Simple Form of Water May Be 'Miracle Solution'

It cleans. It disinfects. It cures athlete's foot. You can even drink it — well, a little.

What is it? According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, it's ionized salt water.

"I didn't believe in it at first because it didn't have foam or any scent," a housekeeper at the Sheraton Delfina hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., told the Times. "But I can tell you it works. My rooms are clean."

The chemistry is simple. Electrolysis of water containing a little sodium chloride, or table salt, produces two compounds in different chambers — sodium hydroxide, or lye, which is a strong base or alkaline solution, and hypochlorous acid, which is a weak acid.

The former is an effective degreaser, great for washing windows and floors. The latter is a simple but powerful sanitizer, good on floors, fruit and even feet.

"It's green. It saves money. And it's the right thing to do," a hotel official told the Times. "It's almost like fantasy."

But experts warn that there's a nasty side market: A lot of quacksters are trying to market ionized water as a miracle cure, something that cures common ills by "restoring the body's natural acid balance."

The truth is that the body's acid-base balance, or pH, varies. And mixing sodium hydroxide and hypochlorous acid results in a very familiar mixture — diluted household bleach.

• Click here for the Los Angeles Times article.

• Click here for a Web page debunking the health claims of drinking ionized salt water.

• Click here to visit's Natural Science Center.