Monday, May 25, 2009

Non-toxic kitchen disinfecting

A couple of months ago I was chatting with some other moms and somehow we got talking about green cleaning. They asked if it was possible to disinfect your kitchen – think chicken juice and blood from raw meat – using non-toxic cleaners.

Since we’re officially into the grilling season I think we can all use some eco-friendly tips for safely handling raw meat and fish. These tips will help you with general kitchen disinfecting and year-round food safety.

Sometimes I think that bottles of plain old white vinegar should sport brilliant red capes and a big “S” on the label because it really is a household and environmental superman. But little did I know that hydrogen peroxide is the real hero when it comes to obliterating bacteria. (Remember pouring it on cuts and watching it bubble away the germs?) When used together, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are unstoppable (but utterly harmless to people and the environment).

Here’s why: when exposed to heat, light or organic material, hydrogen peroxide turns into pure water and oxygen. As it turns out, pure oxygen is toxic to microorganisms. I’m not into mini chemistry lessons but I want to make sure you believe me. In any case, when hydrogen peroxide teams up with vinegar it works ten times better.

What does all of this mean to you and your kitchen? It’s an easy, non-toxic way to deal with invisible bacteria that make thousands of people sick every year.

I have mentioned before that my favourite go-to book for cleaning is Organic Housekeeping buy Ellen Sandbeck. In it she recommends using vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in a “dual spray” system on food, utensils, countertops, cutting surfaces. You name it. Her system is so simple that you’ll be tossing (in a safe way of course) those harsh and toxic kitchen cleaners:

1. Buy two spray bottles, one dark or at least opaque.
2. Buy a big bottle of consumer strength hydrogen peroxide (3%), and a big bottle of distilled white vinegar.
3. Fill the dark spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide (it’s degraded by light).
4. Fill the other with vinegar.
5. Spray with abandon, (first with the vinegar, then the peroxide.)

You can even spray the food directly, which is quite handy for lettuce and other foods that won’t be cooked. But don’t spray marble or limestone countertops (it my damage them).

I keep my bottles filled and under the sink. I clean up in my usual way with hot soapy water but then I give everything a final spritz. For the first time ever I’m fearless around raw chicken.

This isn’t an excuse for carelessness in the kitchen though. Be sure to keep raw meat and fish well away from other food to reduce the chance of cross contamination. Clean quickly and thoroughly and put your dishcloth right in the wash.

This blog was previously published in KV Style (

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