Friday, June 17, 2005

All Purpose H Household Cleaner & Pesticides 101

Written by:
Bonnie Edkin
Environmental Chemist/Nutritional Consultant
Edkin Health & Environmental Services

Note:the Manufacturer name has been changed in this post to all purpose H Household cleaner to meet the P& R Guidelines of the manufacturer..

I've used All Purpose H Household cleaner in spray bottles to kill wasps, ants, etc for years. We
live in the woods - and I do mean IN THE WOODS. At various times of the
year, we will see hordes of carpenter ants trekking their way across our
deck and into our home. What do I mean by "hordes?" At times there are so
many you can actually hear them crawling across the floor, countertop, or
whatever surface they are on. Yes, I am serious. If there are enough of
them, you can hear them. Unfortunately, I am speaking from the voice of

Now, I'm one of those strange people who actually think almost all "bugs"
are kind of cute. So, creepy-crawlers don't normally creep me out, but when
there are this many - well, that's just way to weird for even me. Also,
finding pieces of chewed up wood (from the 2x4s inside our walls) and pieces
of insulation (also from inside the walls) on the floor where the ants have
marched into the house - that's not exactly something that makes me feel
particularly kindly toward the critters. (Carpenter ants can be more
destructive than termites.) So, when these infestations show up from time
to time, I spray the perimeter of the house with a solution of Basic-H. The
next day there are dead ants everywhere. Multitudinous dead ants

So, yes, All Purpose H (and any other liquid cleaner) will kill ants, wasps, etc.
But, Basic-H isn't a poison, so you don't have to worry about absorbing it
into the skin and it having some sort of negative affect on the nervous
system. The mode of action isn't due to some toxic affect on the nervous
system. Basic H doesn't kill ants in the way a typical pesticidal poison
works. Rather, it's a "mechanical" sort of action.

Perhaps a little lesson in pesticides will help. ;-)

There are various methods of killing "bugs." Some pesticides work on the
nervous system by inhibiting enzymes that are involved with slowing down the
nervous system. Enzymes are needed to both "excite" the nervous system and
to calm it down after the cause of the initial "excitement" is over. By
inhibiting the enzymes that calm down the nervous system, these pesticides
put the nervous system into such an excited state that the bug dies. It's
like having a bunch of electrical shorts in the nervous system. (I don't
mean to be gross, but that's why the poor critters twitch so much after
exposure to this kind of pesticide.) The human nervous system is affected
the same way. Many of these pesticides are called "cholinesterase
inhibitors" (because cholinesterase is the enzyme they block). There are
other pesticides that block other enzymes or that cause death from a toxic
exposure in other ways, but the cholinesterase inhibitors are fairly common,
so I'm using them as an example of pesticides that kill by toxic exposure.

Poison isn't the only way to kill bugs. A fly swatter isn't a poison, but
is still can be quite effective at killing flies. (Btw, when using a fly
swatter, it's helpful to know how flies take off. They first fly backward
and then up and forward. So, to improve your hitting average, always plan
to hit the poor guy from behind. You'll get almost 100% this way.) Other
compounds that are considered pesticides work in a "mechanical" sort of way.
For example, there are some products on the market that contain tiny
crystals that scratch the wax-like coating on the hard shell of the insect
when the critter crawls over it. When this coating is scratched, the bug
dehydrates. It can't retain enough water to survive. These products are
officially listed as pesticides, but they are not poisons. You could rub
them all over your body and they won't hurt you one bit. (Well, okay, you
might scratch the skin a bit since they are gritty.)

All Purpose H is not a cholinesterase inhibitor. It works in a mechanical sort of
way - but just the opposite of the gritty crystals that scratch the waxy
coating on the bug to dehydrate it. All Purpose H, like all surfactants, makes
water wetter. That is, it makes water penetrate things better. So, rather
than causing dehydration for ants, etc, it drowns them. It's basically like
holding the bug under water til it drowns.

Actually, any surfactant will do this. That's what makes them effective
cleaners: they help water penetrate the thing you're trying to clean. Lemon
Joy, Dawn, etc - they are all surfactants and will all kill a variety of
"bugs." For example, if a kitten is too young for the vet to recommend a
poison-type flea killer, the vet will sometimes tell you to wash the kitten
with a mild solution of dishwashing liquid to kill the fleas (not automatic
dishwasher detergent, but the stuff that used for washing dishes by hand).
I'm not saying this to promote the use of those products, but rather to
bring up something that is often misunderstood.

Some distributors have
assumed this indicates the dishwashing liquids must be very, very poisonous.
Unfortunately, it backfires when they tell someone they can do the same
thing with All Purpose H. After all, if you tell a customer that the dishwashing
liquids from the grocery store kill fleas and this "proves they are toxic,"
what is that person going to think when you tell them All Purpose H also kills
bugs? They are going to naturally assume All Purpose H is toxic.

So the "if it kills bugs, it must be toxic" concept isn't true (and if you
use it, it will backfire on you at some point). Although All purpose H is not
registered as a pesticide, it will kill many pests. It accomplishes this
thru a "mechanical" sort of action rather than by toxicity.

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