Green Kitchen Degreasers Save You Time and Money
Many people use commercial degreasers taken straight off the grocery store shelf to clean their kitchens. Getting them to understand that many of those products harm the environment is difficult. Granted, some people aren’t concerned about that; however, what should get everyone’s attention is that most people already have what they need to make a green kitchen degreaser right at home, and it is usually cheaper than a manufactured product.
For example, you can tackle most grease cleaning chores with a spray bottle, baking soda, white vinegar, liquid soap, dishwashing detergent, and a sponge. These green cleaning ingredients are not expensive, and you may already have them. If not, purchase them during your next visit to the store. While there, pick up some borax, too, because it will come in handy as well. Combinations of these ingredients will work fabulously for most of your cleaning needs. Here are some homemade recipes and green tips for cleaning a greasy kitchen.
Vinegar, before we get started, is not a degreaser by itself as Karen Logan explains in Clean House, Clean Planet,
. . . vinegar and oils are both acidic, so they don’t neutralize each other. Perhaps vinegar got the reputation for cutting grease on floors because it was cutting that ugly soap and detergent residue. A sticky detergent film collects dust and grease, particularly in the kitchen.” (p. 139)
It seems that vinegar could be lifting that soaping residue away rather than dissolving grease. Sometimes you don’t know what is going to work until you try a few things. A vinegar/water mix is always a good rinse after you clean a non-porous surfaces with soap.
It’s great to keep a spray bottle with vinegar and water in it handy at all times while cleaning! It will make every non-porous surface gleam and shine. Make it equal parts vinegar to water, or 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water depending on how much or little you like the scent of vinegar. I like it now, but it took months for me to equate the smell of vinegar with the smell of clean.
You can make scented vinegar by adding essential oil to your vinegar. I’ve only tried adding lemon and bergamot essential oils to my vinegar based cleaning solutions. I like it.
Degrease Kitchen Cabinets
For wood cabinets use a vegetable oil based product such as liquid castile soap. You can use it strong or as watered down as is necessary to remove greasy films and fingerprints from the cabinets. Liquid castile soap tends to be very concentrated so careful! A microfiber cloth will give you just a little abrasiveness.
You can also use a ready made wooden cabinet cream or spray. I find that Murphy’s soap in a ready to use solution spray bottle does work well, but I don’t like the smell at all. Dr. Bronners, the most famous maker of castile soap uses essential oils, most notably peppermint, to scent their soap, but they also make an unscented baby castile soap. I use that one.
Laminate and painted cabinets can take a mild abrasive with no problem, (always test yours first though) so try the Alkaline Cleaner and microfiber cloth to degrease non wood kitchen cabinets. As usual, try the gentlest solutions first, moving into stronger ingredients if necessary.
This is the all-purpose cleanser you should reach for first, because it works on most dirt.
½ teaspoon Epsom salts
2 teaspoons Borax
½ teaspoon soap or detergent
2 cups hot water
Combine the Epsom salts [or baking soda, or washing soda], borax, and soap in the spray bottle. Pour in the hot water (it will dissolve the minerals), screw on the lid, and shake to completely blend and dissolve. Spritz every 6 inches or so of surface once or twice, wiping off the cleanser with a rag as you go. For tough dirt, leave the cleanser on for a few minutes before wiping it off. Shake the bottle each time before using. Annie Berthold-Bond
Wipe down surfaces with vinegar/water solution as a finishing rinse. Dry with soft clean cloth.
The counters around the stovetop often accumulate a lot of grease when you are cooking, especially if you are frying. Use your Acidic spray cleaner (again, that’s vinegar, soap, essential oil, and distilled water) to wipe down fresh grease splatters and spills.
For grease that’s been around for a while, find your dishwasher detergent (the kind you use in your automatic dishwasher) and use it straight from the bottle. Gently scrub the gunk. Next and/or in addition, you may have to get the baking soda, sprinkle straight from the bottle and gently scrub the greasy areas until you loosed the grease.
Check frequently what you are doing to make sure you are not damaging the surface of your countertop.
Don’t use anything but water on natural, porous stone countertops! Really if you are going to spring for natural stone countertops, don’t let grease and grime build up. Take preventative care with these expensive surfaces so you don’t have to risk damaging them with strong cleaning solutions.
Just as with the drain, the best idea is to clean the stove-top every time you cook something. Eventually, though, you may need to do a better cleaning to remove missed grease. As with countertops, dishwasher detergent is the first thing you should try. After that, use baking soda and vinegar for really stubborn gobs. Sprinkle on the baking soda, sprinkle on some vinegar, and watch the fun bubbles. After a few minutes start wiping.
For really, really gooey cooked on messes add two tablespoons of your environmentally friendly dishwashing liquid and two teaspoons of borax to one quart of hot water. Spray the mixture on the stove-top, and let it sit for a half hour before wiping it off.
Rinse and polish the ceramic and chrome surfaces with your vinegar/water spray and a soft cloth.
People always hate this chore because it takes a lot of hard work. Make it easier by preparing a paste out of baking soda and water. You can use white vinegar instead of water to make it more powerful. Smear the paste over the interior of the greasy oven, and leave it there for 8-12 hours. Wipe it off using cleaning gloves and a sponge, and then go back over it with a warm, moist rag. Alternatively, you can purchase a natural orange-based cleaner such as Earth Friendly Products Orange Plus. Use it instead of vinegar.
Degreasing Kitchen Floors
We recommend using a microfiber mop such as the Bona Kemi swivel mop to wash floors. Your cleaning solution is in a spray bottle. You rinse the pad in the sink as needed. Other tips for cleaning greasy kitchen floors are to press on the mop with your toe on particularly greasy spots and have a putty knife on hand to gently lift off any gobs of gunk.
Hardwood floors, polyurethaned
Mix vinegar and water 50/50. Apply the mix from a spray bottle and use a microfiber cleaning pad and swivel mop, like the Bona Kemi, to mop up.
Gobs of grease are harder to just wash away. You need to clean greasy gobs with icy water. The grease will harden when you apply the water, and then you can scrape it off.
Another method is to put a paper towel on the grease (works for wax also), and run a warm iron over it. The towel will soak up the grease. You can also brew some hot tea and put it on the grease. When it cools, mop it up, and then buff the floor with a soft, dry cloth.
Hardwood floors that are untreated will soak up grease and it will be very hard to get that out without damaging the wood floor surface. Try and prevent this by not having an untreated wood floor in your kitchen of bathrooms.
Painted wood floors
Use the alkaline cleaner in a spray bottle and continuously shake the bottle as you spray the mixture and mop up with your microfiber floor mop. The mild abrasive of the baking soda will help lift greasy dirt off your floors painted surface. Spot clean with a microfiber cloth as you work.
Linoleum and Ceramic Tile Floors (and counters)
Use a liquid castile soap or liquid dish detergent mixed with water in a spray bottle to degrease linoleum. Wipe up the soapy water thoroughly and follow with a vinegar/water rinse.
Baking soda, borax, and other alkaline cleaners will damage rubber tile as will anything too acidic or oily! Water and a mild detergent such as Seventh Generation’s Natural Laundry Detergent will work nicely to degrease rubber tile.
Stone and brick floors
For porous hard materials like natural stone and brick, mix a quart of water with 1 tablespoon white vinegar. Scour the floor with the solution and a brush, then sponge it with clean water to rinse and dry thoroughly with an absorbent cotton towel.
Sink Drains and Grease
The best way to deal with a greasy drain is to avoid getting grease into the sink in the first place. Ellen Sandbeck offers this wisdom in her book Green Housekeeping:
“Grease buildup is the biggest cause of sewer overflows. Hardened fats can clog pipes, so refrain from pouring grease down the drain. Scrape meat drippings and used cooking oil into a can.”
She goes on to explain the importance of not putting that can of cooking grease in the garbage until the actual day your garbage is collected so animals don’t get into it. Her recommendation is to keep it in the freezer until your get a chance to throw it away.
TIP Chasing grease down the drain with hot water does not completely prevent buildup, and it still clogs the sewers.
Even when being careful, grease will end up in the drain from dirty dishes. The solution for that is to pour a ½ cup of baking soda down the drain and rinse it down with a cup of white vinegar. You will see a reaction as the pair bubble and do their magic. After the action stops, pour several cups of boiling water down the drain. Be careful using baking soda in your drain if you have a garbage disposal.
It’s hard to keep kitchen grease off painted walls. Fortunately, there is an easy fix for the problem. For cooking grease, mix one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid or borax with one quart of hot water, then wipe the wall down with it. For spots of grease and oil, use the Alkaline Cleaner (recipe above) and rub gently. After that, wipe it down again using a clean rag damp with hot water.
If the grease is from greasy hands or fingers, spray it with undiluted vinegar, then wipe it off. If the wall is made of finished wood, use an art gum eraser. This may work on wallpaper as well, and you can try it on matte paint; however, matte paint may need repainting because it soaks up the grease making it impossible to clean off.
For shiny ceramic tile walls, you still have to use soap and water, but after rinse with your 50/50 vinegar and water solution and dry and polish with a soft cloth.
Towels are good at absorbing and retaining grease, even if you constantly rinse them out with hot water. After a while, they will start to smell bad. When this happens, wash them with detergent but also add a color remover also known as reduction bleach (sodium hydrosulfite). The most common brand of reduction bleach is Rit Color Remover and Rit White Wash. Ellen Sandbeck explains that the same sodium hydrosulfite found in these Rit products is used by paper companies as an eco friendly alternative to chlorine bleach.