Old Faithful Vinegar and Water Cleans, and Protects Interiors


One of the biggest responsibilities of being a stewardess is maintaining and protecting the interior surfaces of the boat.

Environmental build-up can quickly cause damage to surfaces so it is important to schedule and carry out routine maintenance and cleaning procedures; neglecting to do so can be a costly mistake.

I rely on the old-faithful vinegar-and-water solution (1 part water to 1 part white vinegar) and a mild soap-and-water solution (2 or 3 drops of Ivory dish soap in a spray bottle of water) for general cleaning purposes. They both work really well and are much more environmentally friendly than many of the options on the market.

Three or four gallons of vinegar should be enough for several months, and a single bottle of Ivory liquid soap will go a long way. Collect spray bottles from every cleaning area, divide them evenly and fill some with your vinegar solution and some with the soap solution. Store the remaining supplies until you need a refill.

Most stews are responsible for taking care of sinks, countertops, small kitchen appliances, cutting boards, etc., either in the stew pantry, the bar or in the crew mess. Even if we are just lending the chef a hand in the galley, there are some important things to take into consideration to avoid causing damage to any of the surfaces or appliances.

So let’s start with the stew pantry, crew galley, bar and main galley. Many of these same recommendations will apply to bathrooms and counters throughout the boat, but we’ll concentrate on those areas in more detail next month.

Butcher blocks and cutting boards. There are two options here: Disinfect them by moistening a cloth with white vinegar and wiping down the surface, or sprinkle coarse salt on the board and rub it around with half a lemon, cut side down. In both cases, the acetic acid in the vinegar or the lemon kills bacteria.

Follow with a mild soap-and-water solution, then mist the block with plain water to wipe away any soap residue. Finally, pat dry with a clean cloth. If the wood gets too wet it could split or warp.

Counter tops and sinks. Solid surface high-gloss finishes do well with a vinegar-and-water solution. Matte and satin finishes are better off with a mild soap-and-water solution. Stone and stainless steel surfaces benefit from this soap-and-water solution followed with the proper polish or sealant.

Glazed ceramic tile. Mix one capful of rubbing alcohol with 1 gallon of water. Avoid using oil-based soaps or ammonia, which can yellow the grout. Avoid vinegar, too, since the acidity can damage grout.

Unglazed ceramic tile. Use a mild soap-and-water solution.

Faucets and fixtures. The key for all fixtures is to avoid ammonia, steel wool and abrasive cleaners or pads, which can strip or scratch the fixtures. Use a mild soap-and-water solution to clean, then apply the proper polish according to package directions.

Refrigerators. It is tempting to use bleach to disinfect the refrigerator. However, too much bleach damages many surfaces, and it is highly toxic. A healthier alternative is to dissolve 2 tablespoons of baking soda in one quart of warm water and use on a damp towel to wipe doors, shelves and walls. If you must use bleach, dilute one part bleach to three parts warm water and always use in a well-ventilated area.

Stoves and ovens. Be aware of any special finishes that your oven may have depending on whether it is a conventional, self-cleaning, or continuous-cleaning oven. Oven cleaners, powdered cleansers and abrasives will damage the finish on continuous and self-cleaning ovens. Some oven cleaners contain lye, which can seriously burn your skin, so always wear gloves for protection. Check the manual for instructions, or go online for this information.

Cabinets and drawers. Vacuum up crumbs and grit. Most cabinets and drawers are best cleaned with a mild soap-and-water solution. Dry with a cloth as you work to avoid saturating the wood.

Appliances. To descale water deposits in coffee makers, pour two to three cups of water and an equal amount of white vinegar into the water chamber and hit the brew button. Turn the machine off halfway through the cycle and allow the solution to sit inside the chamber for an hour, then turn it back on to complete the cycle. Run two cycles of plain water through to rinse out any leftover vinegar.

To descale mineral deposits in the dishwasher, fill the detergent cup with white vinegar and run an empty cycle. Don’t forget to wipe out the dishwasher occasionally and to scrub the racks’ wheels (where bacteria hide) with a toothbrush.

Baking soda and water can be used to scour the blade on an electric can opener.

To freshen and clean the microwave oven, place a coffee mug filled with water and a few slices of lemon inside and run on high power for three minutes. Let the lemon water sit inside for three more minutes. The steam will soften food spills and the lemon will eliminate odors.

To clean a toaster or toaster oven, unplug the appliance and remove the crumb tray. Remove any racks from a toaster oven and clean with a soap-and-water solution. A wet pastry brush can be used to clean the slots of a regular toaster. If the outside of the appliance is chrome, crumple a ball of aluminum foil (shiny side out) and rub off rust spots, being careful to only rub the affected areas so you don’t scratch the surface.

That about wraps up this segment covering surfaces, appliances, and items in the stew pantry, crew mess and galley areas.