Food-borne illnesses often begin in the kitchen. Bacteria that tend to live in kitchens include staphylococcus, salmonella, shigella dysenteriae, and e-coli. These germs tend to proliferate on sponges and cutting boards, but they can be on countertops and other surfaces as well. I am less of a germaphobe since my green journey began and I fear the harsh chemcial cleaners more than most germs. Since meat rarely makes an appearance in our home anymore I don’t have to worry as much either but I still like to keep things sanitized… as long as it is done safely.
You can combat most kitchen germs with natural remedies. Here are some natural substances and their role in kitchen sanitization.
1. Grapefruit seed extract, or GSE
GSE is an extremely broad-spectrum antibiotic substance. It is made from the seeds (and sometimes the peel and leaves) of grapefruits and grapefruit trees. I use it in this natural carpet cleaner recipe.
According to author and herbal scholar Stephen Harrod Buhner, “GSE has been found to be more powerful as a cleaning disinfectant than standard hospital preparations.” In other words, it works better than the disinfectant the hospitals use! GSE is active against a large number of bacteria, including the ones listed above. It is even effective against haemophilus influenzae, which causes ear infections, sinusitis, and meningitis. To make a disinfectant spray, add 30 to 40 drops to 1 quart of water and shake.
An acidic solution, vinegar kills some germs and microbes and inhibits their growth – if it didn’t, it would not be used to preserve foods (think pickles). To make a sanitizing spray from white or apple cider vinegar, mix 1/4 – 1/2 cup vinegar per cup of water. You can add some essential oil of bergamot, orange, or lemon to this solution to make it smell good and add even more antibacterial action (bergamot is a citrus fruit and its essential oil has, like all citrus, antibacterial action). I use white vinegar in my own cleaning as well as Vinegar of 4 Theives.
3. Hydrogen peroxide
A 1996 study showed that hydrogen peroxide, when combined with an equal amount of vinegar, is a potent bacteria killer. Salmonella, shigella and e-coli were all vanquished by this solution. You can also spray hydrogen peroxide directly onto countertops, or mix it with an equal amount of water.
4. Tea tree oil
Also an anti-fungal, clinical research has shown tea tree oil to be effective against many antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It definitely works to kill staphylococus, e-coli, shigella, and salmonella. In a spray bottle, combine and shake 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp. liquid soap, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 20 drops of tea tree oil.
5. Neem oil
Neem oil comes from the seeds of a tree that is native to India, and is more than a sanitizer. It is also an insect repellent, and keeping insects at bay is an important component to kitchen cleanliness. It does not dissolve well in water without some sort of emulsifier, such as liquid soap. The best way to make a neem cleaner is to mix the neem oil in a vegetable-based, liquid soap such as castile (think Dr. Bronners). Then, use a few drops of this soap to clean your kitchen counters or try mixing the neem-soap mixture with water in a spray bottle. Shake it well. You can also use Neem Oil spray soaps in your garden and in the shower. I love Neem oil!
Don’t let anyone tell you that green means dirty and germy because it just isn’t so! My younger brother likes to call me a dirty hippie to bait me… well he got the hippie part right at least.
One of the first steps in moving towards any greener, more sustainable lifestyle has to be the step where you ditch chemical cleaners and start using cleaner, greener options. It is my number #1 recommended step in fact because everyone has to clean house and by using green cleaners we make our homes and our planet safer.
Its not always an easy switch though. We may get used to using harsh cleaners like Clorox or Windex and using something more mild like baking soda and vinegar seems like more work. I know when my husband quit his old job that took him out of town all but a few days a month and he was around to do some cleaning, he was kinda baffled by my cleaners. He kept asking how do I clean this up with no paper towel and no cleaners? I would point to the cleaning cabinet and you would have thought it was empty by the look on his face. What was he to do with spray bottles, peppermint Castile soap, vinegar, baking soda, and ripped up towel remnants?
For his sake, and my own, I usually try to keep a couple non homemade green cleaners on hand so he won’t have an excuse not to help with the cleaning. Other people just want to use conventional cleaners and that is okay… there are greener choices available. I get lots of requests from companies to test their green cleaners and since I know I will use them I agree to act as a tester on occasion. The cleaners below are some of my latest adventures in this area.
The ones pictured above are called wowgreen and there are 12 of them from an all purpose cleaner, to a dish soap, to a wood and dust shine. I got a big box from the company and dove right into testing them since I had some guests coming over… the kind of guests that bring TV cameras. I rather enjoy cleaning and do it thoroughly so they got a good run. Ultimately they clean pretty good but not good enough to keep me buying them. They don’t blow my homemade cleaners out the water but they do have one very cool feature. You buy the bottles once and then refill them with little packets of concentrated cleaner and water. It is a much better alternative then buying bottled cleaners over and over again at the supermarket. But with homemade cleaners I can refill my own bottles AND not have the little plastic pouch of concentrated cleaner to throw away.
Another drawback was the fact that all the cleaners have dye in them. They are all groovy colors like red, blue, yellow, and orange but that is not necessary and the dyes can’t be natural. They also stained some of my white rags which is kind of annoying. But they didn’t give me hives like many of the more conventional cleaners do so that is a good sign. All in all I I found them efficient but they didn’t “wow” me. I ended up donating what I had left (which was a lot) to someone who could use them.
A company called Earth Care Market sent me some of their cleaners and I like their stuff much better although I had tried most of it before. The soap nuts they sent are already a hit here. The Wipe-Its are coin sized pellets that turn into a paper towel-like cloth wipe and I have tried them before to. I like them a lot but not so much for every day cleaning. I keep some on hand for vacations, camping, and hiking though.
Their Clean-It Mop might have been a nice change of pace from my usual routine… which is to use my feet and two rags to clean my hard floors. BUT I didn’t have a mop stick on which to attach the mop head and wasn’t about to buy one (plastic) just to test out a mop head that would only last a few weeks. So I donated it as well and is was liked well enough but I am told it fell apart rather quickly.
The last thing that I tested was the big winner IMO. It is Vaska laundry detergent. Soap nuts are good and all but the shipping aspect is a pain in the butt. I would like to try making my own but as yet have not ventured there. When we ran out a few months back I just got a bulk tub from Costco with powdered detergent. Well, in addition to the stuff smelling noxious and giving me a headache if the lid falls off, the powder does not want to dissolve in my washer. I am not sure if that is a detergent problem or a washer problem but little pebbles of detergent all over our clothes did not go over well with me. Getting the Vaska liquid herbatergent was a life saver.
I love the smell, it is really mild, and it gets the clothes cleaner than the powder did with no visible residue. It uses herbs and potent botanical cleaning agents for high performance stain removal and extreme freshness. INGREDIENTS: Plant based surfactants, vegetable conditioner, water-soluble degreasing agent, lavender extract (leaves no scent) and filtered water. My recycling center recycles the bottles too so I would definitely buy again.
Vaska is also getting pretty cool press too. One of the oldest Chinese laundry services in California recently switched to Vaska AND it won a Wash Off with Tide at the Fashion Institute of Technology. There is no reason to use harsh chemical cleaners when the greener, natural stuff works just as well ya know?
Thanks much to the companies for sending me products to test. I am kind of “harsh” when it comes to green cleaners, so sorry bout that. Some products I just have no use for. All that I tried were decent but Vaska is the only one that made me sit up and take notice.
Our new place has wood laminate floors. So far I am not crazy about them… I would much rather have real hardwood floors but it is what it is. They get scuffed easily and they feel so thin it is like walking on vinyl. It is actually a very thin layer of wood with a couple paper layers on top that are printed to look like a wood grain. Then a coating seals the paper.
You can easily strip the top coat and start degrading the paper if you use harsh chemical cleaners and then you have ruined laminate floors. But all the scuffs and visible spots make you want to clean it… a lot! Oily cleaners are a no-no because it collects on the surface and attracts dirt and dust.
I think I have found my system for dealing with these floors and it is no muss no fuss… just the way I like it… green too. Just remember that if you have new laminate floors under warranty you will need to pay attention to their rules but you should be fine.
1. Sweep the loose stuff – I use a good old fashioned broom and dustpan and sweep up crumbs and other loose debris.
2. Fill a small bucket with warm water and add 2-4 tablespoons white vinegar.
3. Take two terry cloths and wet them in the water and vinegar solution. Wring them out and walk across the floor with them with sweeping motions. Scrub scuffs with your toes.
4. After the floor is clean you can let it air dry or take two microfiber towels and walk with them on your feet to dry and dust the floor.
Viola…beautiful floors and the vinegar smell only lasts 15 minutes or so. Another super easy way to clean these floors is to use the Rubbermaid Spray Mop. The spray bottle can be filled with vinegar and water, or any cleaner you want, and the cloth pads are washable. LOVE it!
I have been a fan of Ecostore products ever since I tried out a vast array of their green baby products including the Nappy Balm and Sleepytime Bath Soap. This week I tried some of their green cleaners and was impressed once again. Not only are they a company dedicated to green products, they fully disclose ingredients and they will be coming soon to Meijer stores in the Midwest, so they will be readily available. This company started out in New Zealand so now the US can benefit from their quality and safety standards. I think it is pretty awesome and I like Meijer too.
Ecostore offers more than 100 products, and each one meets the most stringent environmental and sustainability standards. Their products are good for the user and for the planet or they don’t sell them. Also because they know how expensive it can be to buy natural or organic products, they have super-concentrated each formula so it goes a long way and you get your money’s worth.
This week I test drove the Dishwash Liquid and the Pure Oxygen Laundry Whitener.
The dishwash liquid has very nice, fresh scent and it was very sudsy which I like in a liquid dish soap. Ingredients include:
Palm and coconut based ionic, non-ionic and anionic surfactants
Natural citrus oil
I would definitely buy it.
The pure oxygen whitener contains oil of citrus and coconut and other plant-based ingredients. It cleans and whitens clothes and does not contain any harsh chemicals that could irritate delicate skin. It did get our whites whiter I think but I cannot compare to something like bleach because we don’t use it. Ingredients include:
- Carbonates (simple mineral salts)
- Sodium percarbonate (oxygen producing whitener)
- Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
- Citrates (from citrus)
- Highly biodegradable surfactant
- Natural citrus oil
I am not a stickler for keeping whites gleaming white…I don’t place that much importance in it but I think this is a great alternative for those that are. ;)
Green cleaners are not negotiable in our home. We are just too sensitive to the chemicals in conventional cleaners. My son had a severe reaction to toilet cleaner a couple years ago and I got hives the last time I touched bleach and Windex. So we use green cleaners around here. Some I make and others I buy. It just depends on my mood at the time but a green clean is not negotiable.
Better Life Green Cleaners are a nifty new option for green moms. They are called better life because as parents we want a better, healthier life or our family when we shop for products and these products meet that need. The company was founded by two dads and life long friends (Kevin and Tim) who wanted products that’d be good for their kids, our kids, and our planet.
They have also seen the trendiness of the word “green” and they wanted to stand apart as a company who walked the walk and actually sold safe products instead of just greenwashing questionable ones.
I know you want to try them. Well, Mama Goes Green is a store that sells sustainable goods for practical families. The owner Sara has graciously offered one of my readers a Better Life Non Toxic Cleaners Set.
I Can See Clearly, WOW!™ glass cleaner – It is solvent-free (no ammonia, alcohol, or ethers) and pH neutral, so it’s safe to use on acrylic and tinted/treated windows and glass.
Even The Kitchen Sink™ gentle scrubber- This naturally powerful gentle cleaning scrubber works wonders on tubs, tile and grout, toilet bowls, shower doors, stovetops, glass cooktops , stainless steel sinks, porcelain, ceramic, enamel, stone, cultured marble, non-polished solid countertops, and laminate. If concerned, test in an inconspicuous area first.
What-EVER!™ All-Purpose Cleaner- Use this safe cleaner on any washable non-porous surface, including: countertops, appliances, sinks, toilets, baseboards, walls, floors, tables, chairs, showers and tubs. Better Life products are ethoxylate-free so waterways and marine life will not be harmed.
This set is valued at $22.50 and one lucky reader will get it free, courtesy of Mama Goes Green. Thanks Sara!
The winner is #5 Andrea! Congrats!!