A dirty kitchen is a health hazard to you and your family. Bacteria that grow on sinks, counters and appliances can find their way into your food and ultimately cause spoilage or even serious illness. To make sure your kitchen surfaces and equipment stay clean and bacteria-free, research common kitchen cleaning materials and find out what they do best.
You can kill bacteria on equipment and kitchen surfaces with a sanitizer. Sanitizers include liquid chlorine bleach, quaternary, pine-oil disinfectants and phenolic disinfectants. These are the sanitizers found in most brand-name kitchen cleaners, according to researchers at New Mexico State University.
Detergents are also commonly found in kitchen cleaners. If you see suds while using a product, chances are the product has detergent in it. The chief function of detergent is to weaken dirt's hold on a surface so that you can wipe it away easily.
Abrasives remove dirt by creating friction. Rough-sided sponges, steel wool, pot scourers and similar items are all abrasives. Some chemical cleaners also use abrasive action. For example, scouring powders contain fine grit that helps rub away caked-on dirt or grime. Do not use abrasives on stainless-steel appliances or other highly polished surfaces--you may scratch or damage them. If you are unsure whether abrasives will damage your equipment, ask the manufacturer for recommended cleaning methods.
Use acids to remove rust stains and hard-water deposits or to polish brass and copper surfaces. Vinegar and lemon juice are examples of mild acids. Stronger acids, such as oxalic or hydrochloric acid, may be present in powerful cleaners. Use these with caution. Always follow the manufacturer's directions when using dangerous chemical cleaners.
Regular bleach can remove stains from surfaces, but test it on an inconspicuous area to make sure the bleach will not discolor your equipment. Chlorine bleach can remove stains and also disinfect surfaces. Bleach is toxic and can create a dangerous gas if used in combination with ammonia-based cleaners. To be safe, never mix bleach with any cleaner.
Alkalies make it easier to remove dirt and sometimes eliminate the need for scrubbing. Baking soda, ammonia and borax are moderate alkalies. Some typical uses include cleaning ovens, range burners and glass surfaces. Washing soda (or sal soda) is a strong alkali used to clean thick grease off ovens and other kitchen equipment. Don't use washing soda on aluminum or linoleum. It can discolor or damage those materials.