Green Cleaning in the Kitchen

Photo: Fazimoto/Flickr

Even if you're a dedicated housekeeper, the kitchen is one of those rooms that tends to attract messes. You can blame it on the kids, the dog, or the chef, but however you slice it, kitchens can get wild and woolly around the edges if you don't keep an eye on them. As part of our ongoing series on resolving to clean those tough areas around the house, we're tackling kitchens next, with some tips and tricks on cleaning the green way, and, because we like things to be simple around here, cleaning the easy way, too!

As always, we recommend spending at least ten minutes a day on cleaning and tidying some area of the house, so messes don't get a chance to snowball. If your ten minutes today is in the kitchen, take the time to remove everything from the counters and wipe them down, clean out the dish drainer and tray, go through the fridge to compost expired food and reorganize, take out trash and recycling, and a few other little things around the room.

You should also be thinking about deep cleaning projects for the kitchen, like cleaning the stove top to bottom (plan on budgeting at least half an hour for this), emptying and cleaning the fridge (and defrosting, if necessary), moving and cleaning under appliances, running the dishwasher on a cleaning cycle, and dusting all the cabinets. Those are the kinds of projects you can turn into a checklist that you choose from once a week, once every two weeks, or even once a month, so everything gets cleaned on a schedule.

So, how do you do all this the green way?

Green cleaners for the kitchen

One of the most pervasive, and stubborn, problems in the kitchen is greasy messes, especially around the stove. A basic baking soda and vinegar mix can work like a charm, though. Apply it in paste form, allow it to sit, and then wipe down. The mild abrasive action combined with the chemical reaction should loosen numerous stains. If you have a more determined stain, add a coarse scrubber to the mix to lift it up.

Salt and lemon are a miracle pair as well, because they act as their own built-in brush scrubber set. Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle salt on the surface you're cleaning, and rub the lemon on it like you would a sponge. The salt will gently abrade stains, while the lemon juice will help lift messes, including greasy ones. (P.S. Salt is also an eco-friendly silver polish, so back away from that harsh chemical cleaner and rub your silver with salt and a soft cloth before washing and hand-drying.)

Cream of tartar, meanwhile, lifts messes on stainless steel appliances without damaging the finish, something you may need to be careful of thanks to the current trend for stainless steel in kitchen remodels!

Orange oil can also be useful around the kitchen. To make your own basic orange oil cleaner, dump orange peels (piths included) into some plastic buckets. Add distilled vinegar to cover (no more, you don't want a dilute solution) and keep in a cool dark place, like the garage, for two weeks, stirring occasionally. When it's done, strain it, and keep it in concentrated form -- dilute when you're adding it to spray bottles for a great all purpose cleaner that's also aromatic.

Plain vinegar is also an excellent household cleaner. You can use it straight and dilute it with water in a variety of ways: for example, soak towels in hot water and vinegar before draping them over a (COLD!) stovetop to attack stains so you can wipe them off. Or, microwave a bowl of hot water and vinegar to loosen up stains so you can easily clean. Try mopping your floor with a mild vinegar and water solution (consider using orange oil if it's a wood floor), or wiping down your counters with it!

Have unhappy smells in the sink and/or garbage disposal because your Seattle plumbing is getting a little old? One option is baking soda and vinegar followed by boiling water to clear things out and deodorize. You can also use lemon juice, and for extra punch, run some lemon juice ice cubes through the garbage disposal. (Or use ice and lemon wedges.)

Stinky coffee maker? Run vinegar and water through, followed by a plain water rinse. For that matter, if your coffee grinder is getting funky, run some rice or barley through it to clean it out.

And what about our old friend water? You might be surprised by how much grime a simple hand steamer can lift.

Katie Marks writes for

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