Kitchen

Use elbow grease, like granny

Our grandmothers did not rely on commercial cleaners when cleaning; they would use things that were easily available and, yes, elbow grease.

My grandmother, for example, would use a lump of tamarind whenever she wanted to polish a brass pot.

She would wet it and rub the paste over the metal to remove the grime and tarnish. Or she would use a cake of Chinese face powder to polish the silverware.

Many commercial cleaners suggest that gloves be worn when using them or come with warnings to not use them in an enclosed space, to prevent breathing in the toxic fumes. And if you check the labels, you will find a long list of ingredients, often an indicator that the manufacturer is using more chemicals that you are better off avoiding and do not need.

We may not realise it but water is good enough to wash stuff that is not greasy, and hot water cleans kitchen counters and floors very well.

Indeed, sushi counters, those bastions of cleanliness, are cleaned with only hot water.

For more cleaning power, use vinegar and lemon juice, which are acidic and natural bleachers. Lemon, for example, is great for clearing the stains on wooden chopping boards.

Baking soda and salt are mild abrasives and damp newspapers do a great job polishing mirrors and glass.

So, to keep your house not just clean, but safe, we would do well to follow grandmother's example.

Sylvia Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'Use elbow grease, like granny'. Print Edition | Subscribe