Green Makes My Life Complicated: Disinfecting Dishes

I run into a bunch of situations where wanting to do the environmental thing makes my life ridiculous for a while.  This week is a good example:  while at home celebrating my brother’s wedding, I found my set of family china and repacked it to bring it back with me, since I mysteriously lost 80% of my dinnerware in two shared kitchens over the last year.  So far so good.

But these dishes have been in my folk’s basement in the wilderness for decades, give or take.  Mice have lived amoung them, and used the wrappings as latrines.  Yes, ew.  So,  I have 150 pieces of pretty china that I must assume has the black death all over it.  And the Seventh Generation dish soap isn’t the “DEATH TO GERMS” kind, it’s a lavender scented regular degreasing kind.  It’s great, I love it.  But I want the stuff on those plates dead, and then I need to scrub the countertops they’ve been sitting on with something similarly deadly.

But I haven’t found an environmentally friendly cleaner that also promises to rid me of this plauge.  All the no-phosphate, biodegradable green stuff is gentle on living beings of all sizes, it seems. And today at Whole Foods a helpful clerk told me an all-purpose natural cleaner would kill germs (it didn’t say that anywhere on the bottle) and then I could wash them regularly.  I don’t believe it.

So, I have a couple options.  I could a) boil the dishes (I’d need gloves and tongs and a big pot), which is the most environmentally sound way I think this could happen, but isn’t really hot water bad for china?  Also I have to do this to about 100 pieces, and drying space gets complicated, b) get some antibacterial soap and suds away, lakes and streams be damned, or c) scrub them with the soap I have and hope my fears of bacteria are unfounded.  They have a gold rim and I have no idea how old/classy they are, so dishwashing for the heated water and strong jets isn’t a good idea (though I’m testing a tea cup now to see- grandma had a ridiculous number of teacups).

Votes or suggestions?

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4 Responses to “Green Makes My Life Complicated: Disinfecting Dishes”


  1. 1 Jaynee April 4, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Vinegar. My new answer to everything is vinegar. If you wash these in hot water (from the tap) and your good soap, then rinse them, and give them a “second” rinse/soak (2 minutes) in a tub of 30% vinegar/70% really hot tap water, they will be fine. For my counters, I keep a squirt bottle of 50/50 vinegar and water for spraying/wiping. Granted, in our house there is always a bottle of Clorox clean-up, but it is used sparingly. Really old mouse doo, by the way, should be fairly harmless at this point, but don’t stick your head inside the box and breathe deeply.

  2. 2 m April 5, 2009 at 9:29 am

    http://www.cleanlink.com/cp/article/Selecting-A-Greener-Disinfectant–5273

    suggests “hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant, along with steam. The oxygen present in hydrogen peroxide activates the surfactants (in this case, orange oil), dramatically increasing their effectiveness. The City of Santa Monica, Calif., known for its environmental leadership, uses this product as its primary cleaning agent in municipal buildings.”

  3. 3 bullmooser08 April 6, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I know this is not exactly what you’re looking for, but for countertops, cutting boards, bathroom surfaces: Spray with hydrogen peroxide, 3% solution, followed by plain vinegar. It’s all you need to kill all household germs.

  4. 4 virescent April 17, 2009 at 10:43 am

    So, mom consulted with grandmother (both grandmothers had this china set! destiny!), who informs us that she always put hers in the dishwasher, and it was fine. So that’s what I’m doing now, since a full dishwasher load uses less water than hand-washing, in a newer dishwasher- and my new dishwasher actually works well, which is a new thing for me.

    For a first go-though, though, when I was afraid of the dishwasher, I used a “natural” antibacterial hand soap with thymus vulgaris oil as the active ingredient. Made me feel better.

    Thank you for your suggestions! I actually have one more box of Grandma Margaret’s sugar/creamer collection to unpack, so I’ll try some of them and report back.


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