What’s Under Your Kitchen Sink?

Is your ‘stash it’ place the cabinet under your kitchen sink? Too often it ends up being the place that this-that-and-the-other gets stuffed for lack of a better location or simply to get it out of sight. When this happens, it’s hard to keep this area tidy and ready for the unexpected leak.

Along with the maze of pipes that live under the kitchen sink, it’s always amazing what may be found in the ‘cave of castoffs’ scattered among the needed and regularly used dishwashing and kitchen cleaning supplies.

The best way to reorganize and reclaim this space is to take everything out. Once the cabinet is emptied, clean the cabinet to remove dust and crumbs. This is also a good time to note any water stains on the cabinet floor or suspicious signs with any of the pipes, water lines, or faucets inside the cabinet.  (Anything suspicious should be checked out to prevent a plumbing disaster.)

Before putting anything back in the cabinet, consider an absorbent mat for the bottom of the cabinet to absorb a bit of water from a dripping sponge or leaking from a pipe or a stored product. These mats protect the cabinetry and prevent the formation of mold. One may also want to consider purchasing clear plastic containers for organizing or protecting items or even installing tiered under-sink organizers to make use of the available vertical space or pull-out racks to keep items from getting lost in the back of the cabinet and bring them forward for easy access. Home improvement and container stores have any number of these items designed to work around the pipes and garbage disposal. The inside of the cabinet doors are an ideal place to mount a towel rack or racks made for storing everything from trash bags to paper towels and sponges.

With a clean and open space, let’s get started on reclaiming that space and make it work better for you using Store This, Not That tips from various organization experts. It starts with an inventory of the contents noting what should be in the cabinet, what should or could be stored elsewhere, and what should be discarded.

NOT THAT
(What not to store under the kitchen sink.)

Cleaning items. Unused, old, broken or no-long suitable cleaners, sponges, scrub brushes and other castoffs that have accumulated behind closed doors should be discarded. If they might have a life in another capacity, place them with the anticipated activity. If you like to keep worn nylon scrubbers and brushes around to wash garden produce or other outdoor items, move these items to the space where they would likely be used for this purpose.

Overstock, refills, or extra supplies. Quantity or bought-ahead, unopened products should go to another storage area. Perhaps a space in the basement or a storage closet is a great place to store bulk paper towels, dishwasher tablets, boxes of trash bags, and other like items. If you need a reminder of what is on hand, leave yourself sticky notes inside of the cabinet. Refill from the stash in the alternative space until the quantity is exhausted; add the item to your shopping list and repurchase.

Towels, rags, paper towels, paper bags. All of these items absorb water and odors. While absorbing water in the event of a leak may be a good thing, it will ruin them. These items are also prone to odor absorption from other stored items or the waste basket when combined with heat and humidity coming from the sink and/or dishwasher. If the only storage space available for these items is under the sink, they should be stored in closed plastic containers.

Metal items. With one exception*, tools, pots and pans, metal cookware, or anything else that is prone to rusting does not belong. This also includes small appliances and light bulbs. (*Exception will be discussed in Save This.)

Produce, food items, pet food/treats. Produce and dry foods may mold under the sink. 

Harsh chemicals, flammable products, insecticides. Bleach, insecticides, solvents, thinners, paints, polishes, and household cleaners have no place under the kitchen sink. These items need to be stored in the basement, garage, or utility area and away from small children. Occasionally the containers of these items spring a leak or emit fumes—all of which we do not want in our living areas and especially not in our kitchen. Further, often a dishwasher sits next to the sink cabinet; heat or an electrical spark and flammable fumes could cause a sudden explosion or fire.

STORE THIS
(What to store under the kitchen sink.)

Cleaning products. Keep the essentials such as vinegar, dish soap, dishwasher products, cleansers, scrubbers, sponges, brushes, kitchen gloves, and cleansing agents—all of the items needed daily to maintain a clean and healthy kitchen. (If young children are in the home, the doors to the cabinet should be secured with child-proof locks to prevent accidental poisoning from any of these products.) A pull-out rack or a lazy susan is a great way to corral these items and make them easy to access.

Small fire extinguisher. One should always have a serviceable fire extinguisher in the kitchen in the event of a grease fire. Under the sink within quick and easy reach is one of the best locations for it. Before storing, the viability date should be checked and replaced if out of date. Consider mounting the extinguisher to a side wall of the cabinet.

Garbage disposal tool*. The one and only tool that should be stored under the sink is the garbage disposal tool used for unjamming the garbage disposal. Inevitably this tool gets lost. Some disposals come with a pocket for storing the tool on the side of the disposal. If not, consider placing the tool in a ziplock bag and thumb tacking the bag to a cabinet wall making it easy to see and locate when a jam occurs.

Miscellaneous. Depending upon space, items such as a vase or two, trash bags, dish towels in plastic containers, small dust pan and brush, and bags for recycling (contained in some manner) may find a home under the sink.

By reclaiming and organizing under sink space, the kitchen is safer and more efficient. Maybe the space under other sinks in the home need a look, too?

Updated December 2023, mg.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Cleaning Your Iron

When was the last time you cleaned your iron?  Cleaning an iron can be one of those tasks that is easily forgotten or put off.  That is, until the iron seems to be sticking to fabric, spraying dirty water, or leaving black spots on your clothing.  It is not uncommon for dirt, dust, lint, detergent, and spray starch to build up on the soleplate of the iron or for water inside the water reservoir used for steam to cause dirty spots.  For those who sew or do fabric crafts, there is often the sticky residue from fusible interfacings or other fusible/iron-on products.

The frequency with which an iron needs to be cleaned depends on frequency of use and/or how it is used.  At any rate, a cleaning or maintenance schedule that meshes with the frequency or use is important to keeping the iron functioning properly.  If maintaining a schedule is too much, then a good rule of thumb is to clean as soon as a problem is detected—iron doesn’t glide as it should or steam doesn’t come out or sprays or spurts out rusty or black droplets onto the cloth.  All are signs that gunk has accumulated on the soleplate, the steam outlets are clogged, or tap water mineral deposits have accumulated in the water reservoir.

Fortunately, cleaning an iron isn’t that difficult.  If you’ve ever Googled “how to clean an iron”, you will find many shared methods.  And if you have a method that works for you, by all means continue on as the bottom line is to achieve a properly functioning iron.  If you are new to iron cleaning or unsure of how to proceed with your iron, the best route is to consult the owner’s manual as there may be specific guidelines for the kind of soleplate (stainless steel, ceramic, titanium, or non-stick), water reservoir, or self-cleaning feature unique to your iron. (If a manual is lost, often times they can be found online.)

Cleaning the Soleplate

Various options exist for cleaning the soleplate.  Below are the three most common recommendations by iron manufacturers.  In all cases, never use anything that could scratch the soleplate.

Hot Iron Cleaners.  Cleaning pastes are found almost anywhere fabric or laundry products are sold and usually restore the iron’s soleplate to perfect condition. They are nontoxic, nonflammable, and nonabrasive.  When the pastes are applied to a very hot iron soleplate, they quickly and easily remove starch, detergent, and fusing residue. These cleaners dissolve the residue either by ironing over the cleaner on an old towel or by squeezing the cleaner onto the soleplate and wiping off residue with an old towel or cloth.   (Rowenta offers a product specific to Rowenta irons for consumers who choose to use it.)  One must be careful to remove the paste from the steam vents as well. (Cotton swabs work great for vent cleaning.)

Iron Cleaning Cloths.  Cleaning cloths (usually in packs of 10) are designed to be disposable and as an alternative to hot iron cleaning pastes for quick clean ups.  They dissolve and remove any residue by simply running the cloth over a hot soleplate. They usually work best for less soiled soleplates or for very regular clean up.  Because there is no paste involved, they do not clog the steam vents.

Baking Soda and Water or Vinegar.  Both baking soda and vinegar are common household cleaners.  They also work wonders as a natural scouring agent to remove grime from an iron’s soleplate.  One begins by mixing baking soda with distilled water or vinegar to make a paste (approximate 2:1 proportions of soda to liquid).  Apply the paste with an old tooth brush to a cool, unplugged iron.  Scrub gently with the brush to loosen the residue; wipe residue away with a microfiber cloth until the soleplate is cleaned. Like the commercial pastes, the steam vents must be cleaned, too. 

Hot vinegar applied to a microfiber cloth works like an iron cleaning cloth if the residue is light.

After cleaning, fill the reservoir with water, heat, and run the iron over an old towel or cloth, pressing the spray button several times to insure the soleplate and vents are clean before ironing clothing. 

Cleaning the Water Reservoir

When cleaning the water reservoir, discretion is needed.  Steam iron reservoirs need to be cleaned out often to ensure that the appliance doesn’t leave rusty or black water marks on clothing or fabric, performs properly, minimizes build up that may damage clothing, and, thereby, extends the life of the appliance.  Whenever possible, follow manufacturer’s directions.

Distilled water is commonly and safely used for cleaning the reservoir and vents.  While there are many distilled water and vinegar recipes suggested for reservoir cleaning, most manufacturers caution against the use of vinegar.  In a previous blog, AnswerLine suggested a method of filling the reservoir with distilled water and allowing the iron to self-steam out the minerals, lint, and other accumulations in the reservoir and vents.

A commercial iron cleaner is another option to decalcify and remove lime and mineral build-up from steam irons and vents. However, some iron manufacturers will void the warranty if you use them as they can be harsh and cause additional damage.

Keep the Iron Working at Its Best

Here’s some tips to protect and keep an iron working at its best.

  • Whenever possible, use distilled water.  Tap water, even when filtered, contains minerals that can clog, corrode, or damage the iron resulting in rusty or black steam or spray.
  • Fill the iron with water before plugging in and while cool.
  • Empty the reservoir before storing the iron—especially if it isn’t used frequently.
  • Store in an upright position.  This will prevent water from leaking if water is left in the reservoir and avoid scratching the soleplate.
  • Avoid pressing or ironing over zippers, snaps, decals, pins, or any screen printing without using a pressing cloth to avoid scratching the soleplate or adhering paint or plastics to the soleplate.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Medicine Cabinet Clean Out

Has it been a while since you cleaned out your medicine cabinet or anywhere medicines are stored? Most experts recommend that your medicine cabinet or medicine storage spot be cleaned out annually to discard medications that have expired or could be medically unsafe.

Hanging onto or accumulating outdated or unused medications beyond their expiration date, with the idea that they might come in handy one day, can be risky business.  Expired medications can lose their potency, change in composition and even becoming toxic.  Further, by keeping them, chances are increased of abuse, misuse, or taking the wrong one. Failing to safely dispose of old medications, especially opioids, all too often leads to dangerous drugs ending up in the wrong hands. The CDC reports that 50,000 young children end up in emergency rooms each year because they got into medicines while an adult wasn’t looking.1

Avoid these risks with timely cleaning and disposal of unused or outdated medicines, prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC), and medical supplies using these tips from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

Check the expiration dates.

Since 1979, all prescription drugs and OTC medications and products have an expiration date somewhere on the label or stamped onto the bottle, tube, or carton  This is the final date that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of the drug or product based upon testing.   For best efficacy, the medication should be stored properly–usually, in a cool, dry location–or as indicated on the package or label.

Examine everything in the medicine cabinet, including ointments, supplements and vitamins. Discard any item that is beyond the expiration date and any prescription medications that are more than a year old. It is important to note that the expiration date refers to an unopened product.  Once a medication has been opened and used, the clock starts ticking on its shelf life as contamination has been introduced.  Writing the date of opening on the container is helpful;  opened or partially used products should be discarded after one year of opening regardless of the expiration date.   Also look for items that have changed color, smell funny, without a label or in an unmarked container, or cannot be identified.  Medications should always be kept in their original containers so that they are easily recognized. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for creams. All of these items should be discarded without question.

Inspect adhesive bandages, too. Bandages and tapes have a limited lifespan and should be replaced before their adhesive breaks down.

Dispose safely.

The best way to dispose of most types of unused or expired medicines (both prescription and OTC) is to drop the medicine at a drug take back location. These drop off locations may be a police station, authorized pharmacy, or hospital.  There you may find a kiosk.  The kiosks provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions, including controlled substances, and over-the-counter medications, ointments and creams, liquids, lotions, pet medications, prescription patches, and vitamins and supplements free and anonymously.  To find a drop-off location near by, use the find an authorized drug collection site or call the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Call Center at 1-800-882-9539.  Certain medications or items are not accepted at the kiosks including needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, and illicit drugs.

If you cannot get to a drug take back location or there is none near you, the medication maybe flushed or disposed in the trash using important guidelines.  Check the FDA flush list to see if the medicine is on the list.  Medicines on the list are those that are sought after for their misuse and/or abuse potential and  can result in death from one dose if taken inappropriately.  If the medication is on the flush list, it is safe to flush down the toilet.  Do not flush a medicine if it is not on the flush list. 

If the medicine is not on the flush list  and there are no specific disposal instructions with the medication or package insert, follow these steps to dispose of medicine in the household trash:

Disposal in household trash
  1. Mix medicines (liquid or pills; do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds;
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;
  3. Throw the container in the trash at home; and
  4. Delete all personal information on the prescription label, including the RX number, of empty medicine bottles or medicine packaging, then trash or recycle the empty bottle or packaging.2 Containers should be clean if recycled.

For more information on safe disposal, check out the FDA YouTube video.

Most collection sites will not accept asthma inhalers, needles, insulin syringes or any other syringes, marijuana, mercury thermometers, and medications containing iodine. For disposal information and drop-off locations for syringes, needles, and other injectables go to Safe Needle Disposal or call 800-643-1643.  When in doubt about how to safely dispose of a medical device, check with your pharmacist.

Relocate the medicine cabinet or storage, if necessary. 

The bathroom is not the best place to store medication. The temperature and humidity changes that come with the shower running can lower the potency of some medicines. Medications should be kept in a cool dry place, away from children, pets, and scavengers. Consider a locked drawer or a locked box on a shelf.

It is smart to undertake an annual medicine cabinet cleaning.  An annual review of prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and medical products can help keep us safe and healthy. Using an old product won’t necessarily land you in the ER, but it could or it may not work effectively thereby wasting you money, affecting your health, or possibly delaying your recovery. Further, if the medicine isn’t on the shelf, it can’t be accidently used, incorrectly used, or abused.  And, always consider the disposal options and dispose appropriately and responsibly.

_____________________
Sources:

1 Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines.  Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
2 Drug Disposal:  Dispose “Non-Flush List” Medicine in Trash.  Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Images:  Canva.com, Marlene Geiger, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Updated 12-2023, mg.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Poison Ivy

Watch out for this plant!

While walking along a forested path in our neighborhood last weekend I noticed the bright green foliage in the picture above. Thanks to my husband I soon learned its identity – POISON IVY! After a little research I quickly found out there is not only poison ivy, but also poison oak and poison sumac. It is the sap of the plant that reacts to the body. It you find that you have been exposed to any one of these plants, it is important to wash with cool water and soap as soon as possible. Water deactivates the oil which is a toxic resin called Urushiol. It is nonvolatile and dries quickly on your clothing, shoes, animals and tools. Surprisingly, it remains potent for up to a year. Evidence of contact with one of these poisonous plants, a skin rash, usually appears within two days, but may occur within eight hours. In rare cases, the eruption can be delayed by up to ten days. The skin usually heals in ten days.

A person does not have to come into physical contact with one of these plants to contract the rash. Exposure to smoke of a burning poison ivy plant can result in the dreaded rash. It is important to avoid inhaling smoke or contact of skin or clothing with smoke.

To clean clothing that has come into contact with one of these poisonous plants, wash as you normally wash them. The water will kill the resin. All items should be washed, including hiking boots and sleeping bags; back packs should be wiped down with water. REF: Jan Stone, First Nurse, 1998

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Steam iron cleaning

If you are thinking about replacing your iron because it just doesn’t steam like it used to, consider cleaning it. It really isn’t very hard or time consuming to clean a steam iron.

Water has begun to drip out of the iron.
Water has begun to drip out of the iron.

Place the iron on a rack on top of a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet on a cutting board or potholders to protect your kitchen countertop from the heat. Fill the water compartment and then put the iron face down (on the sole plate) on the rack. In just a few minutes, water will begin to drip from the holes. Let the water drip until the compartment is empty.

Steam coming out of the iron. See it against the wooden back splash.
Steam coming out of the iron. See it against the wooden back splash.

Next refill the water compartment and put the iron back on the rack. Set the iron for the hottest ironing temperature and again set it on the sole plate. Allow the iron to spit and steam until the compartment is empty again. You will be surprised to see the amount of lint and minerals that came out of the iron. I was surprised at the amount of mineral particles of left on the cookie sheet.

If the sole plate of the iron needs cleaning, use baking soda as a scouring power. That will remove any marks or debris without scratching the non stick surface that is on many irons today. Be sure not to accidentally fill the newly clean holes in the bottom of the iron with baking soda.

Do not use steam iron cleaners or other fluids like vinegar as such solutions may damage the iron interior.

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

AnswerLine

Connect with us!

AnswerLine's Facebook page AnswerLine's Pinterest page
Email: answer@iastate.edu
Phone: (Monday-Friday, 9 am-noon; 1-4 pm)
1-800-262-3804 (in Iowa)
1-800-854-1678 (in Minnesota)

Archives

Categories