Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fume-Free Cleaning (If You Don't Count Cussing)

I don't know what the water quality is like where you live, but here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we have exceedingly HARD water. In fact, I never fully appreciated the very definition of hard water until I moved here. Calcified water deposits get all over everything and never come off. As in never. As in, every couple of years, I simply THROW OUT my steam iron because it gets so clogged with hard water chunks it randomly spews them onto my husband's shirts, and no amount of country wisdom seems to be adequate to clean it.
This being said, today I walked into our family bathroom and decided (mostly since I'm getting over a cold and can't smell the fumes) I would clean the stains from the sink and toilet. To give you an idea of what I started out with, here's my less-than-a-year-old toilet:
New toilet: A whole 'nother DIY adventure I shan't trouble you with.
As well as my old-as-the-house-itself (about 35 years old) marble/something bathroom sink:

 No, really, the stains on the sink just look like a little grubby dirt, but they are, in actual fact, now part of the rock itself:
Oh, and I took these pictures after scrubbing it with steel wool and Comet powder for 20 minutes.
 So because I had already tried traditional cleansers and elbow grease, I thought I'd take a step back and consult that repository of all human knowledge (no, not Wikipedia; the other repository of all human knowledge) Pinterest. Now, for anyone out there reading this who is not a bored homemaker or gay man, Pinterest is a highly addictive social media site where one can go to find clever snapshots with links to recipes, pictures of other people's pets, cat memes, helpful hints, and pretty much anything one can imagine to enable the reader to waste time in the guise of compiling useful information.  Among the multitudes of helpful posts about how to clean everything in the world using common household goods are more than a few variations on the wonders of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and white vinegar. I started out with the simplest suggestion, mixing a paste of baking soda and peroxide and slathered this all over my target areas:
For the toilet, I got all the water out of the bowl first. If you've never had to fix your own toilet, how you do that is to turn off the water behind the tank, flush a couple of times until the tank is mostly empty, then scoop, bail, or sponge out the water in the bowl.  I needed that icky brown ring to be dryish, so the paste wouldn't all just slide down to Goldfish Heaven.  I let it sit (read, went back to look at pictures of dogs on Pinterest) then went back and started scrubbing, first, with a scrubby sponge, then with damn steel wool (the chemist in me saw this part as folly, as steel wool is probably pretty reactive with peroxide and/or bicarbonate), and after about ten more minutes of hard scrubbing, started to see the tiniest little bits of toilet ring coming off.
F**K THIS, I thought to myself, and also out loud, but without the asterisks. Then I figured out what the missing element from all of these helpful hints was. 
But seriously, it worked, so, there's that. 
Once you've got your paste all soaked in and scrubbed up to no avail, get out your reading glasses and an X-Acto knife, and scrape it off by hand. 
The clever bit.
Here's my breathtaking before and after pic; I bet you can hardly believe it's the same potty:
It has been five minutes, so it undoubtedly no longer looks like this.
Now the sink seemed to be another, wholly less satisfying matter. I pasted, I scrubbed, and I X-Acto-scraped, but that nonsense just wasn't coming off of there.  Plus, if you compare before and after (below), you'll notice that the rim around the sink isn't just dark because it's in shadows, but because it is the most stained of any of it. So one last internet tip to go--I doused it all (enough to wet the paste, but not wash it away) in white vinegar. For those of you who have forgotten, here's what I just did (excluding the peroxide, which I figured called it quits a while ago):
CH3COOH + NaHCO3 ===> NaCH3COO + H2CO3
Sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid react to form sodium acetate salt and carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is the weak acid in soda pop, which quickly breaks down into carbon dioxide and water.
H2CO3 ===> CO2 + H2O
Sorry, the chemist in me had to share that part with you. Just pretend like you already knew it.  
So, as much as I'd like to say that this reaction enabled me to simply wipe off the hard water stains with the side of my hand, there was still some more X-Acto knife action, plus a little bit of paint-scraper work after that, but at least it came off. 
Still not good as new, but certainly much better.  Don't know what that stain is in the drain, but it should be the part of the house that survives the nuclear apocalypse (are we still having that?).
 I hope that all three of my blog readers found that helpful, and I certainly feel as if I've gotten it off of my chest, which is, after all, the primary purpose of having a blog.
Not to let you think that my efforts went unnoticed, I was under the constant supervision and unwavering moral support of my entire family.
Not shown: Actual unwavering support.

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