detox your kitchen - a guide to green housekeeping part II (and why you should avoid antibacterial wipes)

Hooked on antibacterial wipes? I know people who are. These are people who eat only organic food, but then wipe down their kitchen benches with antibacterial chemicals. Their kids' hands, too. 


We are obsessed with germ fighting more so in the kitchen than in any other room in the house (with the toilet as the possible exception). Here, in the space that forms the heart of most people's homes, where we prepare, cook and share food with the people we love, we smother surfaces with harsh chemicals most of us know nothing about.

It's wrong. Plain and simple. Here's why:

Antibacterial wipes, soaps, gels and sprays sold as effective kitchen cleaners contain (amongst other petroleum-derived nasties) triclosan. Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal chemical that is added to almost all cleaning products and soaps, as well as many deodorants and shaving creams. It's also in your toothpaste and mouthwash.

Unfortunately for you and me, triclosan is suspected of causing long-term health issues such as learning disabilities, infertility and other hormonal health problems because of its ability to interfere with hormones critical for normal development and function of the brain and reproductive system.

But here's the real flincher:

In 2010, the FDA announced that triclosan is no more effective at preventing infections than pure soap and water. AND that long-term use of triclosan may promote antibiotic resistance as well as cause long-term health problems. YET it is still on the ingredients list of most commercial cleaning products.

Assuming you posses common sense (which we all do, granted to varying degrees), you can keep harmful bacteria at bay in the kitchen without the use of antibacterial products. They simply are not necessary.

This applies even if you have children (because so many people I know with children insist antibacterial wipes are necessary). In fact, considering FDA's little announcement, and the known harmful effects of triclosan on development in animal models, children would be a reason NOT to use antibacterial products. No?

The fact is that most bacteria found floating around the home are completely harmless.  In fact, less than 1% of bacteria can cause disease.

That being said, there are some bacteria that can cause harm, as well all know, and should be avoided, particularly in the kitchen. These include:

e. coli (some strains) - most strains of E. coli exist naturally in our gut and are actually beneficial (they contribute to vitamin K2 production), but some can cause severe illness. Generally, the presence of pathogenic E. coli in food indicates the food or prep area is contaminated with faeces. Yep.

salmonella - found in raw meat, eggs and dairy.

listeria - found in soft cheeses, dairy and raw food.

But, it's not necessary to apply harsh cleaning products, or antibacterial wipes or gels, in order to keep these bad boys at bay. You just need five basic and completely natural ingredients, which I listed in my previous post, here. Yes you can probably go out and spend a decent buck on ready-made 'organic' cleaning products, but by making your own with these 5 readily available ingredients, you save money and you avoid going through plastic bottles and other resource-intensive packaging.

So, how to keep your kitchen clean & healthy, naturally...

Chopping boards
Despite what we've been told, wooden chopping boards are actually safer and cleaner than plastic ones. As Christina Strutt explains in her book A Guide to Green Housekeeping, microbiologists at the University of Wisconsin's Food Research Institute have found that whilst germs placed on wooden chopping boards die within three minutes, bacteria placed on plastic chopping boards not only remains alive, but multiplies overnight.

Why this happens is simple - wood has natural antibacterial properties, and plastic does not. In fact, plastic that is sold as possessing antibacterial properties is treated with, you guessed it, triclosan.

Wood is naturally antibacterial because of its capillary action - germs are drawn beneath the porous surface of the wood where they die within minutes due to lack of moisture. This leaves the exposed surface of the wood germ-free. In contrast, germs on plastic have nowhere to go. They sit on the surface, or sink into the cuts and marks, and fester and grow, fester and grow.

I now only use wooden chopping boards. I have three: one for vegetables and bread, one for chicken, and one for other meat. I wash them with a bristle brush, hot water and soap, and disinfect them using my home-made spray of white vinegar and water (if I have excess lemons I add lemon juice too). You can also rub with a cut half of lemon.

To treat the wood and prolong its life, I rub with olive oil, leave it to soak in for a few minutes, then wipe off any excess with a cloth. Regular wood oil is petroleum based and should not be used on food prep surfaces.

Kitchen benches
Wipe down with hot water and disinfect with a home-made spray of 3/4 white vinegar, 1/4 water.

Tea towels
Soak tea towels in a strong solution of baking soda and water, or boil in a solution of water, white vinegar and a teaspoon of baking soda. This will disinfect them, and they'll come up whiter and cleaner than if you just throw them in the washing machine.

Food covers
The health dangers of combing food and plastic are becoming more and more apparent, and it's now crystal clear that the ingredients contained in plastics make their way in to our bodies. BPA isn't the only ingredient to avoid. I'm going through the process of eliminating plastic from my kitchen, but it is tricky, no doubt. I've always kept my fresh vegetables in plastic in the fridge. It's best to completely avoid combining plastic with food, whether hot food or cold. Use muslin cloth or bags to store fruit and veg, and cover plates of food with another plate. In fact, my mother never bought a single roll of glad wrap throughout my childhood - it was always an upturned plate that covered any leftovers in the fridge.

Oven, pots and pans
Dissolve baked-on grime with a thick paste made by mixing a little water into baking soda. Leave the paste on for at least 30 minutes, then scrub. Wash down with a solution of warm water and vinegar, which cuts through the grease.

Avoid purchasing ready made dishwashing liquid and make your own that you can store in a reusable bottle by mixing liquid castille soap or grated pure soap with hot water. Add a few drops of essential oil if you want a fragrance. You can also add baking soda for added grease-cutting power.

Use a solution of hot water and white vinegar. Add a few drops of essential oil for some natural fragrance.

Porcelain stains & silver tarnish
To dissolve stains inside china cups, soak them in a solution of baking soda and water (or baking soda and white vinegar if stains are stubborn). To clean silver and remove tarnish, soak it in boiling water with baking soda and salt. Rubbing the tarnished spot with a bit of coconut oil and a soft cloth also does the job (I used this technique yesterday!).

Glass bottles & decanters
For a bit of old-school ingenuity, clean the inside of glass bottles and decanters by adding crushed egg shells, baking soda and water and sloshing around. Leave overnight and rinse first with white vinegar and then water.

Kitchen pests
Read my previous post on fighting pests naturally here.

My next post will step us into the laundry to clean clothes and remove stains naturally. In the meantime, do you have any other home-made remedies for common kitchen quandaries? I'd love a recipe for a tried and tested home-made dishwasher powder!


  1. a couple of ideas to help with food storage:
    Abeego food wraps - and Fresh Paper -

  2. Replies
    1. Ha, thanks Sharon! Thanks for the tips above

  3. I was so impressed with the baking soda paste. I tried it once and it’s really effective in washing pots and pans. In terms of oven cleaning, it’s not helpful because of the grease and fats stocked on oven racks, back panels, and pans. I just use this Melbourne cleaning supplies. And it does more than just cleaning and does not emit fumes, too (which is really good for the health of my family).
    melbourne cleaning supplies



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