Stop! Don't run out to the store and get that bottle or jar of a chemical-laden product for that household chore. There's a good chance the box of baking soda you've already got can do the job. It's a versatile deodorizer and cleaning product that comes in handy for so many situations around the house. And that means you don't have to have a whole shelf full of (potentially toxic) products for different jobs. If you're curious about the science behind baking soda, check out the video from the American Chemical Society for a simple explanation of how and why it works.
Here are some of the things it can do.
1. You probably already know to keep a box in your refrigerator—and not just because it's handy. Baking soda absorbs any food odors floating around in there and guarantees that opening that door won't be a "eeeewwww" moment.
2. Instead of a toxic drainer cleaner, pour a little baking soda down your sinks to leave them smelling fresh. It works if you have an odor-prone garage disposal too. Half a cup and a warm water rinse should do it.
3. Since baking soda dissolves grease and stains, it's great for cleaning pots, pans, tea pots, coffeemakers and whatever other heavy cleaning job you have in your kitchen. Polish your silver, clean your oven and even freshen up those smelly sponges with a sprinkle of baking soda.
4. Before you leave the kitchen, did you know it can clean dirt and pesticide residue from your fruits and vegetables? Just be sure to rinse well!
5. Baking soda is a great laundry aid. It can boost your detergent's cleaning power and used as a pre-soak, can help get rid of tougher odors like perspiration. It's an excellent substitute for those fabric softeners whose often mysterious chemical content can cause rashes and other allergic reactions.
6. Baking soda can sub for personal care products which often have fragrances and other compounds that can irritate sensitive skin. Make a paste of baking soda and water to use as a safe exfoliant or body scrub—safe for you AND the environment, since it contains no plastic microbeads.
7. That same baking soda paste can ease the itch of a bug bite or rash.
8. You don't even need that expensive whitening toothpaste if you've got baking soda. Mixed with a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide it does the same job and if you're leery of fluoride and other common toothpaste additives, it's the perfect solution. if you have dentures or orthodontic devices, you can soak them in a baking soda solution as well.
9. Your darned dog wants to make friends with every living creature and unfortunately, that skunk wasn't feeling all "kumbaya." It's late and the pet store isn't open. Here's a baking soda recipe to get that dog smelling good enough to let back in the house.
10. Your cat is unlikely to encounter a skunk while he's sleeping on the sofa all day. But he does have regular encounters with his litter box. Spreading a layer of baking soda in the bottom of the box every time you change the litter can add an extra layer of nose protection to your litter's claims of odor absorbency.
11. Moving on to inanimate animals, baking soda can freshen up your child's favorite stuffed toy. If you don't want to risk tossing it in the washing machine, sprinkle on some baking soda, leave it on for 15 or 20 minutes and then rub it off.
12. You probably have that box in your fridge but you should also have one in each closet and on your clothes shelves even if the odors there aren't as nasty (hopefully!). You'll really want to remember to have one in your shoe back to deal with those inevitable smelly feet odors.
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When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
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(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
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