A Brief History of Humans versus Dirt

A Brief History of Humans versus Dirt

One of the great things about Nok-Out and SNiPER is their environmental friendliness. They are both quite safe for use in your house or place of work and this is something that distinguishes our products from other cleansers, which are not so nice, not so friendly to your environment. So I became a little curious and did a little research into how modern cleaning products developed. It is actually kind of interesting. To me, anyway. I hope you will get something good from it too, because in a very real way, it is Humans Versus Dirt. And we have to stay on top of this!

History of Clean

Water was our first cleaner and is sometimes referred to as the closest thing there is to a ‘universal solvent’. All kinds of stuff dissolves into water and, of course, we still use it today because it is so good at being a solvent. Around 2200 BC, the Babylonians made the first known ‘soaps’. Their soap was made from ash and animal fats and water. The Egyptians improved on this by using vegetable oils and alkaline salts that they used for laundry and for their skin as well. The ancient Greeks didn’t use soaps, but instead, scrubbed themselves with salt, clay, pumice and the like, topped off with a coating of oils, which they then scrapped off their skin using a tool called a strigil.

Romans worshiped their Gods by sacrificing animals. The fats that drained out mixed with water and volcanic or other ash to create the first lye solutions. One of the temples where this occurred was named “Sapo” and it is from this place that we get the modern word ‘soap’.

Stinking their way through life…

Alas, Roman civilization collapsed and with it went the habit of washing ourselves. The average person in Europe had no access to any cleanser other than water and personal cleanliness became a thing of the past. Heavens! Can you imagine the stench?!? While our European ancestors were stinking their way through life, the Islamic societies were using soaps with a pleasant smell made from olive oil, lime and alkali. These were exported to Europe. The 16th century in Europe saw the first European production of soaps made from vegetable oil only – called Castile Soap. It was not until the 18th century in Europe, that advertising campaigns promoted the awareness of the relationship between cleanliness and health.

Once the industrial revolution got going, we had production of bar soap and then – liquid soap. BJ Johnson used palm and olive oils to make ‘palmolive” liquid soap. Since then has been a lot of changes as detergents were introduced and the miracle of modern chemistry was applied to cleaning products. Instead of using natural products such as animal or vegetable derived fats and oils, chemists began producing more and more powerful chemical cleansers with components whose names are difficult to pronounce. (A good example is”alkylbenzenesulfonates” and if you go looking at the ingredients list of cleaners, you will certainly find many more!)

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All this Modern Cleanliness is healthy, Right?

Although modern cleaning products do an awesome job of cleaning, some of them are harsh and smell bad. Other ingredients are highly toxic and dangerous – like bleach and ammonia. Many of these chemicals smelled terrible and people wouldn’t use them. So the manufacturers began adding chemical fragrances to hide the really awful chemical smells.

Somewhere along the way, people have become trained (like Pavlov’s dogs!) to believe that when you smell that fresh scent, you know it is clean. Well, it may be clean in the sense that you have washed away the populations of microbes successfully, but the chemicals are still there and they may leave residues and by-products that distort the relationship between being clean and being healthy. Is a home really ‘clean’ when the cleansers being used create a toxic indoor atmosphere? This is some of what is driving the concerns about Indoor Air Pollution and also why the EPA tells us that it is not uncommon for our homes to have up to 400% of the ‘pollution’ found in outdoor air.

What to do? How to choose a cleaner that won’t harm my home and family?

Like most things in life, there is a middle ground that is probably the best place to be. There may be times when you do need to use bleach or other harsh chemicals inside your home. But most of the time, a lesser cleaning solution that is not so harsh will work just fine. A friend who is a carpet cleaner says that “Green Cleaning’ means using cleansers that have a neutral or near-neutral pH. This makes a lot of sense to me. Look at the following table

     Cleaner   pH  
Chlorine Bleach 11 – 13 Alkaline
Ammonia 11 – 12 Alkaline
Tub & Tile Cleaner 11 – 13 Alkaline
Borax 10 Alkaline
Mild Dish Soap 7 – 8 slightly alkaline
Cleaning Vinegar 3 acidic
Toilet Bowl Cleaner 1 – 3 Acidic

Remember your chemistry class? The scale goes from 1 to 14 with neutral being 7. You can see that most cleansers are alkaline and the really powerful ones are very high pH. It is the extremes that deserve special care because they are the ones likely to form harmful by-products. It is risky when some of them are combined, as might be the case if you are cleaning your toilet bowl with more than one cleaner.

The Bottom Line

We have come a long way since water was our only cleanser and in the battle of humans versus dirt, we are winning. Our homes and bodies and clothes are LOTS cleaner now than they have ever been in the past, but due to cleanser residues and chemical by-products that can form, the quality of our indoor air has suffered. This is especially true in homes that are sealed tightly against heat or cold.

What to Do?

The solution is to use those powerful cleansers sparingly and only when you have good ventilation. Take great care when using more than one cleaner. You are likely to leave small amounts of chemical residues behind as you clean. The cleanser you use next may cause dangerous fumes to develop, such as can happen when ammonia comes in contact with bleach. As a general rule, you and your home will be safe if you use cleaning products that do not stray far from the neutral 7.

Nok-Out and SNiPER both have a pH of around 8.5 which is close enough to the middle ground of 7 that it is unlikely to cause any harm. Mild dish soap is one of the most useful and least harmful cleaners. Vinegar may be a natural product but with a pH of 3 is is a fairly strong acid.

Additional Reading

Remove Old-House Odor

Remove Old-House Odor

When you live in your home for years and years, decades, it is not uncommon for the house to develop an odor. Realtors call it “old-house odor’ and it is dreaded because of the negative ‘first impression’ it can leave on a potential buyer. The good news is – this can be taken care of and new life breathed into that home. Whether you are selling your home or would just like to give it an ‘odor-control makeover’, you can follow these steps to remove old-house odor and leave your home smelling as good as outdoors. For those of you who think that no odor is best, we agree and here’s how to accomplish it.

1) Air circulation is important. Open those windows, replace air filters regularly. This will help dry out the home, which will, all by itself, help remove old house odor. Additionally, the fresh air will replace air that has become saturated with Volatile Organic Compounds that may have entered your home with new mattresses, paints and other items. If ventilation in some rooms is not good, use fans to blow the air around and speed the drying.

2) Check for damp areas and make sure they dry out. You may need a de-humidifier to help. Humidity control inside your home is crucial. It is smart to have a hygrometer (measures humidity) and thermometer for every floor in your house. They are cheap these days and can tell you when to run that de-humidifier. If some rooms are often higher humidity, you may want one especially for that particular room. Damp, or high-humidity rooms are definitely a source of old house odor.

Mold

3) Mold is one of the primary sources of that old-house odor. Taking steps to dry out and dehumidify removes a necessary food source for mold. Without a water source, mold doesn’t grow. So check for leaks in rooms that feel excessively humid. Mold is actually a type of fungus and musty odors all come from fungal infestations. If you can locate the area of fungal growth and get some SNiPER on the fungus – that odor will disappear!

HVAC and Ductwork

4) Check your HVAC system. Ducts can harbor mold as well and since you can’t see inside them easily, they can often be a source of hold house odor. If necessary, have the ducts cleaned and spray some SNiPER disinfectant in there to remove residual odors. A ‘fogger’ is the best type of sprayer for ducts. (they are not cheap, however, and it may be your best option to rent one from your local tool rental shop).

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5) Interior walls are rarely cleaned and even though they may not appear to be dirty, they can become greasy from cooking and then dust sticks to them easily. You can spray walls and painted surfaces with Nok-Out and wipe them down. This is especially important if there have been smokers in the home.

Carpets absorb odors – and are a Source of Odors too

6) Carpets are like a floor-based air filter and accumulate dust, mites, insect carcases and all manner of smelly stuff. Give the home a good thorough vacuuming and then do it again, and maybe again one more time. Most of the soils that are in carpets are not water soluble so just your vacuum cleaner can do a great job of removing potentially smelly stuff that has accumulated in your carpet.

If there are pet odors in the carpet get yourself a small black-light flashlight (UV) and go into the affected areas in the darkness. Urine will glow a pale green color and is quite obvious. You may also see a purplish color – this is detergent of some sort. In severe cases, you may need to have the carpet professionally cleaned. Use a pump-up garden sprayer, and dilute Nok-Out 50/50 with tap water and spray the carpet after the cleaners have finished, while the carpet is still wet.

Remember that Nok-Out and SNiPER do their work when they come into direct contact with the odor source. Diluting up to 4 to one (water to Nok-Out) will work for spot treatments.

Check for residual odors

7) After all this cleaning, there should be a big difference in the way the house smells. Give it a few days for everything to normalize and then go about the house giving it the nose test. Some odor sources may be in the attic or in crawl spaces below the home.

It may sound like a lot of work to remove old house odor, but the rewards of having your home smell fresh are certainly worth it! Remember that it took years for the old-house odor to develop. But if you work at it, you can remove that old-house odor before selling Grandma’s old house!

Additional Reading

  1. Carpet odors: https://www.nokout.com/Carpet-Odors.html, http://blog.nokout.com/carpet-cleaning-nok-sniper-revisited/, http://blog.nokout.com/that-darned-cat-has-stunk-up-my-carpet/.
  2. Use of a ‘Fogger’ machine: http://blog.nokout.com/to-fog-or-not-to-fog/
  3. Mold: http://blog.nokout.com/how-to-manage-mold/, https://www.nokout.com/Cleaning-Mold-and-Mildew.html
  4. https://www.nokout.com/Get-Rid-of-Musty-smells.html
  5. https://www.nokout.com/Basement-Mold-and-Mildew-Removal.html
  6. https://www.nokout.com/Get-Rid-of-Black-Mold.html
  7. https://www.nokout.com/Mold-and-Mildew-Problem.html
  8. https://www.nokout.com/Keep-black-mold-out-of-your-shower-stall.html
  9. How to find odors in your home: http://blog.nokout.com/how-to-troubleshoot-odors-in-your-home/
  10. HVAC: https://www.nokout.com/Clean-and-Deodorize-HVAC-Systems.html

Get Rid of Pet Odors in your Car

Get Rid of Pet Odors in your Car

We love our pets because after all, pets are family! But however adorable they may be, they occasionally smell bad – even cats! So when a customer called and asked how to remove the odor of her favorite goat from her car, (after I stopped laughing) I provided a step-by-step approach to getting her car to have no smell again. For all you city people out there, have you ever smelled a goat?!? They really do stink! She called back and said that it worked. So if Nok-Out or SNiPER can remove the goat smell from her car, you’ll find it easy to get rid of pet odor from your car, too!

Here’s how

1st give the car a good vacuuming and try hard to get up all the hair. Vacuum the seats, flat surfaces where the pet likes to ride and the floor too. Pet hair is often the source of a LOT of pet odor. So just this one step should help to remove the pet odor from your car.

Next

Begin systematically spraying the seats and flat surfaces where your pet likes to ride. You may have to spray carpet and seat cushions heavily. Remember that Nok-Out or SNiPER work when they are in direct contact with the odor source. Much of that odor source will be oils that may have penetrated deeply into porous non-hard surfaces. If the issue is severe, then spray heavily, allow it to sit for 10 minutes, spray a bit more and then use an old towel to scrub those wet soft surfaces. You are trying to scrub away whatever stinky stuff might be clinging to the carpet or cushions.

Finishing Up

Use a home vaporizer or room humidifier, preferably of the ‘cool mist’ type to ‘fog’ the interior of your vehicle. This is a great treatment that is easy. Put some Nok-Out or SNiPER into the reservoir of the machine. The bigger your vehicle, the more you’ll want to put in the reservoir. For small cars, 8 – 12 ounces is usually sufficient. Make sure the windows are rolled up. Plug in the vaporizer and place it on a relatively flat surface and close the doors. Allow this to run overnight, or for several hours before opening the windows to air the vehicle out.

The nice thing about this treatment is that when you are done your vehicle should have a nice neutral smell. Not some sticky cloying artificial fragrance that really smells awful – just no smell at all. You can get rid of pet odor in your car!

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How to Sanitize your Phone or Tablet

How to Sanitize your Phone or Tablet

We all wash our hands regularly because they are in contact with the rest of the world – shopping cart handles, doorknobs, money, toilet seats, other hands – the list goes on and on. We wash our hands to stay protected, it’s also a good idea to clean and sanitize your phone and tablets to continue that protection. Add to this that flu season is here. SNiPER is perfect for cleaning your devices because it is not corrosive and won’t cause harm to touch screens. Here’s how to use SNiPER to clean and sanitize your phone or tablet.

What you’ll need

– One or two clean, lint-free soft cloths that won’t scratch. A lens cloth is perfect, but you can also use microfiber cloths.
– Cotton swabs
-Sniper disinfectant

Here’s the process

First, remove any protective cover from the device.

No matter how careful you might be, you aren’t going to spray the phone directly, (but you can spray down the protector case later if needed). Instead of spraying the device directly, spray a corner of one of the cloths until it is damp. Take that damp cloth and wrap the damp bit around one or two of your fingers so that the wet bit is around your fingertips. Then you can use your wrapped fingertip to gently scrub down the screen of your device. If you scrub for at least 1 minute with the wet cloth, you can be satisfied that your phone/tablet screen is sanitized. Clean the back and sides if they need it.

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Other important bits to clean

Find the charging port and inspect it. If there is a lot of dust present, blow onto it gently. Don’t use compressed air because that can bend the tiny connecting wires. If that doesn’t get it, use the cotton swab very gently to wipe around the exterior of the port. If dust persists inside, where the connections are made, blow sharply into the port. Don’t use a toothpick to try and clean inside. It is far too easy to bend the connecting wires out of alignment, and then you’ll have a new problem!

Cleaning the case or protector is easy. You can spray it directly, or you can use the still damp cloth to wipe it down thoroughly. After everything has dried, you can put it all back together again. It’s easy to clean and sanitize your phone or tablet!

You can also use SNiPER to sanitize your computer mouse, keyboard and other devices. The same techniques of spraying the cloth – and not the device – will work perfectly.

Additional information here: https://blog.nokout.com/what-level-of-clean-is-right-for-you/

Refrigerator Odor / Freezer Odor

Refrigerator Odor / Freezer Odor

A customer called recently and told me a story – the electricity had gone off for several days and her refrigerator had begun to stink. She asked whether SNiPER would be safe to use inside her fridge. We all have to clean the refrigerator now and then. Spills, mishaps and the occasional leak are reason enough to give the fridge a good thorough cleaning now and again. Some of those spills may have gone unnoticed and may have become the source of odors no one wants to come from their fridge! SNiPER can safely disinfect and remove odor from your fridge for you. Or, if you don’t need disinfection or sanitizing, Nok-Out will remove refrigerator odor. Here’s how.

What you’ll need

  • 1) bucket of warm, mildly soapy water, a sponge and a couple of rags or dishwashing towels.
  • 2) You may also need a soft scrub pad that won’t scratch plastic.
  • 3) SNiPER disinfectant and odor eliminator in a spray bottle

First off, you’ll need to unplug your refrigerator. Both Nok-Out and SNiPER work best in temperatures above 40 F (and below 110F, if you were wondering!) and since the fridge door will be open for a while, you might as well allow it to warm without wasting electricity. Keep the freezer door closed if you will not be cleaning it as well. Start removing items from the fridge. As you are emptying the fridge, wipe down all bottles and containers with the soapy water to remove any gunk. Don’t forget the bottom of those containers!

Once all the items have been removed and cleaned proceed to dismantle all the removable trays, drawers and what have you. Anything that can come out, should. Take these things to the sink and spray, wipe down and clean them using warm soapy water and then rinse them clean. Use a dishtowel to dry them. After they have dried give them a spray with SNiPER and use a small piece of paper towel to make sure all surfaces are wet evenly. Air-dry naturally at room temperature to both disinfect and remove refrigerator odor.

Go to the fridge itself and wipe any crud away. If you find a sticky mess somewhere, use a rag dampened in the warm soapy water to clean away all that mess. Make sure you get all the little bits and pieces out of the fridge. Spray the inside of the fridge and again, use a bit of paper towel to ensure that all surfaces are evenly wet with SNiPER. Allow to air dry naturally.

SNiPER and Nok-Out both have a bit of ‘soapiness’ that can leave a tiny amount of soapy residue. After everything has fully dried, you may want to give all surfaces a wipe with a dry towel to remove this tiny amount of residue.

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Extreme cases – powerful stink!

Sometimes in situations where the electricity was off for several days, you may find that you have a really big problem and simple cleaning doesn’t take care of the odor. Most likely, the odor is now impregnated in the plastic itself (plastic is porous!) In this type of situation, you will need to warm the unit to fully room temperature. Spray the entire inside. Use a rag to wipe it around and provide gentle agitation. Leave the door open and allow it to air dry naturally. Don’t be discouraged if the stink isn’t gone after the first treatment. Repeat the process, perhaps many times. Every time you apply, you’ll get a little more of the stinky stuff and eventually, you will completely remove refrigerator odor and the fridge will be ready to go back to work for you.

No Rinse Sanitizing

Dilute SNiPER by 6 parts water and you can ‘sanitize’ your fridge, your counters even your cutting boards. Just spray and walk away – no wipe! Say goodbye to refrigerator odor!

Related Reading

Disinfect your Pet Carrier

Disinfect your Pet Carrier

Recently, I received an information request from a customer who carried a sick puppy to the vet and discovered that her poor little new puppy had canine parvovirus – Horrors! Canine Parvo is a really nasty, hard-to-kill virus that is highly contagious and is spread by direct contact with feces. Since diarrhea is a hallmark for this sickness, it can spread easily and is difficult to eradicate. The question was how to disinfect the pet carrier she used to take the pup to the vet. SNiPER is lab tested to kill canine parvovirus and can be used to safely and thoroughly disinfect your pet carrier – and other surfaces too.

First, remove any cushion, towel or blanket from the carrier. If you see feces on the cushion, take it to the sink and carefully rinse that stuff away. Clean the sink as soon as you can using an abrasive scrubbing compound such as Barkeeps friend or Comet or the like. Try to avoid splashing.

Find yourself a washtub just big enough to hold that cushion. Add around a half-gallon of cool water and then a pint of SNiPER disinfectant. You are aiming for a 4 water to 1 SNiPER dilution ratio. Immerse the cushion and hold it under, forcing it to become fully wet all the way through. This step is essential because direct contact with the virus is essential. If it floats too much, put something heavy on top to hold it down under the SNiPER solution. Allow it to soak for an hour. If you can’t keep it all underwater, come back and flip it over every 10 – 15 minutes. When the hour is up, hang it up to dry.

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As for the carrier itself, spray it down thoroughly with SNiPER inside and out, top and bottom. It needs to remain wet with SNiPER for 10 minutes, so you are likely to need to come back before it dries and spray again to get to the full 10 minutes.

That should do it for you. It is really the cushion that is the challenging bit because it’s not so easy to get the disinfectant to penetrate deeply into that cushion. Even heavily diluted, SNiPER can still kill the virus, it just needs more time to accomplish it, therefore, the long soak time.

Other Reading

For information on how to disinfect other things that might be contaminated by parvo, see https://www.nokout.com/Canine-Parvovirus.html. Also see a previous blog article here: http://blog.nokout.com/canine-parvovirus/