Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Quick post today. C, T and I have been looking for a cheap and viable cleaner for our car projects. This mini-post looks at using a vinegar and baking soda combo as an all-purpose deep cleaner.

Starting Point
So much of our time working on our projects isn't the fun sexy part of removing parts or putting new parts in, or even really fun stuff like welding. At least half of our time is cleaning stuff. Those car-fix TV shows don't film or broadcast that, because it's really not interesting. And viewers would change the channel. But, cleaning is so important and so central to everything we do. In retrospect, I've done a horrible job of highlighting this along the way, falling into the same trap of "not interesting" for readers. So, today, I'm doing a tiny post on the topic.

We usually go the route of dish-soap, glass cleaner, de-greaser, goof-off or brake cleaner depending on what we're cleaning. Ultimately, the real work is scrubbing or rubbing by hand with shop towels, sponges, paper towels and maybe steel wool. Our first priority is to not damage the part, and so that sometimes means we leave it not quite as clean as we would want it to be. We are always looking for new cleansers that do the job, do it well and preferably do it without a big negative impact on the environment (which is why we try to avoid brake cleaner).

The Impetus
before. at night w/flash camera
The new A4 had been parked for at least a year when we picked it up. The PO said it was much shorter, but unless he was just driving it up and down his driveway, he was driving it without tags. So, we're pretty sure it sat longer. Anyway, the Pacific Northwest has lots of things it is famous for. Not on the list is the amount of moss that grows here on pretty much anything that sits still during the rainy season. Even pure and perfect paint will have a dull green haze come summer, if it hasn't been cleaned or even just moved during the rains. Putting the A4 non-movement with that non-published reality nets us an A4 that had itself some green haze. This green haze was especially bad on the headlights, reducing their usefulness. T thought they were scratched. Having no money and no special headlight de-scratcher tooling, we hit the internet for cheap home-grown alternatives.

Headlight de-Hazing
We came upon a YouTube of a guy fixing his headlights with vinegar and baking soda. I had heard of this combination as a recommendation for cleaning carpets, and intended to attack the keeperZed carpets once we got that far. But I hadn't heard of using vinegar/soda for getting scratches out of glass. Feeling unconvinced, T mixed up a small paste in a glass dish and grabbed a microfiber cloth. First, he shot the headlight with window cleaner and wiped it "clean" with a paper towel. Then, he dipped the microfiber cloth into the paste, wiped it on and rubbed it off. Seriously, that's all he did. Then, he rinsed with another window cleaner spray and wipe to make sure there wasn't any paste residue left.

after. next day no flash
The results are pretty amazing. We aren't entirely sure if the headlights were really scratched up or just covered in mossy haze or just hazey from age. They look much better now and the light shines through them much better than before. Total cost: virtually $0. I had leftover dollar-store apple vinegar from when I cleaned the radiator in the MGB (See that MGB Coolant Pump Replacement (Part 2)). We had an open box of baking soda in the fridge. Put together with about 10 minutes of clock start-to-end, and the A4 went from hazey, ineffective and unattractive headlights to clear and bright headlights.

During the radiator experiment, I used baking soda and vinegar separately: one to neutralize the other. When used together, they froth like mad. Based on my reading, it is this frothing / oxidizing action that does the cleaning. I've read that you can mix in some lemon or orange dish soap into the mixture to leave a fresh smell (not vinegar) behind. C experimented with that when he started looking at the carpets in the 280ZX.

Carpet Deum
C arrived with a great energy and interest in getting his carpets cleaned on the 280ZX. We had finished pulling parts off the donor, but hadn't yet dealt with the carcass. The renewed energy was very welcomed, and he wanted to focus it on the parts pile that was now overwhelming the keeper Zed. On the top of the heap was the carpet. In the ZX, the carpet is extremely simple: there are 2 pieces, one for the cockpit from the back of the seats to under the dash and one piece for the trunk space. With the newly learned lessons with the headlights, he grabbed the dollar-store vinegar and the commercial-grade soda from the blasting and started in on the rear carpet.

All in, he spent about 30 minutes working on it. He poured soda onto a section of carpet, spreading it around with his hands. Then, he spread lemon dishsoap in a wavy thin line across the same area. Last, he took a bottle of tonic water in one hand and a bottle of vinegar in the other and poured fluids on top, creating a thin lather. Once the lathering action started to slow, he attacked the area with a plastic scrub-brush. Once scrubbed, he let it sit and moved on to another area. Each section got no more than 5 minutes of attention. When he had done enough of the carpet for his experiment, he let it sit for an hour while we ate dinner. After dinner, he grabbed the garden hose, put a standard tip on it and hosed off the carpet.

The results were pretty amazing. While it didn't come clean like it was factory-new, it does look like it was a very well cared for carpet. He will be doing the rest of that section as well as the front carpet so he can re-use them in his keeper Zed. Now that we've proven it works, I'll be trying it on the interior hard plastic in the MGB... maybe the tail lights.. who knows?

That's it for today. Thanks, as always, for following along-

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