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Shame On Consumer Reports

If you want to get peoples’ attention, just tell them they are going to save money. Sometimes, however, money-saving advice can have some serious long-term downsides. An article in ShopSmart magazine is a good case in point.

ShopSmart is a publication of the Consumer Reports Foundation. They advise consumers how and where to spend their money, based on testing and comparisons of products. In their April 2013 issue, they claim that household cleaning products can be expensive and offer ways to cut back. Then they do something I found very amateurish. They advocate reducing your costs by concocting your own “home brew” of cleaning products. That’s bad enough but when I saw where they picked up the recipes for the cleaning products, I was stunned. Red flags, sirens and railroad crossing bells started blasting in my head.   

In my opinion, this article is misleading because they ignore what these concoctions do to the surface being cleaned. Sure, vinegar/water or ammonia/water will cut grease but what happens to the surface being cleaned? Brillo pads are good cleaners but there is a reason you don’t use them to wash your car; they will destroy the paint. There is a reason most responsible manufacturers of cleaning products don’t add vinegar to their products and are very careful about adding ammonia; they know that they can damage some surfaces being cleaned. This point is totally absent from the DIY fanatics on the internet. Their cavalier attitude reflects their obsession with saving money, even if it has amateurish (and often disastrous) results.

The most serious damage I am seeing to wood floors these days is from well-intentioned homeowners following this kind of poor advice. When vinegar or ammonia comes in contact with most wood floors, the damage is deep, serious and quick. In the photo, you see the results of vinegar/water combo and it is very costly. That damage is to the wood, not just the finish and can only be removed by a total sand and finish. That homeowner may have saved a few dollars by mixing their own brew but paid more than $1200 in sanding and repair costs. Where is the savings in that formula? Plus, they had to live with a floor that looked like it was a petri dish harboring some fungus.

What makes this conversation even more absurd is the money saving idea of making your own cleaner. I use a wood floor cleaner made by a well-known coatings manufacturer. One gallon (a little more than 20 dollars) will last me a year. That’s less than two dollars per month. The April issue of ShopSmart magazine cost me more than five dollars. If this is what we can expect from ShopSmart, I will see an immediate savings of three dollars per month. Shame on you Consumer Report – we expect better of you.

Michael Purser | © Rosebud Co. 2016

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