Vinegar Removes Hard Water Deposits from Dishes like Magic

Author's Dishes, Glasses, and Flatware after Vinegar Cleaning
A Sampling of the Author’s decades old dishes, glasses, and flatware after being cleaned with distilled white vinegar.

Is hard water leaving a cloudy film on your dishes and glasses? Vinegar is an eco-friendly solution that will make your dishes look and feel new.

Like many Americans, I live in an area with hard water, which results in mineral deposits (mostly calcium and magnesium) building up on everything from dishes to showerheads. If this sounds familiar, you probably have hard water too.

In an attempt to counteract hard water deposits, we had been routinely using a rinse aid in our dishwasher but it was not entirely successful. Sometime during the almost ten years, we have lived in our current home, our glasses took on a hazy look and a chalky film formed on our dishes to the point that I could feel it when I was taking pieces out of the dishwasher. Yuk.

Over the years, I did notice that mineral deposits were forming on our dishes and the insides of our coffee mugs had become stained. It just did not bother me, at least not enough to do anything about it, until a few weeks ago.

One Thing Leads to the Next

You know how one thing leads to the next and so on. That is what happened. I am in the middle of a decluttering project and I am trying to adopt a minimalist approach to owning stuff, which means living happily with less stuff.

While decluttering the kitchen, it dawned on me that we would be using the dishes, glasses, and flatware we currently own for the rest of our lives (minimalists only by new dishes when absolutely necessary).

My spouse and I have been using the same dishes since we were married over three decades ago. Most of our original knives, forks, and spoons disappeared or ended life in a garbage disposal so our flatware set is only about fifteen years old. Glassware seems to suffer the most casualties so our current glasses are probably between seven to ten years old.

I figured if we are going to be eating off these plates and drinking out of these glasses for another thirty years or so, perhaps they could use some sprucing up.

In the past, we have used vinegar to remove mineral deposits from our drip coffee maker with good results so I decided to try it on our dishes. It took some trial and error and a few hours, but the results were amazing! Now everything is shiny and smooth and looks almost like new.

I realize that over time, the hard water deposits will come back, but I think I can fit in a few hours every ten years to keep our dishes, glasses, and flatware in good condition.

You can easily accomplish the same thing with a little vinegar, a dish tub, and a sponge.

The Wonders of Vinegar

My first thought was to employ the dishwasher. I loaded it with some glasses, poured in a cup of vinegar, and hit the start button. At the end of the cycle, the dishwasher racks were looking less powdery but the glasses were only marginally improved.

Next, I placed a plastic dish tub in the kitchen sink and poured a couple of cups of vinegar into it and I put a dozen glasses on the counter top. Using a slightly scrubby sponge, I wiped the inside and outside of each glass and around the rim with vinegar. After rinsing the glasses under the kitchen tap, I put them in a dish drainer to drip dry. I finished drying them with a dishtowel and voilà the glasses were shiny and clear and looked almost brand new. Wow!

I briefly considered taking all the dishes, glasses, and our coffee mug collection out of the kitchen cupboards and tackling the project all at once. When I realized it would likely be a boring task taking several hours to complete, I had second thoughts.

My solution was to break up the project by leaving the tub in the sink and periodically returning to the kitchen and doing another batch. Each time, after towel drying the pieces in the dish drainer and putting them away, I took out another stack of plates or a group of coffee mugs and repeated the procedure.

At the end of the day, our dishes, glasses, and coffee mugs were sparkling and clean. I was so impressed with the results that the next day I repeated the process on our serving bowls and plates and our stainless steel flatware.

Refurbishing Your Dishes is a Green Thing to Do and Saves Money

Making anything, including dishes, uses resources and energy and depending on what materials and processes are involved, pollutes the air, water, and land to a greater or lesser degree.

An environmental benefit of refurbishing and using the same dishes for decades is that it reduces the need for manufacturing and transporting new goods.

Interestingly, having your dishes look almost new makes them seem like they are new. Now that you own a practically new set of dishes, you can easily ignore the little invisible consumer devil that sits on your right shoulder constantly whispering “Buy stuff.” in your ear.

We can help the environment and save some money by refurbishing our dishes, glasses, and flatware instead of replacing them.

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First Day of Spring – 5 Ways to Renew Your Green Spirit

Glass Vase with Spring FlowersSpring marks a time of new beginnings. What a cliché. The thing is, it is actually a good time to refresh our spirits, get stuff done, and be green.

Some of us, maybe most us, tend to put off projects during the winter because it’s cold, or snowing, or raining, or it’s the holidays, or we have year-end deadlines at work.

Well, today is the first day of spring so let’s get going. Below are 5 ideas that will help you renew your spirit and be green at the same time.

Promote Your Brand

We inadvertently, or perhaps on purpose, provide free advertising for all kinds of products and our favorite sports teams, schools, and organizations. The clothes, shoes, and hats we wear, as well as the bags and gadgets we carry around all say something about us. It’s our personal brand.

Author's Reusable Shopping Bags

Expand your own personal brand by ditching single-use plastic bags and paper shopping bags and replacing them with reusable bags that promote your own message.

Reusable bags show everyone that you are an early adopter and willing to make a change to reduce waste and water pollution. You can use your bags to make a fashion statement, advocate for a company or cause of your choice, or keep your thoughts to yourself with plain bags.

Step Away

Woman Eating a Salad for Lunch at Her DeskIt took me many years of eating lunch at my desk to learn that eating lunch at one’s desk is, well, dumb. Why give anyone our free time for free. Besides stepping away from our desks at lunchtime gives us a chance to refresh ourselves and probably be more productive in the afternoon.

You know walking is good for your health, helps you keep your weight down, and reduces air pollution, but just can’t seem to find time to do it. Does this ring true?

Make the decision to step away from your desk at lunchtime and like magic you now have time for a walk. So do it. Walk for fun and relaxation, or run errands if you must.

Kick the Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, meaning we do the same things on a regular basis, often without much thought. Some habits that seem small and inexpensive can really add up over time.

Disposable Take Out Coffee CupsTake a small habit like buying a mocha frappuccino on the way to work or a fruit smoothie for the ride home. Sound familiar? Even if we low ball the cost at say $2.00 each, that’s a big chunk of change over the course of a 40-year work career.

So what if you eliminate this habit?

You’ll save a whopping $20,800. Yep, that’s enough for a down payment on a house, a new car, college tuition, or some really nice vacations. You’ll also eliminate the resource use and waste associated with 10,400 cups, cup sleeves, lids, stirrers, and napkins.

All that—by making one tiny change.

Pass It On

Author's Box of Clothes Ready for DonationSpring is the traditional time to declutter. It’s amazing how getting rid of excess stuff can lift one’s spirits. It’s worth the effort.

Enjoy being able to find a spatula in the utensil drawer, or not having your skinny clothes staring back at you whenever you open the closet, or being able to park your car in the garage, perhaps for the first time.

The best part about decluttering is passing on stuff in good condition to people who may need it, like it, and will use it. Besides redeploying stuff is green, it saves resources and reduces waste.

Use Your Words

One of the great things about living in a democracy is that everyone has an opportunity to make their voice heard.

Woman Writing a Letter with a PenChances are local, state, and national elected officials do not always vote the way you think they should or they don’t seem to care about the right issues. So use your words. Call, email, tweet, write, post, or otherwise let your elected officials know what’s important to you and what you think they should do about it.

For Earth Day last April, I wrote a letter to President Obama thanking him for his efforts on behalf of the American people and suggesting he fulfill his 3-year old commitment to install solar panels at the White House. Voilá! The installation took place four months later in August.

I know the President didn’t personally read my letter and it probably only resulted in a tick mark in the citizens-interested-in solar-power column in some database. But maybe that tick mark was the magic one that moved solar panels from the to-do list to the done list. You never know…

Call to Action

If one of the above suggestions got your attention and seems like something you’d like to do to renew your spirit, green or otherwise, then do it. If not, come up with your own idea and share it with other readers.

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Pick 5 for the Environment – 2013 Results

Pick 5 for the Environment LogoLast February I wrote a post about the EPA Pick 5 for the Environment initiative and documented my own Pick 5. In this last post of 2013, I’ll share my results for the year.

The U.S. EPA and State Department introduced Pick 5 for the Environment in 2009 to engage the public and encourage people to learn about environmental issues and take action.

My Pick 5 for the Environment – 2013 Goals

I selected the following five actions (in bold) from the Pick 5 for the Environment website to accomplish in 2013.

  1. Green Cleaning: “Help keep water clean by using biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products.” I’ve wanted to learn more about eco-cleaning products. No time like the present.
  2. Native Plants: “Learn about the native species and the negative effects of non native plants and animals in the environment.” We live in a Monterey Pine forest with limited water. We don’t irrigate our yard so I’d like to learn about native plants that require no irrigation and invasive plants to keep an eye out for.
  3. Renewable Energy: “Go renewable! Create your own power from wind, the sun, water, or biofuels.” Late last year, we decided to put solar panels on the roof of our house. They are being installed next month so I think it’s fair to count this action for 2013.
  4. Electronic Waste: “E-cycle.” Although our farmer’s market provides a monthly e-cycling program, we have yet to take our collection of old electronic equipment. This is the year.
  5. Social Media: “Share your commitment on social networking sites.” I started on this one by signing up for a Twitter account and started tweeting @unlikelyenviro.

My Pick 5 for the Environment –  2013 Results

Green Cleaning

When I surveyed our cleaning supplies at the beginning of the year, I found we had quite a stockpile. It didn’t make environmental or economic sense to toss unused cleaners in the trash or pour them down the drain so we decided to use up our stash and buy greener alternatives as needed.

Now when we run out of an item we ask ourselves “Do we need this product?”. If the answer is “Yes”, we seek an environmentally friendly alternative. For instance, when the last plastic bottle of kitchen sink scrub was used up, I found a solution in our laundry room; hydrogen peroxide (Oxiclean) works well as a non-chlorine bleach.

At this rate it’ll take several years to migrate to green cleaning products but at least we’ve made a start.

Native Plants

Months ago, I created a list of books on native and adaptive plants that are available through our local library system. To date I’ve read one.

2013 has been an exceedingly dry year in our area so planting was not on our to do list. Learning about native plants became a low priority.

Renewable Energy

Author's Rooftop Solar PanelsIn March, we began generating our own electricity via 16 solar panels installed on our roof. Our system is tied to the local electric utility. During the day we “sell” our excess electricity to the utility and we “buy” back electricity at night. Our electric bill is about $4.50 a month for transmission and fees.

After our initial investment is paid back in several years, the next 15 to 20 years of electricity generation will be virtually free. We may add electricity storage to our system at some point and get off the grid entirely.

Electronic Waste

We had amassed quite a collection of electronics over the years, some working and some not. In May, we decided to tackle our e-waste.

Sean Spradley and Daughter Abby - Coast Union High School Electronics Donation DriveI saw a notice in the local newspaper that the high school was seeking donations of working equipment for the computer lab and broken items the kids could use to practice repair. We donated part of our stash to the school.

We took our remaining equipment to the electronic recycling program run by a local church group once a month at the farmer’s market. Equipment is refurbished and repaired and given to people in need. Anything left over is sold to a recycler.

After years of procrastination, it was easy to get rid our electronic waste and the best part was that some of the equipment found a second life with new users.

Social Media

Social media is a tool for connecting with people you know as well as those you would not normally meet, obtaining information on anything, and amplifying your own message and that of people and groups you like and support. Each platform has its own audience, language, and protocol.

I participated in several social media channels this year.

  • Twitter: I like Twitter because I can quickly scan breaking news and find people and organizations all over the world with similar interests. The challenge is to say something interesting or intriguing in 140 characters or less.
  • Facebook: Although I’m not much of a Facebook user, I add links to my blog posts on my home page and make them public.
  • LinkedIn: I present my more businesslike persona on LinkedIn by posting links to green business related articles as well as links to my blog posts.
  • Reddit: My most recent social media adventure is on Reddit where commenting and providing links to other people’s content is considered proper etiquette, self promotion is not. Subreddits are online communities for users with like interests.

The Bottom Line

Overall my Pick 5 results were good for 2013. We accomplished our renewable energy and electronic waste objectives and made progress on green cleaning. My social media ventures were fun, interesting, and informative. I made little progress on the native plant goal, but in light of where I live I should have selected a different goal. Perhaps I’ll reread my New Year’s Resolution – Make it SMARTER post before establishing goals for 2014.

Have a Happy New Year and a Green 2014.

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