Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Domestic Chemical Signature

1950 Commercial for Lysol

Feb 2018, phys.org

It comes as a surprise to me sometimes when I read that “no one really knows” about the most basic things. For example, I see a headline that says – Science Finally Understands Why Ribbons Curl (you know when you the back of a pair of scissors on decorative packaging ribbon and it curls?). How do we have a roaming robot on Mars and not know about things like this?

In the article above, science wonders what kind of chemical reactions are going on inside our homes.
The stuff we use to clean our homes, our clothes, and ourselves, as well as the stuff that gets in the air when we cook, as well as the general environmental pollutants around us, these are all chemicals that interact with each other, and we don’t know the full extent of these reactions.

Cigarette smoke reacts with gaseous nitrous acid in our homes (a waste product from cooking and heating, and a general environmental pollutant from car exhaust etc. ) which is then absorbed by wood furniture and the like. So yes, there is a particular smell for a house that’s been smoked in for twenty years vs. smoke itself.

Here’s another one – chlorine bleach, as a gas in the air, oxidizes stuff, which in combination with UV light forms radical molecules.

You don’t have to be a chemist to know that everyone’s home smells different. And that difference is made by all the chemicals we use in our daily lives. The thing is, if you were to try and pinpoint the source of that smell – the chemicals – you would fail. Chemistry is a thing in flux, it is always changing, and even Plato recognized it as such when he described odors in his Timaeus as “emanating from a body undergoing change.”  Therefore, the odor fingerprint of your home comes not only from the myriad substances you use in your house, but from the reactions of those things with each other.

And if Science doesn’t even know how all that stuff works, then how are you supposed to know?

On a side note:

Cleaning products as bad for lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day:
Scientists advise that harmful sprays could be replaced with simple microfibre cloths and water
Feb 2018, The Independent

And on that note:

This one is about cleanliness and the illusion of cleanliness. Lived in a basement apartment for awhile and decided to pay a friend of my landlord to do a “deep clean”. She brings her own cleaning products (because I use mostly microfiber and water, and lots of people either don’t know how to use that or don’t believe that it works.)

So this lady comes in and cleans up my place. Hella Lysol. My landlord comes down to visit that day, to see what she did, and boy is she delighted. “It’s so clean in here, wow you really needed it!”

First of all, my apartment is not dirty. I was a custodian at almost every job I had, not to mention keeping a high school art classroom in pristine condition for ten years, not to mention that this very apartment had been hit by a massive mold attack one summer, and I’ve been hypervigilant/paranoid about its return ever since. And, not only am I the guy that cleans for the maid, but this time at least, I had to clean again after the maid left.

My landlord, however, is suffering from olfactory insinuation. She smells Lysol and thinks it’s clean, like, cleaner than it was before. Funny, because as soon as I walked into my apartment, you know what I smelled? “Dirty mop” that’s what I call it.

“Dirty mop” is when you don’t clean the mop itself after mopping, and you also don’t let it dry, and you also keep it in a dark place until the next time you use it. And when you do use it next, you, instead of cleaning, spread that dirty plethora of microbes all over your floor.

So I smiled, paid the woman, and got to work cleaning my apartment, and wondering how long it would take for this Lysol smell to dissipate.

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