cricket whites many years ago, and while it did the job, after a while the pants just fell apart.

Another persistent myth is the use of bicarbonate of soda as a cleaning agent (often with vinegar). Bicarb soda will clean almost nothing. To clean, a chemical (or product) must be at least one of five things - a surfactant, an acid, a base, an oxidiser or an enzyme. Bicarb is none of these, and the only thing I ever recommend it for is a deodoriser (for which it is quite good).

And as for adding vinegar to it, all the vinegar and bicarb do is neutralise each other (a weak acid added to a weak base), which makes about as much sense as making yourself a glass of room-temperature water by adding boiling water to ice cubes.

For more of Dr Chemical's advice, visit drchemical.com.au.

The West Australian

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