Monthly Archives: April 2012

Is Citric Acid an Eco Friendly Cleaner?

I’ve been trying something new in my dishwasher lately because my dishes just weren’t looking clean. It was getting frustrating always having glasses and cups look cloudy even when they were clean. I came across an article that mentioned using citric acid along with your regular dishwasher detergent gets great results.

So I tell my husband about it, and he recognizes it right away. Turns out they used citric acid to keep the glasses for the tasting room shiny at the winery he used to work at.

I bought a bag of citric acid through Amazon, and I have to say, I’m impressed. My dishes look better and feel nicer too, that literally squeaky clean feeling. Citric acid doesn’t remove food bits or anything like that if your dishes were a bit too dirty for the dishwasher to handle, but if you’re getting residue, it works great.

Still, my one question remaining was whether or not it’s really eco friendly. I hope we all know that natural doesn’t always equal the most environmentally friendly products.

I did some looking around. The EPA considers citric acid GRAS (PDF) or “generally recognized as safe.” Obviously, that’s a really good sign. It’s not something you’d want to get in your eyes; it’s still acid after all, but it’s pretty safe stuff.

Despite the name, citric acid is not necessarily produced from citrus. Matter of fact, that’s the expensive way to do it, so it really doesn’t happen much. It has been long known that you can get citric acid from a fermentation process with the mold Aspergillus niger. The production may involve corn, so you may want to check on that if you’re trying to avoid corn-based products.

Some say you shouldn’t put your silverware into the dishwasher when you use citric acid. This may depend on the type of silverware you have, so it’s something to be aware of. It may be problematic for silverware with actual silver, but may not be so bad for your typical stainless steel variety. If it’s enameled or anything like that, you may be looking at problems with citric acid and silverware (search for citric to see the parts I found most interesting).

Citric acid can have an impact on wildlife, but for the most part it doesn’t seem to be too bad. It’s used to help control the coqui frog in Hawaii, for example. It may, however, be associated with brown tide blooms.

Overall, I’m pleased with what I’ve found out about citric acid. As with anything else, it has its problems, but they don’t so far appear to be as much of a problem as other cleaners. It cleans a lot, too. It did an amazing job on the soap scum on my bathtub. Stuff that I’ve scrubbed and scrubbed in the past with baking soda and vinegar came off easily after a soak with citric acid.

The Dark Side of Trash Picking

By Tyler A Weaver

Not so long ago, I heard a hard knock on my door.

I open the door, and some dude is trying to look official and not pulling it off, even with the clipboard in his arm. He looked rather nervous, and for a second I even wonder if I scared him. Maybe he realized I knew his game before he played.

“Mr. Weaver, it looks like you owe the water department money. I’m from the Philadelphia Water Department, and I need to collect $198.50 from you…”

Of any bills I have to pay each month, an auto paid water bill of twenty odd dollars a month isn’t going to get missed. Then I laughed to myself and thought, I wonder if that’s why I get those ugly blue envelopes each month although I’ve had auto pay and opted to go paperless nearly 5 years ago.

I asked the guy for some identification, and he flashed me something, but it definitely wasn’t an ID. I think it was a Rite Aid card or something. He didn’t have a bill of mine either…and that’s because I shred them.

I laughed pleasantly at the guy on my porch and said, “From one trash picker to another, I respect your game, but you need to leave.”

He was about to reply, but he just turned around and hurriedly walked down the block.

Is this situation familiar to you? I’ve had a few people tell me in recent months that they’ve had false bill collectors showing up at the door demanding money. That’s a shame that somewhere out there people have coughed it up to these jerks.

Then I thought about how I go through waste, and how much I like hovering over blue bins on Sunday in my neighborhood just to see what my neighbors think is recycling, or if I think I can spot a disposal error due to a drunk putting their beer bottle in my garbage (Philadelphia trash fines for a future article!).

One thing I see somewhat often in the blue bin is shoes. I also see a lot of wood…like broken chair legs and stuff. Both are recyclable, but not for a curbside service, folks. It’s funny to think that if you just threw all your waste in the blue bin, you’d probably be correct most of the time. All we need is curbside composting here…

Anyway, I thought about how if I wanted to, I could do the same thing this crook is doing. Most people don’t seem to shred their paperwork. I’ve had dreams of becoming a spy for a large company and stealing the trash of their competitors. Do you think that job exists? Contract Garbage Spy? I would think so…and if not, I may have quite a business model! Ha.

Then my dumb thoughts drifted even further. My mission is to get everyone more in touch with their waste habits…and that definitely goes hand in hand with trash picking. What if everyone that read my stuff actually began trash picking and telling their friends about it? What would happen to our waste? How many would become debt collectors? Would someone start looking through business waste? Where does it end?

I don’t know. But remember to shred your paper before you put it out curbside. Or if you’re paranoid now that I’ve brought it up, shred it and put it in your compost pile/worm bin.

Ever wonder about waste? How about the design of effective waste receptacles, or how to make compost? If none of these interest you, then you should definitely check out to learn about waste from another perspective. It will humor you, make you think, and if I’m lucky, alter your habits a little bit.

Editor’s Note:

I like this. My mail sometimes piles up before I shred it, but I definitely shred the stuff that matters. Obviously not bulk mail like grocery store circulars, but lots of other stuff. That and every possible bill is on autopay and paperless. Makes life so much simpler.

My shredder is a crosscut shredder. The kids love using it, and of course I supervise. Not that it would be easy for them to get hurt. It only runs if it’s firmly on top of its bin, and the opening is nice and small. Even small fingers won’t go in. Still, it’s only for use under parental supervision, and the rest of the time it’s unplugged.

The Horrifying World of Water

Access to clean, safe water is something most of us in the United States take for granted. Turn on the tap, there’s clean water. It’s not something you really have to think that much about. When you really look into things, however, the state of our water supply isn’t as great as you might think.


The privatization of water supplies is a huge problem throughout the world. This article on Truthout is quite eye opening. The privatization of water in many countries has made water too expensive for many people and caused small farms to fail due to the lack of water.

Bit by bit, it’s happening in the United States too. There are some very interesting reports to read about this at Food and Water Watch.


If you pay much attention at all, you know that water pollution is a big issue also. From the Pacific Garbage Patch to dead zones in the Gulf, to medications found in tap water, keeping our water clean is a major problem.

Water pollution isn’t just about having clean water to drink, of course. It’s about plants, fish and wildlife. It’s even about having water to play in. Ever hear about beach closures due to water pollution from storm runoff or broken sewer pipes? It’s perhaps a small part of the problem, but one you may have encountered in your own life.

Movies to Watch

If you want to learn more about what’s happening with our water supply, you should watch Flow or Tapped the Movie. They both get into the problems our water supply is facing, especially privatization and pollution.

Not that it’s just a problem in the United States, as some of the links I’ve provided show. Water privatization and pollution are global issues, and very much in need of your attention.