Science of Domestic Science

This is from an article in last week’s i paper on household shortcuts from old chemistry books. They are cheaper than commercial products, and in most cases are actually better:

Silver cleaning

All you need is some aluminium foil and a little bicarbonate of soda (sodium hydrogen carbonate). Simply add a tablespoon of bicarb and a few strips of foil to a cup of hot water. Then drop in your tarnished silver and leave for a few minutes. Remove, rinse and … sparkling silver. … The black tarnish is silver sulphide. It slowly accumulates as the silver reacts with sulphur in the atmosphere and food (don’t use silver spoons to eat eggs!). Polishing removes the tarnish to reveal the silver underneath, but that slowly wears away at the surface detail. It’s much better.. to use the foil trick. The aluminium reacts with the silver sulphide to create aluminium sulphide, turning the tarnish back to silver, so you don’t lose any of the precious metal. … The foil is covered dight a the layer of aluminium hydroxide, which stops the metal reacting with the silver. The bicarb removes this layer and allows to foil to do its stuff.

Bounce Your Batteries

Want to know if all those old batteries i your kitchen drawer are fresh or flat? …just drop them – the old batteries will bounce. Alkaline batteries contain 2 chambers; one houses manganese dioxide and the other a mixture of zinc and potassium hydroxide in the form of a gel. As the battery discharges, the gel slowly turns into a ceramic. And as every chef knows, ceramics bounce and jelly doesn’t.

Descale Your Kettle

Fill it with one part vinegar to 2 parts water. Boil, let cool and rinse. Limescale is largely calcium carbonate. Acetic acid (vinegar) reacts with it to produce water, carbon dioxide, calcium acetate (which is soluble) and a clean kettle. ..

Feed Chilli to the Birds

This keeps squirrels away. Chilli feels hot because it contains a chemical called capsaicin which triggers heat receptors. In nature the effect is to repel pesky mammals and insects. Birds, however, are immune to the spice’s effects. In fact, chilli plant needs bird to eat the fruit and spread is seeds far and wide.

The upshot? You can load bird feed with as much chilli powder as you like and your avian visitors won’t feel a thing. Meanwhile, any roaming rodents won’t come back for a second bite. And, as an added bonus, your chilli-fed chickens might even have a lower level of salmonella than their un-spiced counterparts.

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