In the last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot of articles on ways to clean. Some of the methods and materials are things I use and some of them are definitely not. Some materials and methods are touted as being the most economical, easiest, most plant-friendly things you can use to achieve housekeeping nirvana. Honestly, I have my doubts about a number of them. As I’m working on the cleaning series I’ve decided I’m going to try some of these cleaning experiments. These are the things I’ve tried so far.
- Cleaning your sink with baking soda and a toothbrush – I just had to try this but I wanted the experiment to be realistic. It wasn’t a real test if the sink were pretty much perfect when I began. So I let my fantastically hard water go to work on my stainless steel kitchen sinks. I ignored the gunk building up in the drains. It got to the point that I felt that doing the dishes in the sink couldn’t be much better than washing them in a puddle of rusty water and rinsing them with mud. I was ready. Armed only with baking soda, an old toothbrush, and dogged determination I began scrubbing. The theory is that baking soda is a mild abrasive and won’t hurt the finish. The toothbrush is (apparently) for getting into the rounded corners more easily. I put my heart into it, sprinkling baking soda and going at it with the damp toothbrush as though my life depended on it. After about 10 minutes of scrubbing I rinsed the sink to see if I could discern a difference between the brushed and the un-brushed sides. Nope. Not a bit of difference. I tried one more time, using a different toothbrush but got the same results. I’d wasted about 30 minutes of my life trying to clean my sinks this way. Now, had I brushed my teeth in this manner I’m sure I’d have been happy. In the end, I used some mild cleaner and the “scrubby” side of a kitchen sponge. My sinks are back to being clean and I’m saving the baking soda and toothbrush for clean teeth. This tip gets an “F” from me.
(insert before and after pictures of sinks)
- Cleaning the sink with baking soda, white vinegar, dish detergent, citrus fruit, and ice – Since I’d already cleaned my sinks with a cleanser I couldn’t give this one a real hardcore test. I will say that it made more sense. First you sprinkle the baking soda into the sink and make it into a paste. Making it into a paste just means adding some water. Now the instructions didn’t say to rub it with anything but it did read work it into a paste so I assume that meant rub it in. Unfortunately, that could mean work it into a paste with your fingers which probably wouldn’t do much for cleaning. Then you rinse the baking soda thoroughly. Next (and this made much more sense to me) you line the sink with paper towels soaked in white vinegar and leave them on for 20 minutes. Experience has taught me that white vinegar does a great job of removing hard water stains/buildup and rust. You may have to leave it on longer if the buildup is significant. Finally, you rinse the sink with warm soapy water. I guess that’s to get rid of the vinegar smell. Next you’re supposed to wipe the faucets and handles with a mild soapy solution and the author does suggest using white vinegar for hard to remove spots and using a toothbrush for the hard-to-reach places. Kudos for that advice! I honestly feel that separating the baking soda step and the white vinegar step is smart. Mixing them produces a rather dramatic foaming action but chemically leaves you with just some “exploding” water. It’s because baking soda is a “basic” and the vinegar is acidic and together they’re all flash and no work. I’m a big believer in white vinegar for tough hard water stains and rust and an old toothbrush is great for getting tough to reach areas you need to clean. I give this a “B+” because I still don’t know why you’d bother with the baking soda.
- Cleaning the garbage disposal with baking soda, white vinegar, boiling water, ice, salt (coarse), and lemon – We don’t currently have a garbage disposal *sigh* but I have had them in the past so I feel I can grade this one. This method uses the old standby of baking soda and white vinegar and, as I’ve mentioned, this combo makes a dramatic show but is chemically little more than water. The next step is pouring boiling water into the garbage disposal. Smart move because it will melt and wash away any built up grease from the grinding element but not smart because the grease may just go through the pipes a way and then re-congeal leaving you with clogged plumbing. *Note: if you do accidentally pour grease into your garbage disposal run the water as cold as you can get it and then turn the disposal on. The cold water makes the grease solidify so the disposal can chop it up into tiny pieces. Back to the instructions; next you pour coarse salt (the author recommends rock salt if you have it) over ice and dump the ice into the disposal, turning it on. The ice/salt will bang around in there loosening grit and grime from the grinding element. The final step is to cut a lemon or lime in half and, with the water, running, add the halves to the disposal. Citrus fruits do help clean the disposal and they’ll leave a nice scent but I don’t think that lemon and lime are the only choices. Toss orange halves in there if that’s what you have on hand. Overall I give this tip a “B-“ because you’re basically wasting a step combining the baking soda and white vinegar.
- Cleaning the garbage disposal with lemon and white vinegar ice cubes – This one takes a little pre-planning. You slice up a lemon, dropping a little piece into each section of your ice cube mold. Fill the mold with white vinegar and freeze it. Then, when it’s frozen you toss a few of the lemon/vinegar cubes into the disposal and run it until the ice is gone. I’d suggest cold water for the process so you don’t just melt the vinegar and lose the whole point of making the ice cubes. The author even suggests using a few drops of vanilla, orange, or lemon extract if you don’t have lemons on hand. Since this tip is basically for freshening the disposal rather than a deep cleaning method, and the author mentions immediately running hot water into the disposal if grease gets down there, I give it an “A.”
- Cleaning the microwave with lemon and water – I’m a huge believer in cleaning any spills and splatters in the microwave as soon as they happen. It’s so easy to let it go but, do this a few times and you’ve got a cleaning job that can require you to bend backwards into a tiny box while trying to scrub stuck on messes on the “ceiling” of the microwave. But if you do need to loosen stuck on stuff then this tip is fine. The instructions tell you to fill a cup with water, drop some lemon into it and heat it up. One caveat I’d like to add is that you shouldn’t let the water heat up so much that it bubbles out of the cup. Too much liquid all over the bottom and vent of the microwave can cause it to die an early death. This tip gets an “A-“ from me because the steam will loosen stuck on gunk and the lemon will help freshen the microwave but it doesn’t remind you not to let the cup overflow. Another author suggests vinegar, a bit of water, and a few drops of lemon essential oil so this one also earns an “A-.”
- Cleaning the toaster with cream of tartar and water – There are a lot of instructions on cleaning stainless steel appliances with cream of tartar and a few drops of water. I found one on cleaning the toaster with this mixture and, thankfully, the author did an update. I don’t own any stainless steel appliances so testing this was going to be difficult and I was a little nonplussed that people were using cream of tartar rather than just a mild cleanser. Cream of tartar, while not a “harsh chemical” is expensive to use as a cleaner, especially if people are cleaning their stainless refrigerator or stove with it! The author who did the update came to the same conclusion and used Bar Keeper’s Friend cleanser. Based on the expense of using cream of tartar, this method gets an “F” and the updated post gets an “A+.”
I’ll be conducting more cleaning experiments and will post the results as soon as they’re in!
As always, your comments and questions are more than welcomed!