Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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The Great Vinegar Experiment: Part 3 (In the Kitchen)

by Danica Waters

Ok, folks.  I wouldn’t pass any of this along unless it was tried and true, and I was a serious believer in the results.  When it comes to the cleaning and disinfecting power of distilled white vinegar, consider me a bona-fide believer.  So far I’ve replaced everything in my arsenal of cleaning chemicals with a gallon of vinegar, a big box of baking soda, a bottle of dishwashing detergent, and some wood cleaner.  That’s it.

In today’s Great Vinegar Experiment: Part 3 (In the Kitchen)  we tackle the KITCHEN.  It goes without saying that any of the cleaning techniques I used in the bathroom will work just fine for the kitchen, so I won’t spend the time repeating them.  I’d much prefer to get right into sharing all these exciting new KITCHEN-RELATED cleaning techniques!

Descale (Remove Mineral Deposits from) Your Coffeemaker

This is a pretty well-known trick but for those who don’t know, simply add a cupful of undiluted white vinegar to the water chamber of your coffeemaker and allow to run its full brew cycle.  Then re-run with plain water.  NOTE:  NEVER NEVER NEVER RUN THIS SOLUTION IN AN ESPRESSO MAKER.  These machines will absorb the flavor of the vinegar (just like they’ll absorb the essence of flavored coffees), which will ruin your machine and your coffee experience.

Disinfect and Deodorize Drains and Garbage Disposals:

I’ve always used lemon rind to deodorize my garbage disposals, but never really felt like it did that much to really clean them.  Vinegar to the rescue!  I poured 1/2 C of baking soda into the disposal, followed by 1/2 C HOT white vinegar.  After letting this sit for about 5 minutes, I flushed it out with a full kettle of boiling water. Voila!  And for daily maintenance, I froze a bunch of full-strength white vinegar into cubes and stuck them in a gallon freezer bag.  I just pop one in after the nightly dishes are done, and grind it up in the disposal. Done!  (Though I still love the smell of lemons down the drain – now they just smell even better!)

Clean and Deodorize Your Microwave

I know this is everyone’s least favorite job ever.  How do I know this?  Because it’s my least favorite job.  I’d rather clean out a refrigerator than a microwave any day of the week.  Go figure.  And while I’m dropping hints and offering bribes and waiting patiently to see if anyone will take me up on tackling the smelly food-nuker, I’m noticing a complete flatline on the action counter.  Not a sign of life anywhere.  Furthermore,  I can guarantee you that in employee lounges across America and beyond, the microwave looks like a medical experiment gone awry.  But there’s hope.  Simply put 1/2 C distilled white vinegar and 1/2 C water in a microwave safe bowl, bring it to a rolling boil, and let the resulting steam do all the work. Splattered nastiness will simply wipe away, and the offending odors will disappear.  Pardon me while I giggle with delight.

Disinfect Cutting Boards and Work Surfaces

After washing your cutting boards and work surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water, dry and then spray generously with full-strength white distilled vinegar.  Leave overnight.  In the morning, rinse off the cutting boards and allow to dry.

The Cure to the Funky Lunch Box

(Oh, how I wish I’d known about this when my kids were little. )  When the lunchbox stays at school over the weekend, and comes home filled with unfinished sandwich leavings and moldy apple cores (eeewwwww….), do not despair.  After you don your industrial- strength rubber gloves and remove the hazardous waste from the lunchbox,  wash it thoroughly with hot soapy water and spray with full-strength white vinegar; allow to dry.  Then soak a piece of bread in white vinegar, place it in an open container inside the lunchbox, and leave it overnight.  The lunchbox will smell as good as new.  NOTE:  Vinegar also works to remove odors from plastic food containers – spray vinegar on the inside surfaces and replace the cover; allow to sit for a few minutes before rinsing.

Clean Glassware and Fine Stemware

There’s nothing worse than setting out wine glasses (or any other type of glass, for that matter) with water spots on them.  Just kills a beautiful table.  To get rid of those pesky water spots and make your glassware sparkle and shine, add 1/3 C distilled white vinegar to hot soapy dishwater.  Rinse and dry immediately.  Be careful, though!  Vinegar will remove any hand-painting or color-coating applied to your specialty glassware.  Before using, be SURE that your colored stemware is dyed and not coated with a colored film!

Disinfect and Deodorize Your Dishwasher

Once a month, add 1 C undiluted distilled white vinegar to your empty dishwasher, and allow it to run its full cycle.  This will not only clean and disinfect, but it will also get rid of that musty smell that develops.

Renew Sponges & Dishcloths

My kids were famous for washing the car and leaving the sponge to get slimy in the bottom of the wash bucket.  But even dishcloths and such can get a little funky after time.  Round ’em up, fill up your sink so that it just covers the sponges and such, and add 1/2 C distilled white vinegar.  Let it sit overnight.  In the morning, set them out in the sun to dry.  (This is also a great way to refresh your bath scrubbies and loofahs, as well!)

Quick-Drying Floor Cleaner

This is awesome for quick spruce-ups when you need to have the floor dry – quickly.  In an empty spray bottle, simply add 3 drops dishsoap + 1 C white vinegar + 1 C water + 1 C alcohol. Spray on your floor and wipe up – it’s super-convenient, and the alcohol will help the floor to dry a bit faster than normal!

The list of successes in the Kitchen was so long, I decided to do a separate post about how I’ve used vinegar in the rest of the house.  Watch for it next week!

And as a sidenote to my earlier entry concerning the use of vinegar in the laundry, there’s been a surprising added benefit:

All of my laundry actually looks newer and brighter after having used vinegar for over a month now.  I didn’t post this potential benefit, because I hadn’t actually seen it with my own two eyes.  But during my initial research, I learned that the “recommended quantities” for detergents far exceed what’s necessary to get your clothes clean.  On top of that, the detergents build up in your clothes and make them look dull, and the buildup from the detergents actually attracts dirt and oils.  (Liquid fabric softeners seriously compound this buildup, and can even reduce the absorbency of your bath towels!) Vinegar gently dissolves the detergent buildup on clothes, the same way it dissolves soap scum in the bathroom.  Now, after a month and a half, I can personally vouch for the fact that my wardrobe looks newer and fresher than it did when I was only using detergent!  I am a super-happy camper!

Posted May 23rd, 2011.

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The Vinegar Experiment Part 2: In The Bathroom!

by Danica Waters

Having convinced myself that distilled white vinegar is the best thing ever for laundry care (if you haven’t already, please reference The Positive Effects of Vinegar on My Son’s Socks:  A Case Study), I have:

v     Reduced my consumption of laundry detergent to such an extent that I now only use 1/4 of the amount of detergent called for, combined with 1 cup distilled white vinegar;

v     Eliminated my use of pesky dryer sheets (vinegar works to reduce static cling, and happens to be a mighty fine fabric softener as well);

v     Found a new way to add an all-natural touch of scent to my laundry: while vinegar leaves the laundry smelling impeccably clean and fresh (no stinky “vinegar smell” –  I promise!) one of the vendors at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market suggested I place a cupful of dried lavender in an old mismatched sock, tie it at the top, and throw it into the dryer with my clothes.  The scent is subtle, aromatherapeutic, and, of course, completely natural. Yum!

But what about the effectiveness of vinegar in the rest of the home?  Here’s what the experts had to say about the disinfectant power of vinegar:

“Heinz company spokesperson Michael Mullen references numerous studies to show that a straight 5 percent solution of vinegar—the kind you can buy in the supermarket—kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses). He noted that Heinz can’t claim on their packaging that vinegar is a disinfectant since the company has not registered it as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency. However, it seems to be common knowledge in the industry that vinegar is powerfully antibacterial. Even the CBS news show “48 Hours” had a special years ago with Heloise reporting on tests from The Good Housekeeping Institute that showed this.”  You can read more about this here. (

So, confidence bolstered, I tested it throughout my home for an entire month.  The results were amazing.  Rather than have to resort to bleach, ammonia, or other toxic cleaning products to disinfect and clean, I used only distilled white vinegar and baking soda in various strengths.  Every site I visited recommended a spray bottle filled with straight vinegar, to be used regularly for the toilet and all other bathroom surfaces.  But beyond its disinfectant capabilities, vinegar proved itself to be indispensable with tackling some of the tougher cleaning jobs in the home.  Starting with the bathroom, here’s what worked:

Removal of Hard Water Stains from Glass Shower Doors: I filled an empty spray bottle with nothing but distilled white vinegar.  Before really getting into cleaning the shower doors, I sprayed the vinegar on not only the glass doors, but the entire bath enclosure, as well.  I let it sit for a few minutes while I cleaned the rest of the bathroom.  When I got to the bath enclosure, I re-sprayed the shower doors and scrubbed them with a soft abrasive sponge, then sprayed again with the vinegar and let it sit a second time while I cleaned the tub and tile.  After another scrub, I was astounded to see that even the toughest soap and mineral deposits had significantly improved – this just in my first round of cleaning with vinegar.  After a month, all the hard water deposits have disappeared.  No lie.  For easy maintenence, I spray after each shower or bath – so far my weekly cleaning has been reduced to a quick wipe-down!  The vinegar seems to have prevented any kind of soap or mineral deposit from building up in the first place.  And that famous Southern California mold I used to attack with bleach and a toothbrush once a month?  Non-existent.

Clean Shower Door Tracks: All I did was pour straight distilled white vinegar into the tracks and let it sit for a few hours.  When done soaking, I flooded the tracks with super-hot water and tackled them with a toothbrush, and they look like new.

Scrubbing Bubbles: Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I had way too much fun adding vinegar to a sprinkling of baking soda.  As it foamed and bubbled, it reminded me of all  those fantastic “erupting volcano” science experiments back in Second Grade .  Ahhhh.  Good times.  Happily, the science experiment in my tub rendered gleaming results;  tub and tile are shiny and clean – without any toxic cleansing agents!

Remove Calcium and Lime Deposits on Shower Heads and Faucets: I put ½ C of straight distilled white vinegar in a sandwich bag, and secured it around the faucet so that the whole thing was completely immersed overnight.  In the morning, a slight scrub with a toothbrush took care of everything.

Walls and Floors: A basic solution of 1 C vinegar to 1 Gallon hot water removed fingerprints and brought the floor to a shiny clean.

Toilet: I simply spray a straight solution of vinegar on the toilet seat and rim every couple of nights and let it sit.  For deep-cleaning, several sites recommended adding 1 C of vinegar to the bowl and allowing it to sit overnight, followed by a good scrub the next day.  After a month, no other bacteria, stains or other nastiness have developed.

Glass and Mirrors: Once again, my good old spray bottle filled with vinegar comes out.  Mirrors and glass are completely streak free!  I use newsprint instead of paper towels or rags for even better – and lint-free – results.

So, what used to amount to about $12.00 USD for bathroom cleaning supplies has been reduced to a gallon of white distilled vinegar for $3.65 / gallon, a box of baking soda at a whopping $2.00 / box, and an empty spray bottle or two.  Next week I’ll tell ya’ about the rest of the house!

Posted May 17th, 2011.

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The Positive Effects of Vinegar on My Son’s Socks: A Case Study

by Danica Waters

Upon moving to Los Angeles several months ago, my daughter’s longtime friend and roommate started a very worthy website called The Big P Project.  Its mission is to educate and enlighten people about how to become a more conscious consumer for the purpose of preserving our beautiful planet.  In support of her efforts, my personal pledge, among others, was to phase out all harmful chemical cleaning products from my cabinets and move instead to more earth-friendly (and health friendly!) alternatives.  I chose well; my resolve continues to build as I watch the daily news of the seemingly endless string of natural disasters, the most recent of which is the Mississippi River flood.  Above and beyond the physical devastation to crops, homes, and entire towns, I can’t escape the news about how all these chemicals, pesticides and other toxic agents, in extreme concentration levels, will not only pollute the river and destroy entire ecosystems in its wake, but will also create a state of hypoxia, or massive oxygen depletion, in the Gulf of Mexico.  Heaven knows, we all contribute to this mess in one way or another – me, you, and the guy next door – simply through the choices we make. And as my mother used to say, “Either you’re actively part of the solution, or you’re still part of the problem”.  Thanks, Mom.

But here’s my problem:  although I’ve always been a big advocate of using natural methods for healing purposes, I’ve never really trusted that everyday pantry products could effectively clean ( I mean really clean) my home.  Not until now.

I really started to tune into the power of good old fashioned vinegar when an old co-worker praised it as the best thing ever to use when washing down comforters.  She said she used it in her carpet cleaner as well, because it was a fantastic odor neutralizer and also killed mold and bacteria.  I was familiar with the use of vinegar as a hair rinse, a digestive tonic, a must-have pantry essential for recipes, and even as a great window and glass cleaner, but I wasn’t at all aware of its other cleaning properties.  I did a little research, and what I read was indeed intriguing.  Still skeptical that it could really be that effective, I decided to try it out on everything in my house for a month, starting with the ultimate anti-bacterial/odor eliminating challenge:  My Son’s Socks.

Before using good old fashioned white distilled vinegar in my laundry, My Son’s Socks were an entity unto themselves.  Given how many of them would ultimately go missing, I have no doubt that they actually crawled away of their own volition.  I honestly thought I’d have to resort to purchasing stock in a sock manufacturer to limit my losses, because, even if I could find them, no matter what I did to clean them, after the first wear, they never seemed to recover. But then there was vinegar.  After adding 1 C of distilled white vinegar to the wash cycle, My Son’s Socks not only came out smelling truly clean and fresh, they also came out soft.  Reading a little more, I discovered that distilled white vinegar also works to reduce static cling and acts as a natural fabric softener.  (Yes, since then I’ve also done away with those messy, way-too-synthetically-smelly dryer sheets, and distilled white vinegar is now my new best friend.) Oddly enough, My Son’s Socks  no longer go missing!  (I’m really not joking.  Haven’t lost one in an entire month.)

I truly believed that the success with My Son’s Socks was a pinnacle experience, but lo’ and behold, other miracles have transpired during my month-long Vinegar Trials.  So, this section of the Allspice Chronicles, which is dedicated to all-natural, earth-and-health-friendly solutions, shall begin with detailing the wonders of Good Old Fashioned Distilled White Vinegar!  Mother (Earth) Knows Best – Viva la Vinegar!

Posted May 9th, 2011.