Aarthi plays the flute, viola, and bassoon. She also enjoys running track and playing tennis and volleyball. She'd like to pursue a career as a microbiologist someday. "I have been intrigued by everything I learn about bacteria," says Aarthi.
Pathogenic bacteria can linger in clothes even after they've been laundered, though bleach can effectively kill these microbes. Aarthi wondered whether natural antibacterial agents, such as grapefruit seed extract, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, olive leaf extract, and oil from a tropical tree called the neem could also kill bacteria in dirty laundry.
Aarthi isolated bacteria from four pairs of dirty underwear. She grew these bacteria in petri dishes and placed paper disks soaked individually in each natural antibacterial agent in each dish. After two days, she recorded the size of bacteria-free zones surrounding each agent. Aarthi discovered that grapefruit seed extract, tea tree oil, and apple cider vinegar were the most effective agents at removing bacteria from dirty laundry.