Until recently, no one associated sparkling clean bathrooms and kitchens with poisoned air and mutated aquatic life. But the same lemony fresh cleaners, disinfectants, and degreasers that shine your stove top can also make you sick and can cause real problems for the waterways they drain into. Just ask the Environmental Protection Agency, which reports that "the air inside the typical home is on average 2-5 times more polluted than the air just outside—and in extreme cases 100 times more contaminated—largely because of household cleaners and pesticides."
Alternatives to conventional cleaning products include vegetable- or fruit-based commercial options like Seventh Generation and Citra Solv, or DIY cleaners made with good ol' vinegar and baking soda. These alterna-cleaners are fine for household purposes, but what about commercial situations like food processing or prison cell sanitation- you know, stuff that needs to be super squeaky clean?
While listening to a recent broadcast of a great public radio program called "Living on Earth," (I highly recommend you tune in for their weekly segments) I was introduced to the concept of electrolyzed water- salt water that's been exposed to electricity and transformed into a powerful - but safe - detergent and disinfectant.
As Patrick Lucci, VP of Marketing for The Electrolyzer Corporation of Woburn, Massachusetts, stated in the radio interview, "An electrolyzer is a device that basically makes two solutions out of salt water and electricity. One solution is a sanitizer that at 50 parts per million is more effective than chlorine bleach at 200 parts per million, yet it's so non-toxic you can drink it. The other is a form of sodium hydroxide that's used as a detergent for floors, carpets or anything else you would wash."
Here's a picture of Lucci and the Living on Earth reporter drinking the sanitizer solution. Crazy!
The potential uses for this type of cleaning/disinfecting solution are staggering. No special storage, handling, protective clothing, or environmental controls are required. No tainting or residues are left behind after use. And fresh food has been proven to have a longer shelf life after being sprayed with it (That's right- you can wash your food in it!). Electrolyzer machines are already being used in the food service industry for both hand and surface cleaning, especially where meat and seafood is involved.
The use of electrolyzed water is also promising for the commercial cleaning industry as well, especially in light of the fact that cleaning products have been linked to asthma and other nasty illnesses with prolonged exposure.
(Photo credits: Electrolyzer Corporation and Liz Gross of Living on Earth)