So today I learned a very practical bit of advice I can give anyone. For my stay-at-home job (the way I survive by the way with my severe allergies and chemical sensitivities), I buy disc-based media and recondition them for sale online. This job is very lucrative, because you can buy stuff that’s in not-so-great condition and make it pretty, then sell it for a “pretty penny.” Here are some very simple and specific tidbits I’ve learned from handling and cleaning valuable items from many different households.
Tip #1: You can use alcohol to clean permanent marker.
I didn’t really know this before I started doing what I do, but I learned this from a clerk at a thrift store. I was complaining that there was a price written on a framed poster, which made the item less desirable/valuable. They instantly told me to just use alcohol to rub it off. Sure enough, when I got home, I applied this knowledge, and it worked like a charm. I have never looked back.
With my sensitivity to chemicals, the ethanol does get a bit smelly, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me as much as it does for other chemically sensitive people. Note that this only works well on glossy surfaces like plastic or glossy paper. This will not work with cloth or matte paper.
Tip #2: Hydrogen peroxide neutralizes a lot of chemical smells.
Even just today, I heard from someone on my favorite EI (environmental illness) forum that peroxide will break down pesticides. I’m not entirely sure if it’s true, but in my experience, it does a whole lot to mitigate some nasty chemical smells I’ve come across.
My main application for hydrogen peroxide has been to wash new fabrics. In fact, it’s a standing rule in my household to immediately run any new clothes in the wash at least twice with generous amounts of peroxide (like 1/8 to 1/2 cup per load). I haven’t quite figured out how much is really needed, but I can usually detect when the sweet smell of acetaldehyde and other disinfectants/detergents/pesticides/dyes has dissipated in the clothes I buy.
In my business, I get a lot of DVDs and video games (in plastic cases) from thrift stores where there is a ton of cheap detergent emanating from the clothing aisles all day long. Though I usually just replace the cases with new ones (which can be equally smelly, and therefore are sequestered to the garage when I’m not packaging up boxes of items to sell), sometimes I need to clean off opened toys or sealed DVDs that smell of strong detergents. For this purpose, hydrogen peroxide does the trick. This also goes for plastic toys I give my baby, and even tupperware from the dollar store. Really, you should wash/remediate anything you buy from the store, in any way you can, because there is an unsettling amount of chemicals that go into production and making new products “ready” for the retail shelf.
I believe the mechanism for hydrogen peroxide’s excellent effect on smelly chemicals is the same as the way ozone purifies indoor/outdoor air (though you should be very careful when using ozone purifiers indoors). That added oxygen molecule (peroxide is H2O2) will bind and “oxidize” any contaminants it comes across. I don’t understand it extremely well, but I do know that peroxide seems to take away the stinky when I need it to.
I also use hydrogen peroxide as my go-to for pretty much any kind of regular cleaning I do on floors, counters, and sinks. I do go ahead and use Seventh Generation or equivalently “safe” products for heavier cleaning (like in the toilet and the tub). But for regular surfaces and day-to-day dirt/stains, I’m always using a spray bottle of H2O2. It has virtually no residual smell, and it’s almost completely inert. Sometimes I even wash my hands with it. I know you’re not supposed to do this, because it supposedly bleaches the skin (which I’ll get into shortly).
Tips #3–15: There’s not much hydrogen peroxide can’t do…
There are crazy amounts of uses for hydrogen peroxide that I can’t even scratch the surface of, but here are some of its uses that I’ve mostly verified:
- Clean and disinfect wounds
- Clear acne
- Canker sores
- Bad breath
- Get rid of an ear infection
- Clear ear wax
- Clean/whiten your teeth
- Clean contact lenses
- Lighten your hair
- Disinfect things (like toothbrushes)
- Clean your floors and other surfaces
- Kill various yeasts/mold (in a not-so-harsh way)
- Use it in your dishwasher or in handwashing dishes
- Wash clothes (get chemical smells out)
- Boost plant growth by soaking seeds in it
There are some other uses that I’m not going to get into and many that I wouldn’t recommend, like ingesting it. If you decide to use it orally or on your body, please remember that your microbiome can be affected with any kind of antibacterial agent, and it should be used in moderation. All of its uses generally involve the same function, based on adding that extra oxygen molecule into the mix. Its three main effects are bleaching, disinfecting, and otherwise oxidizing.
Tip #16: Don’t mix rubbing alcohol with hydrogen peroxide
We finally come to the point. Oftentimes in our business described above, my wife and I combine tips numbers 1 and 2 and use rubbing alcohol to clean permanent marker off of DVD cases, then we end up using Hydrogen Peroxide somewhere else just for normal cleaning (or to get the scent off of the same case). I hadn’t looked it up until just now, but we both experienced a severe bleaching and my wife even a burning effect when we used both of these chemicals with our bare hands. The skin on my forefingers literally turned white, but I didn’t feel the burn like she did. (Maybe a woman thing? 😉
So after some research, I found that there is some discrepancy on whether rubbing alcohol and peroxide react to form anything particularly dangerous. Here is a thread with some chemistry geeks discussing the potential reactions. Feel free to peruse. One rather ominous reply in a Yahoo Answers thread said this:
“What you guys don’t know, mixing Rubbing Alcohol and Hydrogen Peroxide forms an Unknown Chemical. It is Inactive for a few days, and when you leave it out, it forms an Acid, that can give you really Bad Chemical Burns.”
I have no idea of this guy’s source, but that sounds about exactly like what happened to my wife and I. So, err on the side of caution and don’t mix them. You should have this rule of precaution when mixing any household chemicals. There are just too many things that can go wrong.
Before I go, let me just relate a little experiment I did. I was awoken this morning by my Mom, asking me to help out with throwing the last few things in the dumpster. We threw away some wet stuff, because it had just rained. Some of the moisture dampened the leg on shorts I’d just put on (proper clothing is hard to come by for me these days). Concerned about mold/mildew, I immediately used a cloth dampened with well water and hydrogen peroxide. After about a half hour of it sitting there soaking against my leg, I started to feel a slight burn. So it turns out hydrogen peroxide on its own can start to irritate your skin, I guess mainly if it maintains contact with your skin on some medium. So there ya go!