What’s under your kitchen sink? When you have children and you start putting the Poison Center’s “Mr. Yuk” stickers all over your bottles, you really start to realize that there are far too many things under there that you wouldn’t want in your baby’s mouth…so then why are they in your kitchen?
If you had checked under my sink when I first got married, and even as a college girl in an apartment, I always had a spray bottle with a bleach solution ready to go for raw meat messes. Had you observed me cleaning up after cutting chicken, for example, you would have thought I expected the cutting board and knife to detonate and throw shrapnel all over the kitchen, judging by the care with which I handled the objects and the great pains I took to sanitize everything twice and thrice over.
I still have a healthy fear of raw meat contamination, especially chicken, but I also have a healthy fear of bleach and its effect on my family’s health. (See the recent post on why bleach is dangerous for more.) I’m determined not to use it except in very special circumstances (which happened twice in one week – a flood of poo-poo water overflowed from the toilet into the basement, and I made a load of white socks and T-shirts turn green), and I’m still a little uneasy about its presence in my home at all.
To help you get the bleach out of your kitchen, I’ve got two bottles and a box for you. You could eat two of them with dinner, and the third is something that some folks drink and is even found in breastmilk.
I use white vinegar, 3% (regular pharmacy) hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda for pretty much every cleaning need in the kitchen. Accept your Monday Mission to get the bleach out and try this instead:
- Bottle one: a mixture of white vinegar and water, about ¼ cup vinegar to 32 oz. water (just a “glug”, I never measure)
- Bottle two: 50/50 hydrogen peroxide and water
*This bottle needs to be opaque, or as close as you can get. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down with exposure to light, so keep this hidden if your bottle isn’t totally opaque (like mine). I check it every so often to see if it still bubbles, and then I figure it’s still active. UPDATE: I finally tried putting this spray bottle top directly on a peroxide brown bottle – and it worked! Ta da! Buy a dollar store small spray bottle and you’ve got your opaque bottle with the peroxide already. Thank you, dear readers!
- The box: baking soda. I actually keep my baking soda for cleaning in a repurposed Parmesan cheese container (one of my many repurposing opportunities in the kitchen).
Added Bonus: All three are totally frugal, (some might even say cheap) homemade kitchen cleaners, especially if you buy a big jug of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in bulk or somewhere like Save-a-Lot.
Disclaimer: I’m not supposed to tell you to mix cleaners. Someone could sue me, you see, if they have an issue. So I’ll just tell you what I do and ya’ll can decide for yourselves what you do in the privacy of your own home. I am not backed by the FDA, the EPA, or even the ABCs…just common sense. Don’t tell THAT to the government! 😉
What do I do with My Cleaners?
1. Sanitizing Countertops, Cutting Boards, and Utensils
Research shows that vinegar and hydrogen peroxide sprayed separately is “more effective at killing …Salmonella, Shigella, or E. coli bacteria than chlorine bleach or any commercially available kitchen cleaner.”
I’ve seen this study quoted many, many places, but here’s the trick: the two solutions MUST be in separate containers and sprayed one after the other. I use the 50/50 blend of H2O2 and my vinegar/water bottle instead of keeping two more bottles of straight H2O2 and vinegar because I’m lazy, and I figure it will still kill *most* of the bacteria, and my hot water and soap will have already done the rest.
If you really want to knock the little guys out (without choking on the fumes), use full strength. I always try to let stuff like this dry on the surface, because I believe that’s where most of the sanitizing action happens. It takes time to wage war on bacteria. When you’re talking stuff like fish and raw chicken, it’s worth the wait.
UPDATE: I was challenged on this one by a reader. See more research on the sanitizing (or not?) properties of hydrogen peroxide.
UPDATE AGAIN: Another helpful reader shared this
According to tests run at the University of Nebraska, hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration) and vinegar naturally disinfects without deploying the “nuclear” option. Fruits and vegetables were sprayed with either salmonella, shigella, or E. coli O157:H7. Results: Though the hydrogen peroxide did pretty well on its own, the two together were even more effective. From the scientist, Susan Sumner, in Science News Online: “If the acetic acid [active component of vinegar] got rid of 100 organisms, the hydrogen peroxide would get rid of 10,000, and the two together would get rid of 100,000.” HOWEVER, MIXING THE TWO LIQUIDS TOGETHER AHEAD OF TIME CREATES A NEW COMPOUND THAT IS NOT EFFECTIVE. They need to be store separately. The order in which they are applied to a surface does not matter, just spray one liquid then immediately spray the other. Sumner, Susan in Raloff, Janet. Food for Thought. Science News Online. 28 September 1996. Read related research here.
2. Mopping the Floor
So I don’t mop very often. Every time I try, by the time I’ve swept up the peas, sand, pine needles and kitchen magnets from the floor, something else has demanded my attention. When I do “get around to it”, however, it’s fairly painless and something my 4-year-old can help with (and has enjoyed doing for years).
Here he is at age two scrubbing away…yes, with a toothbrush. We’re really not militant like that! He found it under the sink in my stash of cleaning supplies. Do you know all the places an old toothbrush is good for cleaning? Lots!
I use my sprayer of vinegar-and-water and an old rag towel. No need for buckets and drips and figuring out how to get the yuck out of a spongy mop. This is perfect for a quick spill cleanup. Just keep a small rag on top of the bottle and in seconds, your floor is safe to eat from. Literally.
3. Cleaning the Outside Table
If you could eat off my floor, you could definitely eat outside. I just use another junk towel and my trusty vinegar water to get the pine pollen and bird yuck off our patio table.
4. Washing Produce
The combo of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide is also a simple produce wash to make sure you’re not getting any field bacteria on your table with your 5-a-days. Just spray them separately and scrub away with your brush. And even if you don’t rinse it all off, you can eat without worry.
UPDATE: I tested 8 different ways to wash produce! See the results here.
5. Cleaning Secondhand Baby Toys
I totally used to put a glug of bleach in soapy dishwater to clean grimy garage sale finds. Not when baby was awake, thank goodness, but still. Now I’m all about using any combination of these three standbys along with my trusty used toothbrush, and I get like-new toys with no fear of random kid-germ contamination.
6. Scouring the Counters
Forget Comet. I’ll take plain old baking soda over a commercial scrubber every day. Use an old toothbrush and a sprinkle of baking soda, maybe a squirt of water (or one of the other bottles), and your countertops are GORgeous. You do need to rinse the baking soda well, or it will leave a gritty feel.
7. Scrubbing the Grout
I have tiled countertops. There’s a post in my draft folder for a day when everyone deserves a laugh entitled, “10 Reasons I Hate Tiled Countertops”, and grout is included in most of them. My grout is always stained, but hydrogen peroxide and baking soda does a decent job of getting rid of the coloring.
8. Sterilizing Milk Jars
We get our milk from a farm, and since 1-gallon glass jars are rather (rather!) unwieldy to pour from, we transfer the milk. It’s soooo important to get the milk proteins completely washed out of our containers. I use the hydrogen peroxide method described here with my trusty 50/50 mix.
9. Cleaning the Oven and Stovetop
Get a good laugh on me and check out my simple, frugal, non-toxic method to keep your oven and stovetop mess-free.
10. The Big Kitchen Clean
Every so often I get a chance to completely clear my counters, wipe everything down with hot soapy water, and sanitize all the hard surfaces. There’s no happier sight for me than an empty, sparkling white counter with a layer of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar glistening, left to dry until morning.
Two Bottles and A Box
I sure hope that’s easy enough for you. 🙂 Three things under your kitchen sink. Use ‘em on whatever. Consume dinner and inhale freely while you pad your budget and green up the earth, good kitchen stewards!
UPDATE: See this chart of all my green cleaning substitutes.