Green Boating, Part II—Practical, Eco-Friendly Cleaning
In the last edition of this column, I discussed “green” boating—things you could do to enjoy your time on the water with less negative effects on the environment. One of the points I brought up was that keeping your Formula clean could be accomplished with common, natural agents that are less harsh than those normally found in our cleaning kits. In this edition of the Action, I’ll tell you what to use and some recipes for specific cleaning chores. You'll see that you not only can get your boat in Bristol condition, you can do it more economically than you might have imagined.
The primary weapon in your cleaning arsenal is an all-purpose wonder…garden-variety white vinegar! Yep, that ordinary liquid found in every grocery, white vinegar, powers its way through an amazing array of cleaning tasks. Vinegar is all-natural and begins as a sugar found in fruits or starch. The sugar or starch is turned into alcohol, which is then fermented into the final, alcohol-free product. In its finished form, it contains the 5% acetic acid that delivers its punch. The result is a non-toxic cleaner and sanitizer that doesn’t leave nasty by products.
Another natural product that gets big raves from the eco-crowd is baking soda. It begins as soda ash, mined from trona ore. Put it in a water solution, add carbon dioxide, and you get baking soda. It’s sodium bicarbonate, a compound found in all living organisms, and its job is to help maintain pH, or acidity/alkalinity, thus breaking down “icky” stuff so you can wash it away.
Other good natural cleaners include lemons (which work with their acid and leave a great citrus smell), corn starch and plain (non-iodized) salt. With these simple ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, you can make your boat sparkle. Here are some tips to put them in action:
The All-Purpose Wonder: The most versatile cleaner can be concocted like this: Get a clean spray bottle. Pour equal parts white vinegar and water in it. Spray. It cleans glass and other surfaces and also disinfects. Try adding some lemon juice for a pleasant scent. If you keep a bottle handy in the galley and wetbar, you have a simple, effective solution at hand.
Stainless Steel: It is believed that stainless can be polished with a baking soda paste, or remove spots with the vinegar.
Fiberglass Care: If you have a stubborn stain on fiberglass (or, more correctly, gelcoat) try using baking soda paste there as well.
Grimy Sinks: Try bringing the sheen back to your sink by scrubbing with baking soda. If you need to get a little more aggressive, try adding some salt for brushed finishes.
Drain Pain: Baking soda is good here. For general maintenance, pour some down your drains and rinse with hot water. This will help to flush odor-causing residues from the plumbing and even helps knock the scum out of your shower sump. And if you develop a clog, try this before going with harsh drain openers: Start heating a cup of vinegar in the microwave. Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by the cup of vinegar. Let this sit for a few minutes, then flush with hot water.
Trash Containers: Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the container before putting the liner back. This will help neutralize odors.
Microwave Madness: Heat a cup of vinegar until it starts steaming. The acid and heat will loosen food that might have spattered while cooking and can be finished off with some warm soap water and a towel.
Salt Stains Away: In addition to salt being a good scouring agent, you might be able to prevent stains from a wine or other beverage spill. Just dump the salt directly on the stain and let it absorb it. Vacuum with a wet/dry vac and reapply if necessary.
Fresh Carpet: To eliminate odors and help remove dirt particles, sprinkle corn starch or baking soda directly on the carpet. Let it sit for at least half an hour and vacuum. Simple and effective!
Before this starts to read like a “Hints from Heloise” column, I’ll let you get to your earth-friendly cleaning, but if you want more hints like these, there’s no shortage of them. Simply get online and do a search for “natural cleaners” or “cleaning with (vinegar, salt, baking soda, etc.).” You’ll be presented with more tips for great cleaning!
Enjoy the upcoming season with a “green-clean” Formula, content that you did it without harming the environment, and saving a few dollars in the process. As always, happy boating!