When water evaporates, limescale builds up and leaves edges and stains on surfaces, dishes and household appliances. Limescale edges not only look ugly, but also bind dirt and bacteria and thus become a hygiene problem. The best way to dissolve lime is by using acids. Harald Brugger, ecotoxicologist at “die umweltberatung” Vienna: “Various organic acids such as acetic acid, lactic acid or citric acid can be used to dissolve the lime when cleaning. We have also positively listed many cleaners based on these gentle organic acids. Vinegar also helps, but due to the neutral smell we prefer to use citric acid for descaling. In addition, vinegar can lead to the formation of verdigris on sensitive fittings. "
In conventional cleaning agents, unfortunately, often hide substances that pollute our environment heavily. In contrast, organic persons usually consist of skin-friendly, biodegradable natural solvents and extracts. The extensive range of environmentally friendly cleaning agents shows that they have long ceased to be niche products.
Use sparingly - Use detergents sparingly. Not only surfactants remove dirt, but also temperature, time and mechanics. For example, a new generation of microfiber wipes that only cleans with water is versatile in the home, very effective, and reusable.
Do not mix acidic and alkaline detergents. It can lead to unwanted chemical reactions with evaporation or gas formation. This applies above all to chlorine-containing sanitary cleaners.
Wet the tile joints with water before the cleaning procedure - otherwise the acidic limescale cleaners can attack the joints. Even marble can be damaged by acidic cleaners.
A well-tried home remedy helps against lime: the citric acid. Pour lemon juice into a spray bottle, add a splash of hand soap or dish soap, shake and the homemade, organic lime remover is ready. (The soap breaks the surface tension and ensures that the detergent sticks to smooth surfaces and does not simply bead off.) Now spray in calcified areas and fittings and let them work for ten to fifteen minutes. The lemon acid reacts with the lime and dissolves it. Then rinse with clear water. Longer lasting is the cleaner by adding two tablespoons of organic spirit.
What is inside?
Detergents need detergents - the surfactants. Synthetic surfactants are derived from petroleum raw materials, for surfactants of natural origin, various vegetable or animal fats are used. Popular are palm and coconut oil.
There are many new developments in this field, such as the production of surfactants from domestic vegetable oils, but also on the basis of microalgae, wood, grain bran and other organic materials. Recent research deals with the extraction of surfactants from straw, grain bran, wood waste or sugar beet residues.
The components of an eco-cleaner must be fast and above all fully biodegradable. In the best case, they decompose after use within a short period of time to water, carbon dioxide and minerals.
Do the brands keep their promises?
The publisher Öko-Test has taken a closer look at some companies and their brands. Manufacturer Henkel advertises its "Terra Activ" for example "with organic activators" and "cleaners based on renewable ingredients", 85 percent of the ingredients are actually based on renewable resources. Henkel has acquired certificates for the palm kernel oil, an important raw material for surfactants. This is to ensure that the same amount of sustainably produced oil that Henkel consumes for Terra Activ is put on the market. "Fit Grüne Kraft" carries the European Ecolabel, the Euroblume. Some particularly critical substances such as musk compounds are prohibited here. The toxicity for aquatic organisms is calculated on the basis of the exact recipe, all ingredients enter the calculation with different values. However, the sign has nothing to do with organically grown plant-based raw materials. Petrochemistry is permitted. Formaldehyde / cleavers or organohalogen compounds can also be used as preservatives.
"AlmaWin Household Cleaner Eco Concentrate" is labeled with Eco Guarantee. Only a few mild preservatives are allowed here, petroleum chemistry is prohibited. AlmaWin uses certified organic essential oils. By the way, the AlmaWin household cleaner Öko Konzentrat shows comparably best performance against lime residues according to Ökotest. "Organic quality since 1986" states on the frog Orange Universal Cleaner. That means according to manufacturer: The Tenside originate from vegetable origin, 77 percent of the contents are nature-based. The use of organically grown raw materials is not possible because the required substances would not be offered on the market. Palm kernel oil is used, but only by suppliers who are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). On formaldehyde, organohalogen compounds and PVC is dispensed with.
Conclusion: with eco against lime
Reasonable results can be achieved with all eco-cleaners; in practice, muscle power and mechanics also play a major role in cleaning. Problematic with the topic "organic" or "eco-cleaner": There is no legal definition for "organic" here. Every manufacturer understands something else. Various labels give information about the ecological footprint of the products, some even about their efficiency. At the end of the day, however, the consumer has to check the ingredients he uses to buy a product that does what the label promises.
In conversation with Harald Brugger, ecotoxicologist at "The environmental consulting" Vienna
Do eco limescale cleaners work as well as conventional products?
Harald Brugger: They have to work just like conventional products. In the case of the reputable labels such as the Austrian Ecolabel and the EU Ecolabel, the cleaning effect is checked in addition to checking the effects of ecotoxicity and human toxicity.
What should you look for in terms of the best cleaning effect on organic cleaning products?
Harald Brugger: For all detergents, whether chemical or organic, the following applies: The stated dosage must be observed correctly. It will not be cleaner than clean, not even overdosage.
How do I recognize a real eco-detergent?
Brugger: These products are identified by company-independent labels such as the Austrian Eco-label, EU Ecolabel, Nordic Swan or certification by the Austria Bio Garantie. You will also find independently rated products in the database ÖkoRein (www.umweltberatung.at/oekorein).
Are organic people made of new recipes, or is old knowledge used?
Brugger: Ecological detergents are highly specialized composite products. It takes a lot of know-how to achieve the necessary cleaning effect while still protecting the environment and health. Innovative companies are always looking for new opportunities, but also rely on old knowledge in the development of new products. Thus, natural old soap substances such as extracts of soapwort can be found on the market again.
In conversation with Marion Reichart, eco-budget maker Uni Sapon
What sets your product apart from others?
Marion Reichart: Basically, ecological detergents and cleaners differ from conventional cleaners in their ingredients and their environmental compatibility. The special feature of our range is the consistent avoidance of garbage. For example, we have had a complete zero-waste concept for more than 30 years. All our washing and cleaning agents are refillable. This saves tons of plastic bottles and drastically reduces CO2 emissions.
Do eco-cleaners work just as well? Reichart: even better than conventional. For example, our product range is based on raw materials, some of which have been used worldwide for millennia, such as soft soap. These were used by the old Sumerians before 3.000 years ago and the soap has not lost any of its efficiency. Especially with our lime solver, we regularly receive feedback that even there shows success, where previously all other cleaners failed.
How are the ingredients different from those of conventional products?
Reichart: An essential difference lies in the rapid biodegradability of the raw materials. We use only herbal and mineral ingredients and completely dispense with petrochemicals. There are also no synthetic fragrances or dyes used, but only essences from nature.
What's inside, in the eco-cleaner?
Reichart: Depending on the product, you will find the aforementioned soft soap and other mild, vegetable detergent raw materials based on vegetable fatty alcohol (sugar surfactants). We fight the lime with fruit acids in food quality and as abrasives in our pasty products there are mineral raw materials like marble powder and volcanic rock. The cleaners are rounded off with naturally pure essential oils as fragrance components.
Does your product have a seal of approval?
Reichart: We are the first manufacturer of detergents in Austria to have the world's strictest seal of approval, the ECOCERT certification.
Photo / Video: Shutterstock.