A Fresh Start: Detox Your Kitchen

Who out there is undertaking a January detox this year? I know I am, for the 4th time in about 2 ½ years. Somewhere in our collective consciousness, the detox has become a fairly commonplace practice, giving our bodies a clean slate on which to scribe the new year. But what about the rest of your surroundings? I don’t know about you, but once I start this ritualistic stripping away of toxic baddies and enriching my diet with all of this fabulously healthy local and organic food, I wonder what else around here needs to be buffed up. A detox for the home? You know, that sounds pretty sensible. But where on earth to start?

Sure, it’s probably good to make wholesale changes in a lot of rooms around our homes, but the reality is, we’re trying to be green and eco-friendly and local and organic and a whole lot of other things … all while just trying to live our busy lives. So why not start small? If we’ve cleaned up our food choices, why not look at the next surrounding layer: our kitchens and the things that come into contact with our food.

Here are a couple of simple places to start:

Filtered water
This is a pretty obvious one, but reduce your bottled water purchases and invest in a water filtration system. Reverse osmosis seems to the top recommendation, but even if you can just incorporate a pitcher system in for now, that’s a beginning with benefits. Keep an eye on your filter longevity and change often.

Washing dishes

  • Besides choosing an energy-efficient dishwasher, try to run your machine only when it’s full.
  • Update your dishwashing detergent of choice to a non-toxic version. For the machine, I did a test and the Method Smarty Dish was the best non-toxic option I found; the rest tended toward clumping and sticking on my wine glasses; not cool. For handwashing, try a homemade version – they really do the job perfectly. And there are lots of non-toxic options on the market as well.
  • Leave a shaker of baking soda by the sink; add to crusty dishes or pans with just enough hot water to make a paste. Let stand for an hour and most anything will come right off.

Plastics in the home

  • Try to NOT use plastics when buying or storing foods, but if you must try to choose PVC- and BPA-free options. Even Glad and Saran are getting in on that action, so keep your eyes peeled. Did you know you can refill your own glass bottles of cooking oils, maple syrup, honey and all kinds of other bulk goodies at the co-op? Watch for “locally made” labels too.
  • Dechlorinate – You can find unbleached or oxygen-bleached versions of nearly all paper products used in the kitchen, including coffee filters. Chlorine has a reputation for having carcinogenic byproducts, which are neither simple, good, nor tasty.

Cleaning the kitchen

  • Cleaners: The internet is full of recipes and suggestions on how to make your own cleaning products (think: baking soda, Borax, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, castile soap, essential oils … cheap, easy to find and you can produce as much or as little as you need), otherwise you can also buy the local favorite, Mrs. Meyer’s as well as other nationally-available options. I’m personally trying a suggestion I found while doing some research for this piece: buy 2 simple spray bottles. Fill one with hydrogen peroxide (the normal kind from the drugstore) and the other with white vinegar. For a simple disinfectant for the counters, your produce, whatever – spray first with the vinegar, and follow with a coating spray of hydrogen peroxide. For foods, follow with a rinse of water. Squeaky clean!
  • If you’re a sponge user, make sure to de-bug those guys regularly; boil 5 minutes in a pot of water or microwave a wet sponge on high for 1 minute.
  • Run your coffee maker through a vinegar cycle to remove deposits. Scrub the carafe with a baking soda and water paste.
  • For a weekly cleaning, scrub wooden cutting boards with a paste of kosher salt and fresh lemon juice; let stand 5-10 minutes. Rinse well. Oil your boards regularly to keep them sealed and flexible, which means they’ll be more resistant to germs settling in to cracks and grooves.

Kitchen dishes and tools
First, buy well. If you invest in quality kitchen goodies that last, you won’t need to replace them as often. Bamboo is a great green option for the kitchen: check out all of the great bamboo choices from Olive + Myrtle – bamboo everywhere! Fall in love with microfiber cloths; these enable you to put a great shine on all kinds of surfaces with just hot water. And find yourself some eco-friendly kitchen linens while you’re at it.

Reusable shopping bags
If you’re like me, you’ll need lots of these. Some for the car, some for the bike pannier, and a couple of those tiny roll-up ones for your purse. I even have 4- and 6-bottle reusable wine bags. You know, just in case. (PS – how cute will this be at the Farmer’s Market this spring?)

And for good measure, add a green plant. There's nothing like a little palm or ivy to clean the air!

Tracy Morgan is a Twin Cities foodie and the owner of Segnavia Creative, a marketing services consulting company located in St. Paul, MN.