Do you want to clean green?
This post discusses a problem I've just been dealing with as I've washed my supper dishes.
I boil a lot of water - for tea, hard-boiled eggs, pasta - and as a result my pots and kettle are often left with a white-ish residue. This residue is lime scale, or calcium. It is especially prevalent in areas with hard tap water. (Hard water is water with a high mineral content.)
What's the problem?
Lime scale looks kind of yucky, but it won't actually hurt the pots, or harm you if you cook food in the pots. However, after an extended period of time lime scale can build up, so you might want to regularly remove any calcium deposits.
The toxic way to remove lime scale is to use a product like CLR, which creates a chemical reaction that dissolves the calcium. It works, but it's not exactly food-grade - and CLR is corrosive and gives off hazardous fumes.
The greener way:
One inexpensive liquid that you can easily find on your grocery store shelves will quickly remove all lime scale - and that ingredient is vinegar. I buy vinegar in large jugs, and use it for a number of cleaning tasks.
To remove lime scale in pots or kettles, simply fill the pot or kettle with vinegar until all the affected areas are covered. Let the pot or kettle sit for a couple of hours, and the lime scale should be dissolved.
I'm not a coffee drinker, but I've heard that you can remove lime scale from the inside of your coffee maker by running vinegar through the machine. If anybody has experience with this, please feel free to comment!
You can reduce lime scale by soaking your items regularly with vinegar.
I use my slow-cooker a lot - especially to cook dried beans - and I've often noticed a calcium build-up on the inside of my crock. As soon as I empty the hot crock of its cooked contents, I immediately fill the crock with hot water, a squirt of eco-friendly dish detergent, and about a cup of vinegar. I let it soak for a couple of hours (or overnight), and when I go to wash the crock, all the lime scale is gone.
The worst I've ever seen:
I once did some house-sitting for a couple who lived in a small community where the tap water was drawn from a well. I have never seen such hard water before or since. You couldn't wipe a countertop with a damp cloth without the water leaving behind a white residue when it dried. I got into the habit of carrying around a spray bottle of vinegar to prevent the deposits. The homeowners eventually purchased a water softener to deal with their hard water problem.