Monday, August 1, 2011

Better living thru chemistry

While Jane was Back Home Again In Indiana, I decided to tackle a pretty disgusting task: cleaning out the shower pan in the aft head.

After living aboard all these years, I am embarrassed to admit that all I have ever done was to clean off the hair catcher. And slowly but surely the pan got dirtier and dirtier. Despite bleach dousings, a layer of hair, bacteria, and what Joe of Tropic Star once termed "human chutney", all in a matrix of soap scum had built up in there

I attacked it first with a scraper, then with a variety of products designed to remove soap scum. Without much luck. Finally I settled in with wet/ dry sand paper - but even that didn't work well - the gummy deposit slowly rolled up in little balls.

While frustratedly sipping a beer, it came to me: work on the other end of the molecule! Soap scum is the insoluble calcium and magnesium salts of long chain organic acids. All of those water-based household products work on the tiny acid/salt end of the molecule, and further require a chemical reaction with it to work effectively. I wetted a rag with mineral spirits and simply wiped the scum off! The mineral spirits dissolved the scum by dissolving the long organic end of the scum. Really, it just wiped off.

With a clean surface, a coat of Brightsides urethane enamel spread cleanly without fisheyes, and really spiffed it up.

I'm having computer problems - this post was created on my iPhone, tediously. Not sure when I will post again until I have the computer working properly again.

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