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!)

Buy a Gallon of SNiPER Disinfectant & Odor Eliminator SNiPER Kills Mold
Buy a Gallon of Nok-Out Odor Eliminator NokOut Odor Eliminator

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).

Buy a Gallon of SNiPER Disinfectant & Odor Eliminator SNiPER Kills Mold
Buy a Gallon of Nok-Out Odor Eliminator NokOut Odor Eliminator

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

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.

Buy a Gallon of SNiPER Disinfectant & Odor Eliminator SNiPER Kills Canine Parvovirus

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/

5 Overlooked Messes That Make a Big Difference

5 Overlooked Messes That Make a Big Difference

For many, the weekly chore list includes the usual vacuuming, sweeping and mopping; sanitizing sinks, toilets and showers; dusting and disinfecting all surfaces; removing garbage from the home; and tidying up around the house. While these are tasks that most of us are good at remembering, it might also be important to add at least one chore to our weekly cleaning that involves an “overlooked mess.”

An overlooked mess is often located in an area of our home that is hidden from view or is not easily accessible. For this reason it is often neglected and, over time, can build up dirt, grime, germs and other invading horrors that pose risks to our health. Here are five overlooked messes that can easily become hazardous if not handled.

What lies beneath, behind and within the refrigerator

If strange noises or off-putting smells are coming from the kitchen, it could be time to clean the refrigerator. First, clean and vacuum its coils. Then, eliminate debris from behind and underneath it. You’ll need to unplug and move your refrigerator to do this. And while you’re at it, clean out the inside of your refrigerator too. Before you fill it up again, consider using SNiPER Disinfectant to completely disinfect your refrigerator.

No fan of a dirty blade

There’s the old cleaning adage about checking the top of the refrigerator to see if a house is truly clean. The same applies to ceiling fans. Because they are hard to reach, they’re frequently neglected. And rarely do humans look up these days. As a result, dust can accumulate over time, adding to allergies and poor air quality in a home. There are many dusting tools with extended handles designed for just this task. If your ceiling fan is low enough for a step ladder, sliding an old pillowcase over the blade will also do the trick.

Fluffy’s bed

If you’re a pet owner, it’s all you can do to keep up with the mess in the yard or litter box. You may be thrilled that your furry friend is at least choosing to sleep on the cushion you lovingly provided instead of on your couch. However, it’s easy to forget—especially since you’re not the one sleeping on it—that a pet bed will get just as stinky and dirty as fluffy is. Be sure to buy hardy cushions with removable covers that can be easily laundered and replaced on a regular basis. And spray it down with Nok-Out Odor Eliminator to freshen up between washings.

A forgotten furnace

That giant metallic monstrosity humming away in the corner of some dark closet in your home, the one with the shiny vents and knobs and scary words and neon notices plastered all over it? It needs love, specifically your love. It needs you to change it’s filter on a regular basis. If you don’t, your house will stink, your lungs will betray you and give way to allergies, and you’ll shrink in horror from your utility bill. Additionally, over time, your furnace could actually break from the lack of maintenance, and without a warranty, you will be paying exponentially more than the cost of changing your furnace filter regularly.

The nitty gritty

Have you gotten cozy with your oven’s grease filter lately? Stared into the yawning abyss of your dryer’s hose? Have you peeked inside your appliances lately? What about your microwave’s turntable or the refrigerator gasket? Remember that your appliances have insides as well as outsides and it is necessary to keep them clean as well since they have the closest contact with what you put both in you and on you. Clean your appliances thoroughly, both inside and out.

While we cannot clean every single nook and cranny of our home every week, simply paying more attention to just one overlooked mess per week will work wonders for our health, safety, and our checking account. Horror movies will always be around, but at least your home will not be the star feature.

Related Reading

External References

https://www.nokout.com/SNiPER-Disinfectant/

https://www.angieslist.com/articles/10-places-you-forget-clean.htm

https://www.nokout.com/Odor-Eliminator/

https://housemethod.com/reviews/best-home-warranty/

https://www.marthastewart.com/267602/cleaning-appliances

https://fairmontcustomhomes.com/the-overlooked-furnace-filter/

Remove Urine Odor from Chairs and Cushions

Remove Urine Odor from Chairs and Cushions

Recently I spoke on the phone with a long-time customer of Nok-Out who told me a story from her workplace. They had a temporary worker – a volunteer – who had an untreated incontinence issue. She leaked a little bit of urine somewhat regularly as she moved around in the office area, sitting in different chairs to do different jobs. The cushioning in the chairs was absorbing the urine and once bacteria get a hold of that urine as a food source, the chairs start to stink. The caller was purchasing some Nok-Out to eliminate urine odor from those chairs. It got me to thinking about the difficulty in treating foam cushioning. Here is how to treat smelly cushions for odor – including urine odors.

Problem: Nok-Out works when it comes into direct contact with the odor source. In fact, it can ONLY work, when it is in direct contact with all of the odor source. If you miss a bit of the source, then that missed place will continue to stink. Cushions are thick and are not necessarily as absorbent as a sponge, so it can be a bit of a challenge if urine or other smelly stuff has penetrated deep into the cushioning. How do you get Nok-Out to work for you in this case?

Solution 1

If possible, remove the cushion from the covering. There may be a zipper in the back and if you are lucky, you can pull the foam cushion out and put it back later. You will need a largish tub. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as large as the cushion, but it should be big enough that you can ‘dunk’ large portions of the foam in it. Add water to this tub,and then add Nok-Out. A dilution ratio of 8 water to 1 Nok-Out will work here and will be efficient. Dunk a portion or all of the cushion in your mixture and palm flat, squeeze it down slowly, forcing the air out. Then slowly release the pressure, allowing the diluted Nok-Out mixture to be drawn into the cushion. Do this a couple of times. Treat the entire cushion in this way. This will both rinse away the dried urine and will leave a bit of Nok-Out behind to eliminate the urine odor. Allow it to dry and put the cushion back into its covering. This is the easy, most reliable method.Unfortunately, not all cushions can be removed from the covering. So another plan may be required.

Buy a Gallon of Nok-Out Odor Eliminator NokOut Odor Eliminator

Solution 2

Even if you can’t get direct access to the foam, you still need to get Nok-Out to penetrate deeply into the cushion to achieve direct contact with any urine source deep in the cushions. But it is not efficient at all to just pour Nok-Out directly on the seat or sofa. We can, however, dilute Nok-Out at a dilution rate ranging from 4 to 1 to the same 8 to 1 in the ‘tub’ method. Put this diluted Nok-Out into a sprayer and go to town on that cushion! Spray heavily. Wait a few minutes for it to be absorbed – and spray again. And maybe again and again as needed, to get this dilute Nok-Out mixture to penetrate deeply. Much like ‘lather, rinse and repeat’, you may have to go through this process more than once to be successful.

Why not just spray the cushions directly with Nok-Out?

You can, but your success will depend on how deeply you can get Nok-Out to penetrate into the cushion material. However deep the urine went, Nok-Out needs to get there also.

Will this work for pet urine also?

Yes indeed. At some level, urine is urine, whether dog, cat, ferret, pot-bellied pig or people. Nok-Out will work as long as it comes into direct contact with the odor source. It will remove ALL the odor if you can get it to come into contact with all the smelly stuff.

Related articles

Safe Humidifier Use Eases the Pain!

Safe Humidifier Use Eases the Pain!

The cold dry air of Winter is a real pain – dry eyes, dry itchy skin, dried-out mucosal membranes in the nose and throat, and so on. When suffering from this ‘winter condition’ many people turn to the use of room humidifiers or vaporizers for relief, and this is a great idea! Safe humidifier use eases the pain caused by the cold air of winter because breathing moist air can soothe the respiratory tract and ease congestion and coughing. But too much moisture can be a negative rather than a positive.

Humidifier as Biological ‘Farm’

Many molds and fungi infestations can exist and perhaps thrive, on humidity they pull from the air. Excessive humidity can also increase growth rates for dust mites,  contributing to allergic reactions. And since humidifiers and vaporizers are wet for long periods of time, they can become a little ‘farm’ for the growth of biologicals such molds, mildews, fungi and so on. When a humidifier is allowed to operate as a ‘mold farm’ they can spread spores and other biological elements around a room. Yuck! So let’s look at how to use a humidifier safely.

The key – as with so many things in life – is balance. We need to find the ‘Goldilocks zone’ that is not too humid, and not too dry. Not too humid to prevent runaway growth of biologicals and not too dry to provide relief from that itchy feeling.

Hitting the Goldilocks Zone

A ‘hygrometer’ is a nice little tool to accurately measure the relative humidity. They are available starting at $4 or so (for a cheapie) that  might last you through the winter. Between 45 and 55 percent relative humidity will be enough to feel comfortable but not so much as to allow biological growths we prefer to inhibit.

Humidifier / vaporizer maintenance becomes a safety issue if you start using one regularly. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations carefully! If your water has a high mineral content, calcification can build up on furniture, walls or other areas in a room. Use distilled or de-mineralized water to minimize any buildup. Change the internal filters regularly.

As a further deterrent, you can add a bit of SNiPER disinfectant to the reservoir to prevent growth of mold inside your unit. Periodically, add four ounces to a quart of water in your machine. This will be sufficient to keep your machine clean and free of biological growths.

With good cleaning and maintenance, a humidifier or vaporizer can provide comfort and health benefits during the months of cold dry air. Be safe! Keep that machine clean and safe, and it will keep you more comfortable and healthier.

Buy a Gallon of SNiPER Disinfectant & Odor Eliminator SNiPER Kills Mold
Buy a Gallon of Nok-Out Odor Eliminator NokOut Odor Eliminator

There is a  great way to treat a room for odors, where you don’t know the exact source. Learn more here: https://www.nokout.com/Vaporizer-How-to-use.html

As part of your normal weekly cleaning, remember that humid air will often condense near windows. Spray a bit of SNiPER there every week  to prevent the growth of mold in the little puddles of condensate near those windows.

Living the mold-free life is good for you, good for your family and good for anyone who visits your home.