One thing I am very serious about when I teach the steward/esses at my school, is a more natural approach when it comes to cleaning and cleaning products.
Healthier contents of your cleaning caddies mean healthier stews and a healthier ocean.
It is naïve to think that strong, chemically laden cleaning products will do a better job cleaning the interior of the yacht.
Perhaps bio-degradable cleaning products are more expensive, but when you consider that your own health is at stake, wouldn’t a few cents added to the bill be worth it? Also, some of these natural products are indeed way cheaper than chemicals. Sometimes, you can even find the product already on the yacht, like vinegar, old soap bars, corn flour and vinegar.
One very serious pollutant of our oceans is something we use on a daily basis and purchase almost by the barrel full… Laundry detergent! Many countries have started banning the use of chemicals such as sodium triphosphate, nonylphenol ethoxylate and other phosphates in laundry detergent and other cleaning products, but it is important to check your laundry detergent for dangerous chemicals.
If possible and if the budget allows, seriously consider replacing your regular laundry detergent with a biodegradable brand, such as Biokleen Free & Clear Laundry Liquid, Earth Friendly Products Ultra ECOS Free and Clear All Natural Laundry Detergent, Mountain Green Skin Sensitive Free & Clear All Natural Ultra Laundry Detergent, Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Laundry Detergent.
Here is what my research has shown:
“A more profound problem arises from the heavy use of sodium triphosphate, which can comprise up to 50% by weight of detergents. The discharge of soluble phosphates into natural waters has led to problems with eutrophication, or the growth of living things, of lakes and streams. With respect to the phosphate additives, between 1940 and 1970 "the amount of phosphates in city wastewater increased from 20,000 to 150,000 tons per year." With an increase in phosphates, especially in the absence of species feeding upon algae, algal blooms grow splendidly on the excess phosphorus and can produce toxins, killing fish, dolphins and plants. They can also indirectly cause oxygen depletion at greater depths, through microbial breakdown of dead algal cells.”
Following is a collection of natural cleaning products that are useful on the interior:
- Eucalyptus oil removes the gummy residue left by shop stickers. Pour a few drops on the sticker and let it sit for 30 minutes, the sticker will come right off – what a trick for removing those stubborn stickers on the new crystal glasses the boss’s wife brought wither her from her recent trip to Paris!
- To remove furniture indentations from pure wool carpet on the yacht, place a tea towel over the area and then press with a warm iron. (Do not touch the carpet with the iron!!). The heat will lift the fibres. Do not attempt this with synthetic or a wool/synthetic mix carpet.
- To stop bathroom mirrors steaming up, regularly rub a dry bar of soap over the surface and rub in/buff with a clean soft cloth. This works just as well as RainX or similar chemical products.
- To remove oil from silk clothing, gently rub corn flour into the area and lightly brush off. Cover the oil mark completely with more corn flour and leave to sit for a few hours. Shake clothing free of flour and then hand wash, or use a gentle machine cycle, using soap suitable for delicate fabrics. (Check the care label first!)
- To make candles last longer, cover with a plastic bag and place in the freezer for 24 hours before lighting.
- To prevent crew uniform buttons from becoming loose or undone, dab a little clear nail varnish on the top thread or onto the stem of the thread and leave to dry. It also helps to sew on the buttons with white dental floss, they will never fall off again!
- For those rusty spray cans – a wonderful way to prevent the can from rusting: paint nail varnish around the bottom of the spray can when still new, it will never rust again!
- To remove pollen from the stamen of flowers (especially those Casablanca lilies!), take a piece of sticky tape about five centimeters long, gently press the sticky side to the pollen mark and lift off. Repeat with clean sticky tape as required. Do not try to brush it off. Always remove the stamen as soon as the lily opens.
- To pick up small fragments of broken glass, press pieces of bread onto the affected area.
- To remove body oil stains from collars and cuffs of coloured shirts and blouses, rub hair shampoo directly on the stains. Rinse out the shampoo, then wash the clothes as usual.
- To stop drawers from sticking, rub a bar of soap across the runners to make them glide smoothly.
- To clean the bottom of the iron, sprinkle salt on the ironing board and iron back and forth.
- To leave a cabin smelling fresh after you have vacuumed, place a few drops of your favourite essential oil (such as lavender or peppermint) near the vent where the hot air is released. The air warms the oil and blows it into the cabin.
- To clean a microwave oven, add four tablespoons of lemon juice to one cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Boil for five minutes in the microwave, allowing the steam to condense on the inside walls of the oven. Then wipe them with a soft cloth.
- To clean a stainless-steel sink, put the stopper in the sink with two denture-cleaning tablets (like Steradent) and half fill with water; leave for several hours or overnight and the next day it should be sparkling.
- To remove fingerprints from stainless-steel appliances, place a small amount of baby oil on a soft cloth and wipe the affected areas. The fingerprints will just wipe away.
- To remove permanent marker pen off hard surfaces, spray on hair spray and then wipe it off.
- To clean glass windows, add about one tablespoon of corn starch to about one liter of lukewarm water. Wet and a rag or squeegee, remove excessive water and wipe down glass as if using regular glass cleaner. Dry with either a soft cloth or paper.
- To restore toilet bowls back to their shiny best, clean with old, flat Coke or Pepsi. To dissolve lime scale, leave the soda overnight to soak.
- Vacuuming a mattress regularly, particularly along piping and crevices, removes dead skin cells that attract dust mites.
- Clove oil (sold in chemists for toothaches) kills mould spores. Mix three drops in one litre of water and then use to wipe down areas on the yacht susceptible to mould. Be careful not to use on delicate fabrics.
- A wonderful natural cleaning mix for toilet bowls: ½ cup white vinegar, ½ cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), ½ cup lemon juice. Pour the mix into the toilet and let it sit for 30 minutes and give the bowl a good scrub with your toilet brush.
A last thought: remember everything we use to clean the interior will eventually end up in the ocean – so for years to come if you want to keep seeing the dolphins at the bow whilst underway on an Atlantic Crossing – think natural products!
About the author: After working in the superyacht industry as a stewardess, chief stew and purser for 10 years, Isobel Odendaal moved back to her home country, South Africa, and co-started a training school for super yacht steward/esses, Super Yachting South Africa, where she continues to learn and teach every day.
*Image credits via CC 2.0