The fizz that can fizzle and frazzle 

Carbon dioxide, pop and our global health

Forget commercial sprays and soap – club soda is one of the all-time best and cheapest carpet cleaners around. Not that this household tip is any great secret, but when it comes from one of Vancouver’s top wool carpet cleaners you can bet it works (just make sure you blot, don’t rub).

We’ve been using club soda to spot clean our carpets for years so when the stuff comes on sale we stock up on the family-sized bottles. Having them on hand for a party where you’re serving red wine makes you feel as secure as having a big fire extinguisher in your kitchen.

But we don’t use club soda for much else – maybe mix it with OJ when someone has a cold and it feels good to have fizzy carbonation scratching your throat. So the bottles tend to hang around for a while.

Still, I was pretty surprised that the last one we opened could barely muster a pffffft it was so flat. Of course, because all the bubbly effervescence was bust it didn’t do such a great job of cleaning up the combo splotches of barbecue sauce/meat drippings trailing from the deck to the kitchen.

The real mystery was that we hadn’t had it that long, maybe a few months. By contrast, I swear my dad stored big beautiful dark green bottles of Canada Dry in our basement in Edmonton from one Christmas to the next and the fizz stayed fizzy.

Everybody at our barbecue that night just laughed when I told them I thought that the old glass pop bottles with the crimped metal caps better preserved carbonation. To redeem myself the next day, I tried to check out my theory on the Internet. It was a tough search, but finally I struck gold with good old-fashioned hard copy: Robert L. Wolke’s book, What Einstein Told His Cook .

Even Wolke, who is professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, had a tough time convincing the people at Coca-Cola to look into the idea that plastic pop bottles don’t hold carbonation as well as glass. But lo and behold, they were able to confirm it once they investigated for themselves – and hey, they’re the experts, selling some 47 per cent of all the pop sold worldwide, more than twice as much as their nearest competitor, Pepsi.

This is their conclusion: Glass isn’t at all porous. On the other hand, plastic pop bottles, which are made of polyethylene terephthalate or PET, are slightly permeable to carbon dioxide gas so enough can leak out to take the sparkle out of your fun. Apparently that’s at least one of the reasons why you see expiry dates on screw caps on pop bottles these days, not that I’ve ever checked them, but I will now.

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