Going Gluten-FreeApril 10, 2015

Try This at Home:
Organic (and Safe) Cleaning Solutions

Keep your living space (especially that gluten-free kitchen!) super-clean with these non-toxic concoctions.

Comments (6)

Posted by Kathryn Scott

[Updated Aug. 25, 2015]

There’s no point eating organic foods if you prepare them on a kitchen counter wiped with harmful chemicals, says Ellen Sandbeck, author of Organic Housekeeping.

Sandbeck has a non-toxic solution for just about every cleaning job.

Remove sweat stains from the laundry by soaking shirts in vinegar before washing them. Use glycerin-based liquid saddle soap to clean leather furniture. Scrub wicker furniture with a moderately stiff scrub brush dipped in warm saltwater. Polish furniture with four parts olive oil and two parts beeswax heated in a double boiler.

For general sink cleaning, Sandbeck recommends just hot water and a mild dish liquid or baking soda. Wipe and then rinse with plain water. For sink stains, pour a little consumer-strength (3 percent) hydrogen peroxide on a clean, wet cloth. Rub it on the stain and rinse it off immediately. Don’t let it sit on the surface for more than a couple of seconds. Other sink-sanitizing suggestions are Bon Ami, a tried-and-true cleanser that’s been around for 120 years, and Oxiclean, an oxygen bleach.

Sandbeck’s choice for cleaning kitchen surfaces is to mix a small amount of dishwashing liquid with water. She avoids antibacterial dish liquids for two reasons. First, overuse of antibacterials adds to antibiotic resistance, a major public health concern. Second, many antibacterial products contain triclosan, a chlorinated pesticide.

Distilled white vinegar (made from grain, not petroleum) is a safe, effective all-purpose disinfectant. Keep a spray bottle of undiluted vinegar on your countertop and spray it on everything in the kitchen and then wipe it up with a dish towel. The smell, a bit strong at first, dissipates quickly.

Another option is what Sandbeck calls the “dual spray system,” which uses undiluted vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, sprayed from separate bottles but used together. These two substances combined are more effective than either one alone, according to research conducted at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Together, they are as effective as chlorine bleach. (Don’t use this combo on calcium-based stone countertops as it might damage the stone. Use soap and water instead.)

White vinegar can disinfect the toilet, too. To clean the surface, spray vinegar everywhere and wipe it off. If you scrub the bowl regularly with a toilet brush (with some vinegar spritzed in), that will keep it sanitized. However, if you wait long enough between cleanings that mineral stains appear, Sandbeck suggests this: Turn off the water valve and flush the toilet so that the bowl is almost empty. Fill the bowl with vinegar to its normal level ( to 1 gallon) and let it sit for 8 to 12 hours. Then scrub stains off with a toilet brush and flush. (Before you do this, remove any automatic toilet cleaner or deodorizer in your toilet first. You don’t want to mix chlorine with anything, even vinegar.)

For surface mildew in the bathroom, prevention is key; wiping the bath or shower dry goes a long way. How do you get rid of mildew when your best prevention fails? Sandbeck says it will come off with a cloth saturated with white vinegar. If mildew leaves a stain, spray it with hydrogen peroxide to bleach it. If it persists, try this Sandbeck solution: Pour vinegar into a glass jar, place an inch-long piece of copper wire into it (copper has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties) and let it sit for no longer than two days. Remove the wire, pour the coppery vinegar into a spray bottle and use it to clean off the mildew.

What about a stopped drain? Will vinegar and baking soda dissolve super-stubborn hair clogs? Unfortunately, no. The only non-toxic way to clean the drain is to open it up and grab the gunk.

“It’s messy and icky,” says Sandbeck, “but it gets the job done. And If you’re wondering why to avoid commercial drain cleaner, just check out the ingredient list.”

Do you use a safe trick or two when cleaning your home? Tell us about them.

Kathryn Scott is a longtime contributor to Gluten Free & More. She has covered such topics as dairy-free alternatives, asthma and food allergies, and soy sensitivity.

Comments (6)

to The Blackberry Lover: Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is not safe to consume so I would encourage you to use vinegar, or vinegar with baking soda, for your greasy build up, maybe with a nonmetallic scrubber so there is no concern if food and eating utensils come in contact with those surfaces. It takes a little work, but it does work. But I do agree with Chele, be careful about using the vinegar on marble or other specialty surfaces. Read the manufacturers recommendations first.

Posted by: clsz | October 4, 2015 5:46 PM    Report this comment

to The Blackberry Lover: Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is not to be taken internally. I would avoid using it, especially in the kitchen where it can come in contact with food and eating utensils. Vinegar, or vinegar and baking soda, work really well, but as Chele pointed out, vinegar can be hard on marble surfaces. If I can't use vinegar, I do a paste of baking soda and water and use a nonmetal scrubber to gently work on the cleanup so as to avoid scratching the surface.
Sometimes, if you can soften the greasy buildup, using a little fresh oil with a nonmetal scrubber to continue the clean up effort can work. Just be sure to clean the oil up really well so it does not get baked on again.

Posted by: clsz | October 4, 2015 5:41 PM    Report this comment

vinegar and baking soda do work to keep your drains clear when used as part of the standard cleaning. It won't work on big clogs, but can help prevent large clogs. What would you rather do, clean the drain once a week or have to open the pipes to remove a hairball?

Posted by: dpavek | March 24, 2015 1:07 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for these tips. Sometimes, though, I wonder if people who make these suggestions actually try all of them first! I wish someone told me that vinegar will etch marble, permanently ruining it, as it did in my bathroom. Also, the smell of vinegar does not seem to dissipate in my nose (even when diluted)!

Posted by: Chele | March 24, 2015 12:45 PM    Report this comment

Baking soda is an awesome kitchen cleaner. Use with a paper towel to get pots clean. Sprinkle on copper and than add vinegar to take tarnish off instantly no scrubbing.

Posted by: tntinker | March 24, 2015 10:25 AM    Report this comment

I was just wondering if rubbing alcohol is safe to use as a cleaner. I've been using it for years as a kitchen degreaser. I spray or rub it on and it eats any grease build up.

Posted by: The Blackberry Lover | April 10, 2014 5:04 PM    Report this comment

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