ARTICLES | Parrot Housekeeping

Safe, Ethical and Parrot Friendly Cleaners: Vinegar and Baking Soda

“All” the Americans seem to be cleaning with vinegar and baking soda all the time. (haha – how’s that for generalization :-)) As a multi-parrot and dog owner, I am forever battling with filth. So I thought, “Great idea – I’ll try this.” Particularly appealing is also that neither vinegar nor baking soda are likely to have gone through cruel animal testing. They have been used by mankind since way before such tests were ever implemented. On top of that vinegar and baking soda are environmentally friendly and – in low concentrations – safe for parrots and other pets.

Being a woman of action, I purchased a big (10 kg) container 60% Acetic Acid (which is the active ingredient in vinegar) and a similarly big tub of baking soda (5kg) online. Both arrived this week and this Saturday was designated action day. After having a really hard time opening the safety seal on the acetic acid (success was finally achieved with a pipe wrench) I carefully (plastic gloves! Window open for ventilation! Should have worn goggles as well, but did not bother) poured some in a measuring cup and from there into an empty bottle. Pouring from the huge container directly into the flimsy plastic bottle seemed a recipe for disaster (or at least major spillage). Can’t be too careful, you know. 🙂

That feat accomplished, I made up some working solution: I figured 60% concentrate would likely be too strong to use, but had no clue of the acetic acid concentration in vinegar (I know google is only as far away as my desk, but I was on a mission here and had no time for googling :-)). On a hunch I diluted it five times which would be around 12% final concentration.
For the baking soda I used an empty spaghetti sauce jar and punched some holes into the lid to turn it into a shaker.

Then I set to work. Still sporting my surgical cloves, I dipped a sponge into the acetic acid solution and then then shook some baking soda on top of it. The stuff foamed like crazy. Cool! Why are chemical reactions like that always so satisfying?? As a chemical engineer I really should be beyond this little girl’s enthusiasm over foaming baking soda, but hey, I guess that’s the part of me that never grows up. 🙂

Then I tested it on my kitchen sink. Holy cow! That stuff works. This is by far the most effectively working cleanser I have ever used. Ever! Unbelievable. And it is less toxic and way cheaper than all the commercial products I have tried over the years. I am impressed. I will never win any awards for good housekeeping, but I am actually excited about trying this on my floors now. That is definitely a first for me. 🙂

The next step will be to optimize this cleaner by finding out the lowest concentration that still works well. I finally did google and found out that most household vinegars are around 5% concentration. This is coincidentally the same concentration that was found by a test done by “Good Housekeeping” to be 90% effective against mold and 99.9% effective against bacteria. Against viruses, vinegar does not seem to work that well. I suppose 5% is the concentration to try next then.

So I filled a 2 liter pump-spray bottle with 5% acetic acid solution and set on my living room floors. These get awfully dirty quick because of dog traffic with direct access to backyard mud. I sprayed the floor and let it sit for about a minute. Then I wiped it with my mop. Amazing. The dirt lifted straight off. No scrubbing needed. Even better – at that concentration the acetic acid does not make my home smell like a salad bowl. It smells pretty much to nothing. I have seen recipes online, where vinegar was put in jars with lemon peels for lemon scented cleansers. That might be worth a try for that “just cleaned” smell. But I’m pretty happy with no smell either.

What I am not so happy about is my hands. For the floor experiment I forgot to don the plastic gloves. Just rinsing the mop with my hands was enough to make them feel dry and rough. Thus, for the future: gloves are a must when cleaning with vinegar. If this is really the only downside I can fin – I can live with that as gloves are a must as well with all the other cleaners I have used.

In terms of financials: Including shipping I paid €33.85 for 10kg (=approx. 10l) of 60% Acetic acid. If I dilute it down to 5%, it means that I am paying €0.28 per litre of the most effective cleaner I have ever used or for those of us working in non-metric terms: US$0.35 per quart. Unbelievable! Can’t beat that! Needless to say – I’ll stick with this.