Apr 16, 2020

Interview Transcript

Stress-cleaning. So you decide you're going to go to the deep clean. You look under the kitchen sink and decide you're going to put everything together and get it done. Don't do that.

We have talked about how women's health is more than just one thing. It is a combination of different things. But sometimes a bunch of things together isn't a good thing. Let's talk about why it isn't a good idea to put some of your most potent cleaners together.

Yes, I know that maybe you have someone at home who has COVID-19 and is quarantined, and you only have one bathroom. So you have to disinfect it several times a day. Okay. You know that bleach is a powerful virus and bacteria killer, and alcohol at 70% works too. And maybe you'll just add the alcohol to the bleach and get a super killer. Yep, you could create a super killer of you. So let's talk about bleach.

Bleach has several compounds in it, but one of the main ones is sodium hypochlorite. Bleach is highly reactive. It combines chemically with other molecules and changes them, and that releases new compounds. That powerful ability to combine and change molecules makes it a potent disinfectant and whitener. It kills living cells like bacteria and sort of living things like viruses.

So under your kitchen counter, you have some bleach. Your bottle of bleach is highly concentrated, so you should dilute it a lot, four teaspoons per quart of water. It is also not meant for your skin, so wear gloves. It also reacts with everything and can give off irritating gases, so you should use it in a well-ventilated space.

Also, under your counter, you have some alcohol. So let's add bleach and alcohol together to make something better. Stop right there. Bleach and alcohol make chloroform. You know that fluid that was used in the 1800s to knock people out before they amputated a leg? So, no bleach and alcohol.

How about bleach and vinegar? That makes chlorine gas. Really bad for your lungs and your brain. It was one of those gases used to kill soldiers in World War I.

Well, how about bleach and ammonia? No, no, no. That makes another toxic gas. The only thing you can mix with bleach is more water.

What about all those other bottles of cleaning fluid and spray that won't even tell you what's in them. It is best to use them with gloves in a well-ventilated room. It's even better to go to the Environmental Working Group's website, ewg.org, and click on the box that says EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Put in the name of your cleaner and find out how it scores from A to F, and what are the concerns about the chemicals in the products. Then you can make your own decision. Make safer choices. Do you really need all that stuff under the counter?

Now, back to combining things. Vinegar is a great cleaner and antibacterial, but no, it can't kill the coronavirus, and it cleans well if you don't mind your bathroom smelling like a pickle. Baking soda also cleans well and is a mild abrasive. And baking soda and vinegar is a kids' home chemistry experiment. Together they foam up in a non-dangerous way. What fun?

What about windows? I know that means you are really bored and getting into some hardcore cleaning. A tip from a professional gave me the safest and best streak-free window cleaner -- a gallon of warm water, a couple of drops, less than a teaspoon of the original blue Dawn dish soap, not the new blue Dawn with flavors or scents or anything. The old stuff that they used to clean off the birds and animals after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

What about Lysol? Lysol is a brand name of many different products, some with hydrogen peroxide, another fun, fizzy chemical cleaner. And it gets an A in the evaluation from EWG. Some gets an F. So Lysol is a brand, not a specific cleaner. Check out what's in it if you want to know if it's safe.

Most of all, these home cleaning chemicals are not safe for babies or young children. All kids should contribute to cleaning up the house and learning about what to use and how to use it, but not until they're old enough to understand safety. Keep your kitchen and bathroom chemicals in a baby-proof cupboard.

One last thing, there is nothing about having two X chromosomes that gives you a unique ability to clean during the COVID-19 pandemic. People with Y chromosomes can clean too. Now, if I could just get my husband to learn how to use the vacuum cleaner.

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