There is a revolution going on in America — a green revolution. The latest front is the home, as people across the country adopt cleaning solutions that are not only healthy, but good for the environment. Green Clean (Melcher Media, 2005) by Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin is the definitive, step-by-step guide to cleaning better while using nontoxic, eco-friendly products. Learn about green sink cleaning techniques in this excerpt taken from Chapter 3, “The Kitchen.”
Once the dishes are taken care of, cleaning the sink itself is easy. Still, it’s important to avoid using anything toxic in or around the sink, as everything that goes down the drain can eventually enter the local water table. Many municipal water treatment facilities fail to sufficiently remove toxins.
Stainless steel sinks: For stainless steel sinks (and stainless steel dishwashers and refrigerators), use a nontoxic all-purpose cleaner, or try full-strength distilled white vinegar on a sponge. Never use abrasive cleaners or steel wool. If a spot needs scrubbing, use a little baking soda on a damp sponge. (Always scrub with the grain on stainless steel.) Rust stains can be removed by rubbing with a paste of two parts baking soda to one part water, then rinsing well.
Porcelain sinks: Baking soda on a damp sponge also works for porcelain sink cleaning. As with stainless steel, avoid abrasive cleaners. An ecofriendly cream cleanser or a nontoxic, nonabrasive cleaner like Bon Ami will help with any difficult stains.
Chrome sinks: Chrome faucets and fixtures can be cleaned with a little club soda, a solution of equal parts distilled white vinegar and water, or a nontoxic all-purpose cleaner. If they are very grimy, try putting a few drops of a citrus essential oil on your cleaning toothbrush and scrub.
Drain cleaners are among the most dangerous household products. The best way to avoid using caustic drain cleaners is to prevent clogs and buildups in the first place. Scrape dishes well before you put them in the sink, use a trap or screen to keep food scraps out, and don’t pour your cooking grease or oil down the drain. Grease builds up in your pipes and your community’s pipes, eventually blocking them and causing sewer leaks and spills. Instead, allow the grease or oil to cool and collect it in a sealable container, then throw it away or compost it. A few cities offer grease and oil recycling, and a local restaurant may be able to include your household grease in their commercial recycling.
Once a week, pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain to flush it out. If the drain does become clogged, use a plunger, or try the DIY recipe in “Make Your Own Drain Opener” later in this article. New enzyme-based drain cleaners break down organic matter that clogs drains; they work overnight, don’t use caustic chemicals, and are safe for septic systems. For stubborn clogs, using a plumber’s snake — or just calling a plumber — is a good choice.
TIP: To keep a garbage disposal sweet-smelling, grind up some ice cubes with lemon or grapefruit peels every week or so.
For basic daily cleaning of most countertops — including laminate and Corian surfaces — use a simple mixture of vinegar and water or an eco-friendly store-bought cleaner. If you have a stubborn stain or spot, make a baking soda paste (mix three parts baking soda to one part water), apply it, and let it sit for a few hours, then wipe and rinse.
Avoid products with the words “antibacterial” or “disinfectant” on the label — these can be toxic. “Antibacterials” can increase microbe-resistance on a large scale, and an all-purpose cleaner will do the job just as well.
If you have marble counters, don’t use anything acidic on them (lemon or vinegar, for example); it will corrode the surface. Instead, use a solution of one tablespoon dishwashing liquid in a quart of warm water. Rinse well to remove soap, and then dry with a soft cloth. Don’t let marble air dry; it can spot easily.
TIP: A bit of baking soda on a damp sponge can clean most countertop stains. Keep a small bowl of baking soda near the sink for this purpose.
Give Your Sink a Bath
If a porcelain sink — in the kitchen or the bathroom — becomes scuffed or stained, try an herbal bath. Steep several bunches of rosemary or thyme in hot water for a few hours, then strain. Stop up the sink, pour the mixture in, and let it sit overnight.
Make Your Own Drain Opener
Add one cup baking soda and one cup vinegar to a large pot of boiling water (they’ll fizz) and pour down the drain; the combination will dissolve fatty, greasy clogs. Flush with tap water until it clears.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Green Clean, published by Melcher Media, 2005.