With the COVID-19 pandemic taking over the world, an advisory to wash hands has been put in place. But how do you keep your water safe in such trying times?
Disclaimer: The priority right now is to tackle SARS-COV2 according to WHO guidelines. This article is to highlight why bio-enzyme based cleaners are a better choice to keep pathogenic microbes at bay. And to keep our water sources free from chemicals.
As I write this piece, most countries are under lock-down. COVID-19 has changed our lives like nothing before has. Yes, there have been wars, natural disasters but this occurrence is a truly humbling one.
A small virus has managed to bring all of human kind to a grinding halt. The advisory to halt spread of the virus includes thorough hand-washing using soap and water.
But does everyone have access to safe water? According to the World Bank estimates over 21 percent of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and the lack of hygiene practices. Further, more than 500 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhoea in India alone. I suspect very soon we won’t have enough safe water to wash our hands!
We have let our lakes and rivers die by letting our domestic and industrial waste into these precious water bodies. As ordinary citizens, what can we do to stop this? One thing we can do is to stop using chemical cleaners and detergents in our daily life.
And that is exactly what this article is all about.
In nature there is a happy balance of good microbes and pathogens. The good microbes overrun pathogens in number. There are nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the roots of plants that play a major role in nature. The lactobacilli convert milk to curd, your gut bacteria help in digestion of food, keep you healthy and also maintain reproductive health.
Do you know that nearly 10,000 different species occupy the human body? But in our effort to sanitise our environment with chemical cleaners, we are also effectively killing the good microbes around us.
And this imbalance gives power to pathogens to overtake good microbes. Additionally, the chemical cleaners that we send off as grey-water in our environments is quickly polluting our water bodies as well.
Have you ever thought about what happens to soapy water after it is flushed down the drain? Did you know it can pose severe health hazards to the lives of fish and other aquatic organisms and also pollute water bodies?
The Indian Institute of Science conducted a study on the lakes in Bangalore. This study showed that the inflow of sewage brought in a host of natural and synthetic organic compounds. The frothing in the lakes happens due to the surfactants in the detergents that mainly consist of phosphates.
Common detergents contain branch-chained alkyl sulphonates that are non-biodegradable and result in persistent foam. Other agents such as bleach are very corrosive, and can affect the body.
Moreover, if mixed with other cleaning products, they’ll react with those and release dangerous gases like ammonia and chlorine. Glass-cleaners have isopropyl alcohol, monoethanolamine, and butyl alcohol. You could do your research and see how safe they are. A number of these chemicals are carcinogenic.
So, are there sustainable alternatives that don’t kill the good bacteria and also clean the environment you live in? The answer is a resounding yes!
These are Bio-enzyme based cleaners. What is Bio-enzyme? Well, the clue is in the name- ‘Bio’ means living and ‘enzymes’ are chemical substances that hasten the breakdown of complex molecules into simpler one.
Quite like the enzymes that our stomach produces to digest food. Bio-enzymes contain both good bacteria and a lot of enzymes that can clean very well, very quickly and is completely odour free.
So, how does the process work? The following protocol is obtained from the book ‘The Waste Issue’ (2018), authored by Sangeeta Venkatesh (author of this piece), Padma Shastry and Nivedita Rathaur.
Essentially fruit peels (usually citrus) are placed in air-tight containers with nutrients like brown sugar or jaggery and water. Here the good bacteria begin to act and break down all the food matter using enzymes.
The purpose of jaggery or brown sugar is to provide “simple” carbon source or energy for the microorganisms to first feed and grow. And the air tight container is left for three months. If you are a beginner, you could start with the proportions given below.
1) 300 grams jaggery
2) 900 grams of vegetable/ fruit remains (citrus will give a pleasant odour)
3) 3 litres of water
4) 5 litre capacity plastic container
After three months, all the food matter is completely digested by a process of fermentation. What is left inside the container is a lot enzyme and good bacteria that can break down any leftover matter.
This can be diluted and used to clean the toughest stains, odours, utensil, and clothes while destroying harmful bacteria. And it is completely environment-friendly! Amazing isn’t it?
If you want lather, you can add extract of soap-nut (Sapindus) Release of Bio-enzyme into the environment after use is perfectly safe and, in many cases, also helps rejuvenate polluted bodies.
The web of life is so interconnected, that the introduction of excessive chemicals action has affected all of the ecosystem. Experts say using soap-nut, shikakai, wood-ash in combination with Bio-Enzyme, can help us replace all the chemical cleaners we use on a daily basis. Moreover, these natural cleaners are not ‘dead’ unlike their chemical counterpart as they are full of life and energise our living spaces.
Other than their use as cleaners, bio-enzymes have a plethora of uses. They can be used as room fresheners. For this you need three parts water, left in an open container. You could also use it to remove pesticide residue from fruits and vegetables.
While enriching soil quality (15 ml in a litre of water), it is also safe to use if you have plants at home. Additionally, it can be used as a pesticide for plants as a diluted solution.
It also acts on oil and grime on vessels. And clears blocked drains when used directly without diluting it. It also removes the limescale that accumulates on taps.
The highlight is that the cleaner is made from organic fruit or vegetable waste and can be prepared at home also. For those who cannot, there are a host of people that supply it commercially at competitive prices.
The bottom line is that it maintains a healthy population of ‘good microbes.’ Thus suppressing pathogenic bacteria and viruses. So, what will be your choice of cleaner?
Picture credits: Pexels
A version of this was earlier published here.
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Sangeeta Venkatesh is the co-author of 'The Waste Issue' - an interactive workbook for school
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