09-Jun-18: Pavitra Sriprakash, Director and Chief Designer at Shilpa Architects Planners Designers, writes about “Green Cleaning” your car, in a weekly column on Sustainable living for the New Indian Express.
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Earlier this week, while I was popping in and out of my uber-convenient cab ride, a typical problem hit me. The insides of the car were reeking with the artificial smell of air fresheners while the rest of the vehicle looked dirty and mucky. From a cleaning standpoint, the most common causes of odour are urine, smoke, food, decomposition, particulates, and chemicals.
When I asked my cab driver why he opted for such a strong fragrance he remarked, “riders give me a better star rating when the car is clean, because it smells good”. While some may relish the smell, I wind up with a headache. Between the ‘aromatherapy’ in the cab and the fact that it could be doing more harm than good I started thinking of natural ways to keep cars smelling clean and fresh without any of the negative effects; and about some green ways to keep cars clean without any of the bad stuff getting into our bodies and backyards.
When cleaning vehicles at home, we often choose synthetic chemicals and products that in the long run damage the environment and cause health issues. Instead we could act in ways that compete against the mainstream cleaners. Natural alternatives that are non toxic and which do not off-gas poisonous residues should be our preferences. But we must make these cleaning agents ourselves at home and many of us don’t know where to start.
While beginning the ‘green clean your car’ project, it is advisable to start with the interiors of the vehicle. Trying to find a non-toxic cleaning agent is possible online through some special websites, and there are easy recipes for them as well. My favourite alternative for streak free cleaning of glass involves equal parts of water and vinegar with a few teaspoons of cornstarch, and an essential oil like lime, mint or lavender to overcome the smell of the vinegar.
To get the odour out of a car we most often reach for those overpowering artificial deos that sit on the dashboard or dangle from the mirror. These are often made with some form of plastic and will end up in a landfill at the end of their lifetime (which usually is a few weeks). A great alternative is to sprinkle a mixture of dried flowers or potpourri with some baking soda inside the car and leave it overnight. The baking soda cleanses the odor and the flowers leave a nice fragrance. The mix can be vacuumed up the following day for a pleasant-smelling interior with a zero-waste footprint.
While cleaning the outsides, ditch the hose and try to do an eco-friendly waterless car wash instead. A homemade cleaner of vinegar, liquid soap and water can be misted onto the car and wiped away for a nice shiny hood. This not only saves many liters of water from going waste; it also protects the earth from harmful chemicals that are often present in the washing soaps we use. So, whether it is the kids or pets that caused the car to get all dirty and smelly, the next time you want a deep cleaning, go natural. It’s safe for you, the family and our good earth.