Tag Archives: eco friendly cleaning

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.

How to Quit Using Paper Towels

Paper towels are almost ubiquitous these days in the United States. Most families use them because they’re just so convenient! No extra laundry, just use that quicker picker upper and throw it in the trash.

Only trouble is that it’s a bit wasteful. How wasteful depends on the source of your paper towels, whether they’re made of post consumer recycled materials and so forth, but overall, they’re probably on the wasteful side of things. At the very least you have to keep buying them.

But they’re so convenient, how do you quit?

1. Warn your family

Your spouse and children are the most likely to resist the switch. It can be a bit difficult to get buy-in on getting rid of paper towels, even if you’re the main one doing the laundry.

On the other hand, my oldest was delighted to see that a microfiber cleaning cloth was indeed as good at absorbing water as the one on the commercial. Made paper towels a bit less interesting.

2. Pick other cleaning cloths

You have a few options for other cleaning cloths. The most eco friendly is to use rags made of cloths you’d be throwing out otherwise. Think of bath towels that have gone bad and are ready to be torn into smaller pieces. Think of t-shirts with holes that really shouldn’t be worn anymore.

These are great, eco friendly and really kind to the budget.

But if you’d rather buy something, microfiber cleaning cloths are popular with good reason. They do an amazingly good job, and good quality ones last a long time.

They’re made of synthetic materials, so they aren’t perfectly environmentally friendly, but the good ones last very well and are strong enough to help you get surfaces clean even without conventional cleaners. I use vinegar and/or baking soda for much of my cleaning, and those products get along great with my microfiber cloths.

Microfiber cleaning cloths are soft, but are textured well enough to scrub. They can absorb a nice amount of liquid, so one cloth can go pretty far when you’re cleaning.

3. Finish off, store or give away your remaining paper towels

You have the paper towels, you may as well use them. You have a few options for what exactly you’re going to do with them.

You could just finish off what you have, trying to slow down their use rather than making the family go cold turkey on paper towel use.

If you have an emergency kit, you could put the rolls in there. You will need such convenient supplies if you ever have the sort of emergency where you need to use an emergency kit, so having paper towels in there is really not a bad thing.

You could also give your excess paper towels away. Just tell the people you’re giving them to what you’re up to. They might want to follow along eventually.