Many common household cleaning products contain potent chemicals that present a number of dangers. Some cause damage to wildlife, wetlands and water quality when they're rinsed down the drain. Others are caustic and can cause skin, eye or lung damage (see References 2). To minimize these potential risks to family members and the environment, many consumers are now using "greener" natural cleansers for tasks such as scrubbing sinks and clearing drains.
Ceramic and stainless steel sinks are typically scoured with powdered cleansers containing bleach, or cream-type cleansers that combine scouring powder with bleach, detergent and other ingredients. These are effective, but ordinary baking soda -- sodium bicarbonate -- is a capable scouring powder that's also gentle on your skin and the environment. To clean your sinks and faucets, sprinkle lightly with baking soda and then scrub gently with a moist cloth or sponge. The soda removes most day-to-day soil and washes away easily with water (see References 1, 2).
In some cases, a sink might be dirty enough to require a more potent scouring powder. When baking soda alone doesn't provide enough friction, add a small amount of salt to your sponge. Either fine sea salt or regular table salt will provide a more robust scrubbing action to conquer stubborn dirt and residue (see References 1, 2). If salt doesn't provide enough scrubbing power, mix your baking soda 50/50 with laundry soda. Wear gloves -- laundry soda is much stronger than baking soda, and is caustic.
Pads and Brushes
As an alternative or in addition to stronger scouring powders, use a brush or scrubbing pad. These improve the efficiency of your baking-soda scrub by providing extra friction to remove dirt. The most common varieties are made of metal, which can scratch sinks; or plastics, which aren't environmentally friendly. Choose a brush made with natural bristles, or scouring pads made from natural substances like wool. Alternatively, consider a natural sponge or section of loofah as your scrubbing tool of choice.
Clog-prone drains can be regularly maintained by an application of baking soda and vinegar, two common household items. Begin by pouring 1/2 cup of baking soda down the offending drain. Follow it with a cup of white vinegar, then block the drain with its stopper. If it's a double sink, block both. As the vinegar and baking soda react to create carbon dioxide, the trapped gas will exert force on the blockage to clear it. After 15 minutes, remove the plug and pour two quarts of boiling water down the drain. The hot water will loosen any congealed fats and carry the stoppage away (see References 2).
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer who has written and blogged on food-related topics since 2007. Previously he sold computers, insurance and mutual funds. Decker was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
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