Yesterday was move-in day for me. We lugged all 5 million pounds of luggage up four flights of stairs (until we discovered the elevator), and finally collapsed in my room. The first thing we noticed was that my room has a very similar feel to an attic (probably because of the slanted ceiling and tiny window). The second thing we noticed (or, that I noticed) was that my head was pounding. Pretty much the same second that I made that realization, Mother looked around curiously and said, “Does something smell strange to you?”
In fact, something did smell strange to me. While father couldn’t notice it at all, Mother’s and my nostrils flared with the distinct scent of chemicals. Next thing I knew, Mother had her nose to my mattress; then to my floor; and then, to my horror, she went out into the middle of the hall, bent down on her hands and knees and intently smelled the carpet. Believe me, I was very, very glad that most people hadn’t moved into the dorm yet.
And yet, neither the mattress, the floor, nor the carpet was the source of the smell (or my headache). Finally, Mother had an insight: The desks. Sure enough, after leaning over one of them for about 5 seconds, she had discovered the chemicals: A scented disinfectant used on the top of the desks and dressers. While I was content to simply leave the window open, Mother was much more determined, instead making a trip into Davis Square in search of baking soda and vinegar.
She returned with baking soda and lime juice (apparently Davis Square is void of vinegar) in hand. Having seen many times before the wonders of baking soda in masking odor, I was not surprised to see her dump half of the box on each desk. Next she spread it around to cover the entire surface, sprinkled it with water, and scrubbed it in. We left it for a while (minerals work best if they are given some time) and ate lunch, then went back with a paper towel and water and rinsed the surfaces. And yet Mother still wasn’t quite convinced the odor was totally gone.
So here comes the lime juice. She wasn’t sure whether the disinfectant was acidic or alkaline, or both. In such an instance, you need to alternate baking soda (to neutralize the acid) and an acid like vinegar (to neutralize the alkaline). After you’ve wiped down the baking soda, just wipe some lime juice (or lemon juice or vinegar) over the surfaces, and voila! No more smell (well, maybe a slight citrus-y smell, but I don’t mind that).
After a night sleeping in my dorm room, I feel fine–no headache at all.
Note to self: Baking soda and lime juice (or vinegar, but lime juice smells better) are the way to go.
Lily Berthold-Bond grew up in a chemical-free zone and has struggled her whole life to understand and accept this non-commercial lifestyle. Now a sophomore at Tufts University, she has embraced her green life and hopes to share its possibilities with the rest of her generation.