Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A clean dishwasher & the start of a simpler life

While I was living in Korea last year I started reading some blogs on cleaning with fewer cleaning products, and ones that are more environmentally friendly. I was hooked on the idea. But I was also in the middle of Korea (not sure why that mattered, actually, since we did have access to many grocery stores, but it seemed to matter at the time...) and living in an apartment that was already well-stocked with cleaning supplies when we moved in.

When we finally moved into our new apartment in Maine in December I was excited to finally try out the ideas I'd gleaned over the past year. But when I opened the cabinet under the kitchen sink I found out that it, too, was already stocked with myriad cleaners, ones I had hoped I would never need to use again. A true German at heart, I sadly thought to myself that I would have to wait until I'd used up all those cleaners so they wouldn't go to waste, before I could try out the new ideas.
The resident cleaners
Fortunately, a week or two ago I suddenly realized that I can just leave all those cleaners right where I found them, ignore that whole side of the cabinet completely, and just go ahead and clean my house the way I want to. So today was the first day I actually stepped up and tried cleaning with my new arsenal of cleaning products: baking soda and vinegar.

Apparently the last renter left without cleaning the dishwasher. Dried-on food particles covered the inside of the door, and I felt slightly ill every time we opened the dishwasher to put our dishes in. I've never had my own dishwasher before and I've certainly never cleaned one before today, so I (loosely) followed the directions on my favourite cleaning blog, Imperfect Homemaking.* (I basically just did steps 4, 8 & 10, but at one point I did get a little bit crazy and dug out a Q-tip to clean around the screws in the door...) Since the author said to use vinegar, I tried that first. When a vinegar-soaked rag didn't remove the food particles, I went to my trusty mother for additional advice. Soon I was back at the dishwasher with my large box of baking soda. A generous helping of the powder and a few minutes of covering it with a damp rag did what vinegar could not handle. With some elbow grease and my new best friend, baking soda, those dried-on pieces came off like magic! I almost felt like a successful hunter/gatherer when I gazed at the completely white door! :)
All clean! (Umm, I forgot to take a 'before' picture, but I really
don't think anyone would have wanted to see it anyway...)
The dried-on food was my biggest worry, so by that stage, I almost didn't feel like step 10 was necessary, but I tried it out anyway. I poured some vinegar in the detergent trap and placed a small bowl filled with vinegar sitting in the top rack, turned on the dishwasher and let the machine do the rest of the work. I can't really tell if the vinegar wash did all that much (the rest of the dishwasher looked pretty clean, it was really just the door that needed major help), but I can tell you that after the cycle finished, the dishwasher did not smell a bit like vinegar, to my husband's relief (he's not so much a fan of the stuff).

So I'm here to tell you that at least one item in my house has successfully been cleaned with baking soda and vinegar! I'll keep you updated as I move throughout the rest of the house in the coming weeks and months. For now, I'm pretty impressed! Sorry all you bottles and packages of cleaners sitting in your little home under the kitchen sink. I might not have a use for you anymore!

*Check out her dishwasher in the first picture on that post. Does it not look identical to ours??


  1. That's awesome, Oh Al - My buddy Mike has introduced me to cleaning this way. He preaches wildly about the ills of chemical cleaners! Yup, baking soda and vinegar is the WAY TO GO!

    1. Less nasty chemicals, cheaper, and it actually works! Definitely can't go wrong with it, I'm thinking.

  2. I'm proud of you, Ali! Good job for trying a new way of cleaning and leaving all those cleaning products behind! :)
    and the dishwasher looks great!

  3. Awesome, Ali! That's really neat. You should check out this cool blog I've been following - the lady is a big gardener (that's why I first started following her) but she recently moved to Maine! And she also recently did a big series on cleaning products. Here's one where she links to all her other cleaning posts: http://chiotsrun.com/2012/08/08/non-toxic-drain-cleaning/

    1. Thanks for the blog, Christy! It sounds like a great one to follow. I really need some good tips on gardening, too. Our poor little basil plant is just about dead and I'd love to revive it if possible.

  4. smart idea to just leave the cleaners for the next person.
    yay for baking soda.
    wonder what it does to our tummies?
    glad you had such a successful day.

  5. Nice Ali! I'll have to try it. I was wondering how well that stuff works after a lady at my church introduced me to mopping with vinegar.