Cleaning with Chemistry

Did you know that basis household cleaning can often rely on chemistry? It’s what makes the world go round. From doing your dishes to removing stains to vacuuming, it all comes back to fundamental interactions that can all be explained with chemistry. Ready to learn more? In this article we’re going to discuss the different ways chemistry can be used to explain how different cleaning methods work.

Hit It With Acid

So much around the house can be cleaned with white vinegar. Do you know what the main component of white vinegar is? It’ acetic acid. While it does a great job of cleaning surfaces around the house, it’s particularly fantastic for removing stains caused by metal deposits. Where would you see this most often? Generally speaking, they show up as rust stains around your faucets and fixtures.

If you see an orange buildup that you suspect to be caused by rust, you might notice that soap and water simply won’t do the trick. By using vinegar however, you are putting the metal deposits in an acidic environment which strips the metal of oxygen. With oxygen removed, the metal deposits once again become polarized and are much more happy to dissolve in water. Metal in an oxides state is next to insoluble, which is why it can only be removed by scraping, or by employing chemistry as we just discussed here.

Crank Up The Base

On the flip side of the pH spectrum, basic compounds are used all over the household. From ammonia, to bleach, soap, and Drain-O there are so many places where basic compounds come into play as cleaners. What do basic compounds work on? Grease. Why does it work? Well, similarly to how acid works on removing metal stains base works on removing grease stains. When grease is in an acidic in environment it becomes completely hydrogenated and subsequently non-polar. This means that it will resist water indefinitely. You could use a non-polar solvent such as mineral oil to remove these grease buildups, but you’ll always be left with an oily residue.

By raising the pH using something basic, you’ll strip the grease molecules of their protons giving them a polar functional group. Grease compounds are very unlikely to ever become soluble, but with polar functional groups they will be able to emulsify. Soap molecules will then form micelles around them, at which point they can easily be rinsed away. Side note – ever noticed how it’s easier to clean grease with hot water rather than cold? This is because you’re affecting the viscosity of the grease. More heat makes for less viscosity, and subsequently makes for easier rinsing.

Playing With Pressure

Chemistry isn’t just related chemical compounds, there are also the physical behaviors that can be manipulated to get the desired effect. One such phenomenon is pressure, which can also be used on both sides of the spectrum to clean around the house.

First and foremost is the vacuum. By using a high powered fan to create a void, you create a pressure gradient that causes air to come whipping into the chamber, taking dust and dirt particles with it. Want a stronger vacuum? Take a look at the ideal gas law:


You can either increase the power for the fan to lower the pressure, or you can decrease the volume of the vacuum chamber for the fan size you’re using. The problem with the former is that it will require more energy to run, and the problem with the latter is that you will have less time to clean before you have to empty out the vacuum chamber.

Let’s take a look at the flip side – using an abundance of pressure to clean. This is perhaps most properly visualized by looking at a pressure washer. Pressure washer’s take feed water and pump it through a small orifice, which results in a huge increase in the pressure leaving the orifice. This is like the effect of a syringe. The resulting pressure that comes out of the nozzle of a pressure washer is so much higher than that supplied by a garden hose that the water is able to bombard surfaces with a much higher force, and subsequently remove a lot more dirt and grime. This is the main principle behind how pressure washers work, such as those found here: .

Chemistry is all around us, and it can be fascinated to dig into the simple things to see how it is rooted in nature. Do you have any explanations of household cleaning phenomenons that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Making Noises: How Guitar Strings Produce Sound

Imagine a world full of waves vibrating around you, all of them different sizes, shapes, and colors. Now close your eyes and focus on the sounds that you can hear. You can probably hear something mechanical, like an air conditioner, or your own breathing. Maybe you hear music, children laughing, cars driving past, or sirens in the distance. The world you imagined is around you already; it is the world of sound. Now let’s look at how this world is created.

All sound is made by movement. Rapid movement back and forth causes air to be pushed away. As the object moves back, the air does not fill in the space it was pushed from and a small vacuum is created, making a wave shape. These waves are sound.

If you take a rubber band and stretch it over your fingers, you can test the way that sound changes. Plucking a loose rubber band will produce a lower sound, while a rubber band that has been stretched tight will make a higher sound. Guitar strings work this way. The looser and thicker the string, the slower it can vibrate. These slow vibrations make the low sounds like a bass guitar. A tighter, thinner string cannot move has far as it vibrates. Its vibrations are tight and fast. This makes higher notes. On a guitar, the length of the strings can be changed by the player’s fingers. A shorter string vibrates more quickly than a longer one, causing a higher sound.

Since sound waves are literally caused by compressed air, it is easy for loud noises, the really strong waves, to damage hearing because of the increased pressure. In fact, sound waves can also be called pressure waves.

People who go to concerts might notice a pressurized feeling in their heads if they pay attention. How does the sound get that loud? An electric guitar by itself, not hooked up to speakers, is pretty soft. Now we are talking resonance and amplification.

An acoustic guitar is bulkier, right? It has a hole right under the strings where they are plucked. The air inside the acoustic guitar captures the sound and the wood at the back reflects the waves back stronger. This use of empty space and a sound reflector is called resonance. The sinuses in the human head do the same thing. The empty sinus space and the bones of the skull resonate our voices to make them louder.

The design that is common in most electric guitars is that of a solid body: no extra space. That is why an electric guitar sounds soft all on its own; it has no resonance. That is where the speakers come in to play. The vibrations of the strings on an electric guitar are picked up in the solid body of the guitar and passed electrically to speakers. These speakers mimic the guitar’s sound waves while making the waves bigger and stronger and, therefore, louder. The increase of the strength of a sound wave is called amplification.

Vocal chords vibrate like guitar strings. Clapping hands together creates a single sound wave. Go explore the world of sound!

How Does a Paintball Gun Work, Anyway?

The parts of paintball guns are similar but have some very important differences between them. First, it’s important whether you’re using a pistol, semi-automatic paintball gun and the pump-action gun. All of them work differently but have the same core parts that make them paintball guns. Some can be pump action paint ball guns. The CO2 cartridge will often be loaded into the bottom tube, right below the barrel. In hand paintball guns, your paint balls are loaded into the top tube. The middle tube are where the shots are fired. Pumping the gun will load one round at a time.

The other pump action paintball gun will require a CO2 cartridge or a compressed air cartridge. The people competing have to be responsible enough to carry a paintball tube. That tube is going to be your main source for ammunition. Your paintball rounds go into a holder called a hopper. This item makes it immediately clear that it’s a paintball gun. It’s the most immediate sign to tell people that the weapon isn’t lethal to other competitors.

Hoppers have numbers on them to let people know have many rounds can be held. However, some times this can vary depending on the shape of the rounds that you have. They will drop into the chamber of the gun. Pump action guns are loaded into the barrel itself and then requires to be pumped after every shot. It’s important to see how little recoil that the paintball guns have. Some of that can be explained because they use CO2 cartridges to propel the rounds. The rounds themselves also tend to be lighter and easier to control.

Semi-automatic guns are more convenient than the other choices. There are options for either electric or mechanical paintball guns. They are the most basic paintball gun and almost everyone can have an enjoyable experience with them. Every time you pull the trigger a round will be fired. That is different from the pump action guns that require you to have pump each round. That makes sure that the concept doesn’t require much explanation to everyone. That also means that the semi-automatic gun can hold more rounds than the pump action gun. That makes sure that newcomers are punished as hard for their lack of gun knowledge.

Paintball guns can be enjoyed by people that don’t enjoy real guns. They also have a far less chance of injuring someone who is less experienced with a guns. Chest soreness or literally being hit with recoil due to inexperience is relatively nonexistent when it comes to paintball guns.