My dishwashing method gets most food to wipe right off the dishes, but some things still need to be scrubbed–tea and coffee stains in mugs, blueberry-juice stains in bowls, and bits of pasta that stuck to the pot, for example. I also like to scrub the cutting board really thoroughly after chopping onions. Baking soda is a safe, affordable, environmentally-friendly scouring powder that does a great job!
The trouble with baking soda is that it’s packaged either in a cardboard box or in a gigantic plastic pouch. The box isn’t damp-proof, so storing it anywhere near the sink is just asking for clumped-up baking soda. The pouch, although it costs less per ounce than the little boxes, is just too huge to keep around our tiny kitchen. Either type of package tends to dump out a huge amount of baking soda, whereas for scouring you need just a little sprinkle.
I started with a shaker-top plastic bottle that has a screw-on lid. I bought it, full of dried oregano, for $1, and we used the oregano. Originally it looked just like this, only it was oregano instead of basil.
(We have been refilling this basil bottle in the bulk department at the food co-op. That’s what the white sticker at the right, applied on top of the original label, is for. We have some other bottles for bulk oregano.)
After using up the oregano, I removed the label, washed the bottle, and let it dry thoroughly. Then I filled it with baking soda from my handy 12-pound pouch, which I keep in the basement on top of the washing machine. (Baking soda in the laundry removes odors and brightens whites!)
I keep the shaker on my kitchen windowsill above the sink. The first time I need it while washing dishes, I take off the lid. Then I leave it uncapped so it’s easier to grab for subsequent uses. Part of my clean-up routine when I finish washing dishes is putting the lid back on the shaker.
After a few weeks of using it, I was sold on the convenience, but I didn’t like having a green-topped bottle in the pink kitchen. So I looked in our stash of gift wrap and found a bit of wrapping paper that matched both the pink and the green. (This paper was a free gift from the World Wildlife Fund.) I just cut it to fit and stuck it on with ordinary white glue. I am not a craftsy person; I suppose there’s a more appropriate adhesive that would make it waterproof and really smooth and nice–but it’s worked out fine! After 3 years of frequent handling by damp hands, the paper is only slightly puckered and is not peeling off at all.
Yes, the baking soda smelled like oregano for quite a while! That doesn’t matter for scouring purposes, though.
The only dishes and pans that can’t be scrubbed with baking soda are unglazed cast iron. We haven’t tried it ourselves, but I’ve read that this is a bad idea. What’s good for scrubbing cast iron is coffee grounds!
Making a cute scouring-powder shaker, in a few minutes without paying for any supplies, worked for me! Visit Kitchen Tip Tuesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Fabulously Frugal Thursday and Your Green Resource for more great ideas!
P.S. For really super scouring of, for instance, a white ceramic casserole dish with burned squash welded onto it: Sprinkle with baking soda and with drugstore-strength hydrogen peroxide. Make sure all the troublesome spots are thoroughly coated with both cleansers. Set the pan aside for at least 15 minutes while you wash other dishes. Then scrub the pan with a very wet scouring pad or dishcloth. Sometimes this works wonders! It does not always remove those amber-colored baking-pan stains, but it removes burned food more effectively than anything else I’ve ever used.
P.P.S. Thanks to my 8-year-old Nicholas for taking the photos for me while I was finishing breakfast this morning! 🙂