What exactly is the definition of “green” cleaning? Is it that you’re using products that contain only organic or natural ingredients or that you’re using products in such a way that they don’t negatively interfere with the environment? Remember that even biodegradable products are not necessarily good for the environment, they are simply less harmful and they do actually biodegrade over time. If you’re looking to clean with more natural products, here is a list of three products you might choose for cleaning along with how and where to use them.
Baking Soda, Vinegar and Peroxide
There are a few products in your kitchen or galley that work well as cleaning products or as an ingredient in a natural cleaning product concoction. Using these products is much less expensive than buying chemical cleaners, is healthier on both your respiratory system and the environment and helps save room in your storage compartments. Keep one larger box of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar in a cupboard instead of both of those items as well as several spray bottles of chemical cleaners.
Baking soda is one of the most widely used natural cleaning products available. Baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda, as it is also known) is a naturally occurring material, present in most organic life forms. It can be “made” from sodium carbonate, or soda ash. The soda ash is dissolved in a carbon dioxide rich solution, and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) precipitates out. It’s versatile, inexpensive, has no toxic scent or ingredients, can be used as a dry powder or liquid paste and can be found at all grocery and household variety stores. To create a paste from baking soda, simply mix with water until you have the desired thickness for its purpose. Here are a few ways to use baking soda on your boat:
- Scrub dirt out of the non-skid “pockets”
- Soak up oil or grease stains – sprinkle over the non-skid in its powder form
- Polish stainless steel
- Remove rust on metal deck hardware
- Soak up oil or grease spots on a teak deck
- Clean stains on vinyl (paste form)
- Freshen fridges, freezers, cupboards and heads
- A solution in warm water will remove the tarnish from silver when the silver is in contact with a piece of aluminum foil
- Use baking soda to put out small fires
Don’t use baking soda, either in powder or paste form to remove stains on smooth gel coat. Baking soda acts as a light abrasive and it will not only remove the stain, but also the wax on your gel coat. If you do use baking soda to remove a stain on smooth gel coat, then follow it up with wax in that area. (Or just use wax to remove the stain and you won’t have to follow up with anything.) Also, do not use baking soda to clean aluminum objects because it attacks the thin nonreactive protective oxide layer of this otherwise very reactive metal.
Vinegar is a weak form of acetic acid that forms through the fermentation of sugars or starches. It is completely edible, and cannot harm your stomach. And luckily for us, many things can be cleaned using it. Although it has a pungent odor, vinegar has so many uses that you should have at least a few bottles of it on your boat at all times. Try some of these tips with vinegar and a few other natural household ingredients.
- For persistent room odors, place a bowl of vinegar in the room overnight.
- For spills on carpet, use a sponge or cloth to soak up as much liquid as possible. Then spray with a mixture of half vinegar, half water. Let stand for about two minutes, then blot with towel or sponge. Repeat as needed. For more persistent stains, use a mixture of 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap, and 1 cup warm water. Proceed as suggested above. When finished cleaning, dry using a hairdryer set on low.
- To clean windows, spray with half vinegar, half water. Wipe clean with either newspapers or cloth.
- To clean silver, pewter, copper, or brass, dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in one cup vinegar. Add flour to create a paste (1/4 cup or more). Apply the paste to the metal item, and let stand for at least fifteen minutes. Rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth.
- To clean wood paneling, use a mixture of 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 2 cups warm water. Apply to paneling with a soft cloth. Dry with a clean cloth.
- To remove corrosion or chemical build-up from showerheads, soak in vinegar overnight.
- Remove stains from the toilet bowl by spraying with vinegar. To remove calcium scale inside marine toilets and discharge hoses, which can cause the toilet to get progressively harder to flush and eventually lead to total blockage, pour a pint of white vinegar into the bowl once a month and pump it slowly (a single stroke every 4 or 5 minutes) through the toilet. The mildly acidic vinegar dissolves fresh scale deposits.
- To remove soap build-up from faucets, clean with a mixture of 1 part salt to four parts vinegar.
- Spray shower walls and shower curtain with vinegar to help prevent mildew.
- To clean wooden cutting boards, wipe with vinegar.
- Polish tarnished brass with 1 tablespoon each of flour, salt and vinegar. Apply the paste with a clean damp rag to polish the brass. Wipe off with a dry rag when done.
- Make your own boat soap by mixing 2 tablespoons corn starch, ½ cup ammonia and ½ cup white vinegar in 1 gallon of warm water. If you don’t have access to warm water, substitute the corn starch with baking soda. This same mixture is also nature’s version of Windex. Use it to clean your windows with no streaks.
- Remove hard water stains by spraying them with vinegar (simply pour some into a spray bottle) and rinse with fresh water.
Cleaning With Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is odorless and colorless, but not tasteless. Cleaning with hydrogen peroxide – also referred to as H2O2 – is one of the easiest ways to make sure that you provide a safer, cleaner space, with lower bacteria levels, but without the risk of the toxicity that is sometimes associated with chemical spray cleaners you find in the cleaning aisle.
- Clean appliances, countertops and the inside of your refrigerator with hydrogen peroxide. It will not only clean and shine everything, but it will also kill germs. While you’re at it, pour a drop of peroxide right on your cutting board to destroy bacteria, like salmonella.
- Make your dishes sparkle and disinfect the dishwasher at the same time. Pour a capful of peroxide in the pre-wash compartment, fill with regular detergent and run the cycle. While that’s cleaning, give your plants a lift by adding a tablespoon of peroxide to their water.
- Forget harsh chemicals like bleach to brighten your whites. Use a capful of peroxide to your laundry machine and add your soap. Your clothes will look as good as new. Be careful not to use too much, though, as peroxide is acidic and could harm delicate fabric.
- Keep a spray bottle of peroxide in the bathroom. Mix a solution of 50 percent peroxide to 50 percent water. Spray down the shower when you’re finished to prevent mold and mildew.
- Pour one cup hydrogen peroxide in the toilet and let it sit overnight. Scrub the toilet in the morning, and the bowl will be super clean.
- Remove bloodstains on clothing, upholstery and carpet with peroxide. Pour a dab directly on the spot and let it soak for one minute. Promptly rinse with warm water and a clean cloth. Repeat as necessary. The peroxide works as an oxidizer to lift stains.
But if those don’t work…
In getting back to the questions asked at the beginning of this article, if you are choosing to clean with natural products because cleaners with chemicals in them irritate your skin, eyes or lungs, then you should either choose natural cleaners or only use chemical cleaners as long as you’re wearing gloves and a face mask. If those natural cleaners aren’t getting the stains out and you either aren’t affected by the fumes of chemical cleaners or you choose to wear gloves and a face mask, then spraying a cleaner with chemicals on an area of your boat won’t hurt anything as long as you wipe it up instead of hosing it off into the water. Either way, you’re taking steps to make cleaning your boat a more environmentally safe task and that alone is a step in the right direction!