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CITRUS: A NON-TOXIC
HOUSEHOLD CLEANING ALTERNATIVE

The Boeing Company has used citrus to replace metal polishes. In their paint department, citrus replaces dangerous solvents. The American Princess Cruise Line uses citrus in the engine room as a heavy duty degreaser. When the Exxon Valdez spilled oil over Prince William Sound in Alaska a few years ago, citrus cleaners were used to clean up the oily rocks. They are used by some environmental remediation companies to 'loosen' the oil in the ground from leaking storage tanks so that oil eating bacteria can more easily digest the oil, helping protect our drinking water. Many printers use citrus cleaners to remove the ink from their press rollers. Citrus based cleaners are being tested by some micro chip manufacturers to clean silicone chips before micro circuits are imprinted, replacing ozone damaging CFC's.

Another area of expanding interest is the use of citrus to replace insecticides and pesticides in agriculture and home applications. One example of this is the use of citrus in pet shampoos for flea and tick removal. Research is also being done at Oregon State University using citrus as an orchard spray to control apple fly maggots. Other applications being tested are for use against dry rot termites and cockroaches in homes. There are some who use citrus extracts to kill fire ants in the Southwest.

Where Does All That Citrus Come From?

Today, much citrus comes from corn. It is a by- product of gasohol production. After refining it is generally known as D-limolene. This is the chemical name for citrus oils. These are used to replace industrial solvents where cost is more important than smell. Some are found in consumer products. They smell like 'citrus', but can be overpowering in confined spaces. Sometimes pure orange oil or orange essence are added for fragrance. A product can be called 'orange oil' if it contains as little as 2% pure orange oil.

The other major source for "Orange Oil" is the fresh juice industry. There are several methods of extracting the 'oil' from the orange. Premium grade orange juice is pressed from whole fresh oranges using large plates that 'smash' the oranges. This is 'fresh squeezed' juice. The juice runs off. The remains of the oranges are then moved into a 'cold room' where the pulp & wax harden. The oil released from this first pressing is pure orange 'oil'. The pressings continue, each time lower grades of orange oil are released, including D-limolene. This process is similar to olive oil extraction with each grade being less 'pure'.

Another method used to extract D-limolene is to take pure orange oil and put it through a vacuum distillation process. This removes the aldihides and some of the terpenes from the 'oil' leaving a more refined product. This is similar to Minute RiceŽ being more refined than organic, brown rice. The product now smells like 'citrus', not orange.

To close the loop, the leftovers are ground and used as an additive for cattle feed, or made into cat litter and compost. Nothing is burned or landfilled. These remains used to be a major disposal problem in juice producing areas, but are now a profit center for the juice producers. While this may not be pure recycling, nothing goes to waste.

Is it the Orange 'Oil' That Does the Cleaning?

'Waterless' orange oil is a powerful solvent. It can melt plastic, remove glues and do many useful industrial tasks where a solvent would be used. 'Waterless' orange oil is too strong to be of use to most consumers. It cannot be diluted with water.

Consumer products are mixed with a surfactant that helps clean and allows the citrus extracts to be mixed with water. Surfactants help clean by 'lifting' dirt to the surface after it is dissolved by the orange oil. What types of surfactants and how they are added to the citrus oil determines what the product cleans and how it reacts when mixed with water. Some products are mixed with alcohol to be fast drying parts washers such as you find at auto repair shops. Others are better at removing stains from clothes & carpets. Some companies use only one surfactant to save money. Most use several surfactants so their products can be used on many types of surfaces. Orange oil can be very expensive depending on its origin. Since oranges grow on trees, they are both a renewable resource and a commodity, subject to shortages and price increases.

Aromatherapy considers Pure Orange a tonic for anxiety & depression. It is used to stimulate the digestive system. While refreshing, it is also somewhat sedative in nature, creating a relaxed atmosphere. My theory is that using cleaners made with pure orange oil makes for happy cleaners. Give it a try and see for yourself!

Pure orange 'oil' can be good for both the environment and for you. All citrus is better for the environment than petrochemicals. So look around in your store for some of the many citrus cleaners available. Try them out. Each has its own special qualities and odors. I am sure you will find one that suits your needs.

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Article by: David Rind


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