It's where you gather water to boil for tea, rinse off fresh produce from the farmers' market, and defrost dinners. It's the place your little ones wash their hands after impromptu craft nights. And chances are, more than one pet's food or water bowl has been rinsed out here.

It's the kitchen sink, and it sees a lot of household action. Everyday chores, both food-related and otherwise, depend upon it—so its cleanliness is critical. But rather than exposing your family to the harsh chemicals found in conventional sink cleaners, try out these natural methods. They'll safely keep your kitchen sink spiffy, sparkling, and all-around sanitary:

1. Clean out Your Kitchen Sink Every Day

Daily wipe-downs may sound excessive, but habitual cleaning is the best way to prevent germs from settling in the first place. As we mentioned in our article on the germiest spots in the average home, kitchen sinks are potential hot zones for viruses. One study revealed 46% of kitchen sinks hosted over 100,000 bacteria per square centimeter. For comparison, the average toilet seat hosts 50 bacteria—per square inch. Those germs simmering in your sink can include E. coli and salmonella; not exactly the ideal dinner guests.  

For daily cleaning, use a gentle soap, water, and washable rag. After direct contact with a potentially pathogenic object—e.g., raw chicken, or the aforementioned dog bowl—go one sanitization step further. Whip up this all-natural spray and spritz away: Fill a bottle with 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 tsp. Castile soap, and 10 drops of lemon essential oil. Let sit for a minute or two before wiping dry. Alternatively, follow the same directions using the gentle but effective Puracy Multi-Surface Cleaner

If possible, let your sink dry out between uses (bacteria don't thrive as well in dry surfaces). Opening a nearby window or setting up a sink-side fan are both easy ways to speed up the process.

2. Don't Forget About Drains & Disposals 

"Out of sight, out of mind" is a common attitude regarding what goes down the garbage disposal. But leaving the unit unattended can cause bacteria from old food scraps to build up and cause quite a stink.

Every time you run the disposal, you should simultaneously have cold water running. And be sure to load it up slowly—never toss too much in at once.  Every three weeks or so, pop a citrus-and-vinegar-ice-cube down it, à la this tutorial from Hello Glow. The vinegar sanitizes the blades, and the invigorating citrus peels repel any lingering odors.

Similarly, drains need a bit of care to prevent future problems. Keep them protected with a drain cover (which should be cleaned frequently, too). Got a clog? Think twice before reaching for the name brand drain cleanser, since it's often harsh on pipes.

Instead, here's how to get your sink back up and draining. Boil water in a large pot, add a few squirts of dish soap, and pour that down the drain. For an extra boost, just add salt—pour half a cup down the drain and flush with additional boiling water. These two techniques will get the sink clear without exposing your dishes' home base to toxic chemicals.

3. Do Dishes ASAP

Or at least give them a quick rinse. Not only will it make your cutlery easier to clean later, but it also gets rid of the bacteria-laden organic matter that tends to attract pests.

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And whenever possible, let your dishes air-dry instead of using a dish towel. Between hand wiping, drying the counter, and drying other dishes, tea towels are often inadvertent hosts to all sorts of bacteria.

4. Pick the Best Dish Brush & Natural Dish Soap

Set yourself up for sanitary success by selecting the best tools for your dishwashing arsenal. We recommend using a dish brush (like the OXO "SteeL") over a traditional sponge. Brushes – unlike porous sponges – are easily rinsed, dry out faster, and allow you to both dispense soap and scrub with a single tool. 

Also utilize a clean caddy, e.g. one made from stainless steel, to keep the brush out of potentially germ-heavy puddles during its downtime.

As for dish soap, you want a type that cuts grease without leaving sulfates in its wake. Here at Puracy, we're thrilled to have been named The Best Dish Soap You Can Buy by Business Insider. They highlighted Puracy Dish Soap as "effective on grease, safe for the environment, and gentle on your hands"—not to mention, it "cleans the most stubborn pots and pans."

The finishing touch for your sink-side staples is that timeless powerhouse: Baking soda. This inexpensive powder cuts odors and is easily washed away with warm water.

5. Polish Away, as Needed

Now it's time to get your sink looking as clean as it actually is! If your sink is stainless steel, avoid using ammonia, bleach, or abrasive cleaners. Instead, turn to baking soda (yet another reason to leave it out). Sprinkle the sink with the powder and use a soft sponge to gently scrub. Polish off with a light layer of mineral oil, applied with a reusable rag.

Bring the luster back to a porcelain sink by lining the interior with paper towels and soaking them with a liquid detergent or vinegar. Leave them in for half an hour, then discard and rinse the sink with water. This also works to get rid of lime deposits on faucets (just follow up by buffing with a dry paper towel).

Stain removal for any type of sink is a quick squeeze away. Mix 1/2 cup of borax with the juice of half a lemon. Using a sponge, rub the stain with the mixture, and rinse with running water. Et voilà: Good as new.

Your kitchen sink is there for you when you need to grab a quick drink of water, wash up after taking out the trash, and when you're simultaneously running out the door and brushing your teeth (hey, we've all been there). Dish it out some much-deserved TLC with these gentle cleaning tips.