faucet | sink | toaster | coffee maker | sconce | hardware | towel
Let’s switch gears from the Tree House kitchen remodel, and instead, I’d like to talk about a decision we made in our home kitchen years ago. That room came a long, long way (over the course of way, way too long!), and we made the decision to use a lot of white – white cabinets, white quartz countertops and white tile. Also? A white enamel cast iron sink.
We didn’t consider a white sink a risk; we’ve always loved the look, so we ran with it! Over time, we realized that a white sink = more maintenance. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Pots and pans can and will leave black marks, and tomato sauce and coffee will stain. But the beauty of an enameled sink is that it always bounces back! We think of an enamel cast iron sink in the same way that we think of vintage rugs (stick with me here) – there’s a reason why they’re still around and kicking after a hundred years of use. With a little love, they have staying power. They’re classic. Timeless. And for better or for worse, age looks good on them.
For all these reasons and more, we’re considering the same for Tree House’s kitchen, but because our end goal – in addition to our own family enjoyment – is to rent the home as an Airbnb, we’ll more than likely add one of these. The only downside is the part where you have to actually clean the sink – like, clean clean. (To be honest, cleaning our enamel sink only makes me realize how little we maintained our stainless sinks of yore, so there’s that.) For a while, I used Soft Scrub. It works well, but my goodness, the smell. I never liked that it left a slimy, bleach-y film on my hands, and even worse, I knew from reading Kohler guidelines that it wasn’t recommended for the longevity of their sinks. Still, I continued to use it because it was a one step solution, and it worked.
Finally, I’d had it. (Imagine me with gloved hands, hunched over the sink, holding my breath and my hands dramatically flying into the air; I’ve had it! I’d say!) We do our best to use mild cleansers everywhere else in our home, so why was I continuing to use harsh chemicals for this? It was time to switch to a more natural solution, and now that I’ve got my system down, I can’t imagine going back. Bonus: the natural method smells dreamy.
Non-abrasive scrub pad
To show you how effective this method is, we allowed our sink to marinate for about two months. (Ew.) I told Scott to resist scrubbing away any marks or stains, and although it can be tough to tell in photos, she was ready for her cleaning. See the scuzz and grime? See the yellowed drain?:
First, I spray the sink down and pat it dry with a paper towel. It’s okay for the sink to be slightly damp, but it shouldn’t be wet. Then, I sprinkle enough (read: a lot of) baking soda into the sink so that it covers the bottom, and I dot a few very small drops of hydrogen peroxide over the baking soda. I also get my non-abrasive scrub pad wet with the peroxide, and I begin scrubbing, working left to right. Along the way, I’m making sure to scrub up the sides and all along the caulk line, too! Tip: You know you have the right amount of peroxide if the baking soda gets clumpy. If the soda + peroxide gets soupy, you’ve used too much.
The visible grime and surface scratches will scrub away with the baking soda, but if stains are still persistent, I’ll cut my lemon into quarters and use it to swipe around the edges, corners and drain. If necessary, an extra sprinkle of baking soda on the lemon will cut through stubborn mars in the enamel. The lemon acts as a natural bleach to get rid of rust, red stains, and the like. Plus, it smells good!
Once the sink is shiny and new again, I’ll squeeze any remaining lemon juice down the drain and give everything a final rinse.
The entire process is so much nicer on my hands and nose, but most importantly, on the enamel. (I no longer feel guilty from using the harsh Soft Scrub!) Although having a white sink does require a bit more attention, we think it’s worth it. Happy cleaning!
I am definitely going to try this! My goodness though our sink gets waaaaaaaaaaay worse so much more quickly than this. I think Scott might have been doing some secret scrubbing lol. You may want to wear gloves when using the peroxide only because it does kill skin cells! Probably not much of an issue because you aren’t using much but still preferable not to come into contact with skin.
Ooh, thank you! And we do baby our sink a bit, so this was after treating it kindly and rinsing it anytime we put stuff in the sink. It can get really bad though, I hear you! Even still, this method has saved us EVERY time, even on the toughest marks.
I love my Kohler white enamel sink, she’s a real beaut! I got a metal guard for the bottom right off the bat – I was too scared to use it without it! The bonus is that it works as a drying rack for big pots and pans and our bottom remains unmarred. You can throw them right in the dish washer too. So I highly recommend this for Tree House!
It’s in our amazon shopping cart right now! Both for our sink AND Tree House!
Def do it! I have two sheet pans drying on the side of my sink right now, it’s really the best and you will fall in love with the sink all over again. I say all the time, our 36″ sink is the best aesthetic decision I made that has amazing function.
I thought the rack would be lifesaver as well and bought it even before we had our new sink installed. I have to say though, the ONLY part of my sink that is resistant to cleaners/looks scuffed is where the little feet rest on the sink! We use our sink as a tub for our little girl so trust me, it’s scrubbed down pretty regularly. I don’t know what is causing it exactly, maybe I need to put some kind of protection on the feet? Still probably better than not having it and letting things ding up the enamel, but I just wanted to share as a potential warning for you!
Oh, strange! Are the feet rubber or plastic? I wonder if the baking soda/lemon trick would help get rid of those marks?
We have a stainless steel sink in this house, and like you said, it’s actually way too easy to not maintain it at all because the griminess is more subtle… but I actually tried scrubbing it with baking soda for the first time the other day and it was amazing! I hadn’t even realized how dirty it was, but it straight-up GLEAMED afterwards! Like, it was eye-catching. Haha. Good to know it works on white enamel sinks too–we had a white sink at our old house (which we rented) and it was so hard to keep clean.
Right?! Scary to think of how little we cleaned our stainless sinks. Eeek.
I recently tried using Magic Eraser and it works like a charm. Your option is a lot more natural, but if you are in a pinch and have guests arriving any minute, Magic Eraser is your friend!
We tried that a few times with no luck (on the tougher spots)! We will use it from time to time on light stains though.
Such a helpful post! Can you do one on how your naturally clean the rest of your house? Would love some more tips in that area!
That’s a great idea!
Yes! Please! I keep my house very clean and Kon-Maried, and I would love to hear from someone else I know has the same standard on oven cleaning. I currently use a baking soda paste and then rinse with vinegar, and it works okay, but I am unhappy with the amount of staining left when I’m done (they are possibly permanent stains from the one time I tried self clean? (I’m scared to use self clean again because of how little it helped with the stains!))… and I find it SO hard to rinse thoroughly enough… and SO hard to work with around the vents for our gas oven. If you did a post on how you manage yours, I’d be super, super grateful!
Yes! I was a nanny for a family who lived in a cool old house with a huge cool old white porcelain sink. And they would always use baking soda as a sink cleaner – they just used a little bit of water with the baking soda to make it a paste and would rub that with their fingers. It was a sort of zen experience to rub and rub and then see how clean the sink was under all that paste. Super cool that you’re sharing the trick!! :)
Haha, love that.
I inherited an enamel white sink in our current house, with painted fruit. I’ve had stainless steel sinks in pretty much every other place I ever lived.
I can officially say… I hate my white sink. Perhaps because it’s not in great shape– lots of dings, and marks for food to be trapped in from the previous owner. But I’m over the maintenance and just CAN NOT WAIT for my kitchen reno to tear out that sink.
That being said… We have found cleaning success with OxiClean (which we use for laundry anyway). Create a bit of a paste, let it sit for half hour or so and rinse.
Thanks for the tip! Please donate that sink to a ReStore or salvage shop if you can, because I’m sure someone else would love to inherit it! :)
If you want to skip getting all the ingredients, Oxiclean is a pretty close second to this recipe. It’s basically powder form of hydrogen peroxide. I usually use that stuff to clean now instead of having to get all these different ingredients, but it is commercialized so it can contain some other things people don’t like.
Another product that works nicely on both enamel and stainless steel sinks is Barkeeper’s Friend. The metal marks disappear rapidly from my white enamel sink. And Kim, wear gloves when cleaning, it’s just easier on your skin! (I hate them, and I have to wear them.)
I totally agree on Barkeeper’s Friend and OxiClean, and will add Bon Ami to the list — all work like the baking soda, but with some extra oompf.
I know, I deserve that! :P
I have a white Kohler sink in my basement, waiting to be installed in the next few weeks. Super excited. We previously had a white solid surface sink that stained easily, so I feel I’m up to the task.
Also, I’m a recent convert to wearing gloves at the kitchen sink. Both for doing dishes and cleaning the sink. My hands are in much better shape when I do! My favorite place to buy gloves is a local Asian market. They are sized better for a female hand, and are a bit cuter too.
Nice tip! My own Asian hands will appreciate the smaller gloves, ha!
Totally unrelated question, but how do you like your Smeg toaster? I’ve been lusting after one, but the reviews are all so mixed. Seeing it next to your sink made me want to ask! Thanks!
We are obsessed with it, which is why it has such a prominent place on the counter! Making toast has never been more fun, seriously.
I have this same toaster in the same color. LOVE IT!!
I love my Smeg toaster too, it toasts so well
FINALLY, something that worked! I tried baking soda and vinegar, dish soap, magic erasers…. nothing worked. My new sink looks new again! Thank you :)
many thanks! i was looking for a natural way to clean my dingy sink and this was so easy.
Finally, something that worked!! I didn’t even have to scrub, I just sprinkled the baking soda, squirted some lines of blue dawn across it, then soaked paper towels in hydrogen peroxide and laid it on top of the baking soda. It sat for an hour, then I rinsed it and it was white underneath! Amazing combo, and the only one I found that actually got the sink white again — even the harsh chemicals didn’t work on our scuzzy, nasty sink.
Love hearing this! We’ll have to try the paper towel trick next time!
Thank you! I’ve been disappointed with my Kohler sink for 3 years. It took me less than 10 minutes using your method and its white again! (Although sadly scratched from previous efforts to clean/protect)
You can do all that, or instead, you can go buy a bottle of Palmolive eco+ dish soap (white bottle with lemon slices on the label), pour it liberally in the bottom of the sink…rub it around on all the stained areas…wait 5 minutes…wash it all off. BOOM! clean, stain-free sink! I now buy this stuff three large bottles at a time from Amazxon, for a year’s supply. Works great for dishes, too, obviously.
Finally cleaned my sink using your tips! AMAZING! Looks brand new and it was SO GROSS. Thank you!
I just tried this and it worked like a charm. My coffee stained sink is a beautiful white again.
Have you ever heard of “pot marks”? If so how would you suggest getting rid of them? We live in Canada and can. Not get the kohler sink cleaner. After only a week of installation there were these marks.. I love the look of the white sink but not how easily it scuffs. Kohler says they can be cleaned but if I can not get the cleaner in Canada, I’m looking for other tried and true methods that won’t harm the sink. Thanks.
[…] Bloggers who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack: Feel like you might need some extra cleaning power? Enter hydrogen peroxide. Kimberly from Get Green Be Well shows us How to Naturally Kill Germs in a Kitchen Sink while Kim from Yellow Brick Home explains How to clean a white enamel sink (safely and naturally). […]
Thank you so much. I have a marvelous old enameled cast iron double washboard that we rescued years ago. It could be 100 years old. This formula worked perfectly to brighten and clean my sink!
Excellent! Glad to hear it.