Advertisers seeking our dollars offer an ever-growing array of products for a homeowner’s kitchen cleaning needs. Manufacturers know that most buyers already have the usual array of cleansers and sprays, and that’s why they’ve come up with specialized products. But many of these are made with suspect ingredients, causing industry watchdogs like the Environmental Working Group to raise a red flag.
New popular surfaces and materials in contemporary kitchens create cleaning challenges that make chemical-laden products appealing for homeowners looking for a fast fix. But more and more households have rejected these products, citing concerns over potential toxins and inconclusively tested chemicals, such as phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate, and surfactants. The good news is that many of the worst offenders can be easily replaced with safer alternatives that clean even the most challenging surfaces in modern kitchens. Here’s what today’s homeowners are using instead of commercial cleaners for an all-natural, chemical-free clean in cutting-edge kitchens.
Greener Substitutes for Stainless Steel Polish
Stainless steel appliances have been steadily replacing colored neutrals for years now. Their clean, minimalist profile makes them a great pick for a contemporary look. But they often create as many design challenges as they resolve. Fingerprints and smudges mean that most of the time, stainless steel surfaces don’t stay clean for long!
Yet cleaning these items comes with its own hazards. While some commercially-available stainless steel cleaners garner praise for being “all natural,” some brands are among the worst offenders for their environmental record. Cameo Aluminum and Stainless Steel Cleaner was among a list of 38 household cleaners whose manufacturers were sued by New York state for not properly disclosing ingredients. Obviously, that’s only one brand out of many—but many company’s refusal to submit full ingredients to the public record does give one pause.
Those seeking greener alternatives to stainless steel polish may find exactly what they’re looking for with microfiber cloth cleaners, like these from e-cloth. The company advertises that its stainless steel pads contain two different types of fibers to replace both the scouring and polishing aspects of convention metal cleaners. Reuseable materials like these also cut back on paper towel waste, which makes up a considerable amount of household refuse.
Natural Solutions for Alternative Countertops
Surveys of consumer kitchen trends show that millennials don’t buy into the granite countertop fad like their predecessors, but instead prefer hipper, alternative surfaces, such as vinyl or wood. They’re also more likely to go in for rustic looks, meaning they favor rough-hewn open cabinets and broad, weathered beams and farmhouse tables.
It’s a great look if you can get it, but wood in the kitchen does present some unique challenges. High humidity can warp and wreck wood pieces, so homeowners who cash in on the farmhouse look should invest in a dehumidifier to keep levels right throughout their home—there is even whole-home dehumidifying equipment that attaches to a household’s air conditioning unit, for those looking for a more comprehensive solution.
Likewise, homeowners should take care when cleaning wooden surfaces like tables and countertops. Wood can create a natural kitchen catch-22. Chipped or cracked wood creates ideal conditions for the development of harmful bacteria, like E. coli, which can lead to severe food poisoning. But antibacterial cleaners come with a load of baggage in their own right. Huge volumes of scientific studies back up what holistic-minded homeowners have been saying for years: in many cases, antibacterial soaps and cleaners do a lot more harm than good.
Homemade cleaners mixed from white vinegar and water kill a handful of the worst E. coli strains, and they’re gentle enough for most wood surfaces. Adding a few drops of olive oil or liquid jojoba wax will help preserve woods and give them a shiny lustre as well. Both are safe to use around food.
Cleaning Glass Cooktops with DIY Concoctions
Gone are the days of the bulky stove and unwieldy oven. Modern homeowners get clean, uninterrupted lines in the kitchen using built-in appliances like convection ovens and glass electric cooktops installed directly in a countertop or island. Of course, keeping glass shiny and streak-free without commercial window cleaners presents an additional challenge.
Store-bought glass cleaners often contain potentially hazardous ingredients, like ammonium hydroxide, which the EWG warns may aggravate asthma and skin allergies—besides being damaging to local aquatic life. For the most part, these substances can be completely replaced by vinegar and baking soda, since the chemical reaction that results when these two substances are mixed helps loosen stubborn dirt and grease from hard-working surfaces. Anything that doesn’t come up after that can be lifted with a razor blade or a microfiber cloth.
Of course, for windows and other clear glass surfaces, it’s typically best to avoid the baking soda altogether and just opt for a mixture of water and distilled vinegar. With the help of a miniature squeegee, windows can be streak-free and shining—because clean never goes out of style!
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.