Is green just as mean on grungy grout?

Standing in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store can make you feel a little like you should have paid more attention in chemistry class.

green grout 2: AfterAftergreen grout 1: BeforeBefore

What is phosphorus, and why would I need something that contains no phosphorus? What does it do? And what is the difference between oxygen bleach and chlorine bleach? What is a natural cleaner? What does biodegradable mean? And is that “clean smell” you want really necessary?

For a while now, I have wanted to do a test of a “regular” commercial cleaner, one being advertised as “natural” and then a homemade solution, such as vinegar and water, and see how they compared to each other with cleaning grout in the bathroom.

Grout is my nemesis. Tile is beautiful, but I’m all about vinyl. You get the look of tile without the worry of cleaning the grout lines. But, anyway, I wanted to do an experiment and see which would work the best.

Comet, with bleach, has more of a smell. It and Bon Ami, a natural cleaner with no detectable smell, have the same abrasive texture, which you might use on a porcelain sink or tub. The vinegar-and-water solution

was in a spray bottle. It, too, has a smell, of course, but after you are done it disappears. With all three of the solutions, I used a sponge that had a scouring pad on one side, and with each product, I used the same amount of elbow grease.

Long story short — they work the same.

Bon Ami is a product with no chlorine, no dyes and no perfumes. Its uses are for everything from your swimming pool to utensils, to toilets to tubs, to countertops. According to their Web site, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Bon Ami is not toxic. (Note: If you want a similar product that is even cheaper and has about all of the same uses, you could use baking soda.)

Chlorine, however, found in comet and many other commercial cleansers, is a respiratory irritant and burns the skin.

Vinegar can be used for anything from brightening your whites in the laundry to cleaning your windows, to killing germs, or even removing wallpaper. And it’s inexpensive, readily available and non-toxic.

With the three products I tested, price is a non-issue. Comet and Bon Ami are comparable as abrasives, and baking soda and vinegar are dirt cheap, so if you are on a tight budget you could start with that and clean mostly anything. Use vinegar, straight, as a disinfectant on doorknobs, etc., or about two parts vinegar to five parts hot water as a multi-surface (including glass) cleaner. Baking soda can be used for everything from toothpaste to oven cleaner.

So, if you can get the job done, with less toxic, more environmentally-friendly products that don’t pollute the air you live in and breathe on a daily basis, why wouldn’t you? A simple solution made of vinegar, baking soda, soap, hot water and an essential oil can be all you need to get your house squeaky green clean. And you don’t need to take a chemistry class to know that it works.

---A classic goes green

Many people are more comfortable with a big name brand, and if that’s you, you could go with the classic Clorox, which has recently added “GreenWorks,” a natural line that includes a toilet bowl cleaner, a multi-surface cleaner and a glass cleaner.

Their definition of natural consists of five parts:

“A natural resource qualifies as a renewable resource if it is replenished by natural processes at a rate that’s equal to the rate of consumption by humans.

“A biodegradable material is something that has the ability to safely and relatively quickly break down biological into the raw materials of nature and disappear into the environment.

“A sustainable product is something made from renewable resources, which means they can grow back quickly and can be harvested with minimal harm to the environment.

“Petrochemicals are chemical products made from raw materials of petroleum. Green Works natural cleaners minimize the use of petrochemicals and are 99 percent petrochemical-free.

“Animals were not used to test the safety and efficacy of Green Works natural cleaning products.”