rapid rinse with water containing a few drops of vinegar will neutralize the free alkali and prevent much of the mischief.
We have now dealt with our grease solvents and dirt looseners, but without the aid of water they would be useless; and experience teaches us that the source of the water used for cleansing has a great deal to do with its efficiency.
As the newborn raindrops fall from the breaking clouds, they are practically pure water, containing at most traces of gaseous impurities which the mist has dissolved from the upper strata of air while journeying in the form of cloud, and where the rain is collected in the open country, it gives us the purest form of natural water healthful to drink, because it is highly aërated, and free from all impurity, organic and inorganic, and delightful to wash in because of its softness and the ease with which the soap gives a lather.
In towns, however, a very different state of things exists, as the rain in falling washes the air from a large proportion of the suspended organic matters inseparable from a crowded city, and also from the unburned particles of carbon, which incomplete combustion allows to escape from our chimneys; and charged with these, it still collects more dirt of various kinds from the roofs of our houses, and finally finds its way into our water-butts as the semiputrid sludge which often causes the true-bred cockney to wonder "if this so-called purest form of natural water is so foul, what on earth must the other forms of water be like?" If in the country the rain water is collected and stored in suitable reservoirs, then we have the most perfect water that can be obtained for washing and cleansing purposes.
In the passage of the rain through the air small quantities of carbon dioxide or carbonic-acid gas are dissolved from the atmosphere, while in slowly percolating through the surface soil on which it has fallen the water is brought in contact in the pores of the soil with far larger volumes of this gas, which is being continually generated there by the decomposing vegetation and other organic matter in a state of decay. Under these circumstances the water becomes highly charged with the gas, and sinks on through the ground until it comes in contact with some impermeable strata through which it can not penetrate, and here it collects until a sufficient head of water has been formed for it to force its way along the strata to the surface of the earth, where it now appears as a spring, and during this passage through the earth it has dissolved everything that will yield to its own solvent action or to the activity of the carbon dioxide, which dissolved in water forms the weak carbonic acid, a compound which will dissolve many substances insoluble in the water itself, such as calcic carbonate, occurring in the soil as marble, limestone, or chalk.