Cleaning with Capsaicin?

There are plenty of foods that double as brilliant cleaning agents. Lemon juice is one of the dual-purpose foods. Vinegar is another. (Mix them together and you have the cleaner used to shine many a stainless steel diner in the last century.) Baking soda is another one of those miracle workers.

But can you clean something with capsaicin? You know, besides your bowels? Because everyone has experienced capsaicin cleanse that burned just as bad on the way out as it did on the way in. (Maybe more.)

It’s unlikely that you’ll pour some Mad Dog on your counters and start scrubbing. And we’d advise you not to rinse out your juice glasses in super hot sauces either. That’s silly.

That said, we bet there are a few hot sauces that would shine dirty pennies.

More importantly, there are 17 tribes in Northern India united by chili peppers and heads. Just hang on for a second before you think we took too big of a leap here.

In Nagaland, there are two very important traditions: one is the taking of heads, and the other revolves around the Bhut Jolokia (also known as the Naga Chili and the Ghost Pepper). Let’s clarify this. “Taking” here means beheading. It was an old tribal custom though most of the locals are now Baptists (and we’re terrifically interested that transformation because those are some far reaches to travel between the two religions).

Now, back to the cleaning aspect of this story. In 1922, an anthropologist studying the Naga region recalled that women would cook the taken head in chilies. Yes. We’ll just explain here that the purpose of this is to… clean the skull… not to eat the flesh or the chilies. So, chili peppers have been used for cleaning, but perhaps you don’t usually need to dissolve the flesh from your collection of skulls.

How about cleaning the barnacles from your boat?

Yeah, chili peppers are good at that too. Actually, capsaicin is used as a preventative anti-barnacle paint. Sea creatures apparently try to avoid it as much as mammals do. That means less cleaning rather than actually using to clean, but you get the picture.

Any thoughts on how you might use chili peppers to clean something… or what you would clean? You know, besides heads and bowels and boats…


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