Eco-Experts: Cleaning Stainless Steel, The Pros and Cons of Photovoltaic Panels and Energy-Efficient Refrigerators

Answers to your questions about cleaning stainless steel, photovoltaic cells and energy-efficient refrigerators.

| May/June 2003

  • Dan Chiras
  • Beth Scott
  • Debra Lynn Dadd

Cleaning stainless steel

I am writing to inquire whether you know of a natural way to clean stainless steel appliances. I am concerned that the cleansers available will leave residue on the appliances that is harmful to my one-year-old daughter.

—Linda Sheehan, via e-mail

Beth Scott replies:

Cleaning stainless steel can seem like an endless task as its smooth reflective surface shows oily fingerprints and dust, and also scratches easily. Stainless steel is an alloy of iron and contains more than 10 percent chromium. The chromium in the alloy is used to form the hard oxide coating on the surface, and if this is taken off, through corrosion or wear, the steel will rust like regular steel. For this reason it is better not to use cleaners with harsh abrasives, as they will scratch the surface.

Most commercial cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that are harmful to you during application. Homemade products may take a little more time for preparation, but they’re inexpensive and effective and are nontoxic as long as you don’t ingest them. They are better for your family and for the environment. A little club soda, vinegar, baking soda, and water can solve a multitude of household problems from pet stains to cleaning drains.

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