Of all the rooms in your home, your kitchen probably gets the most “love.” You cook in it, eat in it and congregate in it. The challenge: How do you keep it clean?
With family, work and social obligations, keeping your kitchen tidy can be a real chore. Here are some tips to help make this kitchen cleanup a little less tiresome. The faster you get it done, the faster you can get back to enjoying your home and your life.
1. Dealing With Dirty Dishes
Over the course of a day—or a few hours—dirty dishes can quickly pile up in and around your sink. How do you make dishwashing a less grueling task?
Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher immediately. About three-quarters of U.S. homes have a dishwasher, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. But many people don’t use their dishwashers efficiently. Rather than letting your dishes pile up in your sink, you’ll ultimately save time—and keep your kitchen looking neater—by putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher as soon as you’re done with them.
Only pre-rinse when necessary. Out of habit, many people rinse every dish they put in their dishwasher. But most modern dishwashers are powerful enough to handle some food debris—especially if the dishwasher itself is kept clean. So only rinse off dishes that have a lot of loose food scraps.
Organize your dishwasher. To maximize your dishwasher’s space, make sure to place the dishes in the right spot. Cups, for example, should go on the top rack, whereas plates and bigger items, such as baking sheets, should go on the bottom. The dirtiest dishes should go in the middle of the bottom rack to ensure that they get the hardest wash. Only run your dishwasher once it’s full to save water, time, and money.
Familiarize yourself with your dishwasher’s settings. Many people use the same setting for every cycle. But you can save water and still clean your dishes if you choose the most appropriate cycle for each load. For example, you don’t need to use a “heavy wash” cycle if you’re only cleaning glasses and plates with little food debris.
Create a dishwashing routine. Try to set a routine around dishwashing to prevent dishes from piling up. For example, you may want to run the dishwasher every night before you go to bed and then unload it every morning after you wake up.
Keep your dishwasher clean. Food debris, grease, and soap can build up inside your dishwasher. After a while, this buildup may leave residue or food particles on your “clean” dishes—forcing you to re-wash them by hand. Keep your dishwasher in top condition by cleaning its inside monthly. The steps:
- Remove the bottom rack and clean away any food debris around the drain at the bottom of the machine. Many newer models have a removable filter. If yours does, follow your dishwasher’s instruction manual on how to remove it, and clean it thoroughly by placing it in soapy water and gently brushing it with an old toothbrush. Reinsert it once it’s clean.
- With the dishwasher empty, place a bowl containing a cup of vinegar on the top rack and run a hot-water cycle. This should remove any grease, grime, and musty odors.
- Next, sprinkle the bottom of the dishwasher with a cup of baking soda and run a short hot-water cycle. This should leave the machine looking bright and shiny clean.
- Still see little food particles or soap scum? Use a toothbrush to remove any remaining debris you find in the dishwasher after you’ve completed the other steps. This will ensure that your dishwasher is as clean as possible.
Rinse pots and pans immediately. Even if you don’t have time to wash your pots and pans immediately after you use them, at least rinse off the major food debris right away. Spend 20 seconds cleaning a pan right away to avoid having to spend a lot more time scrubbing it later in the day. Remove burn marks using vinegar and baking soda.
Well-used pots and pans are bound to get scorch marks every so often. You can remove those stains by first combining a cup of water and a cup of vinegar in the pan and bringing the mixture to a boil. Then remove the pan from heat and add a tablespoon of baking soda. Once the fizzing stops, you should be able to clean out the pan easily using water, soap and more baking soda (if needed).
2. Keeping Appliances in Shipshape
From fingerprints on the stainless steel to grease buildup in the oven, how do you stay on top of keeping your appliances clean?
Wipe down appliances whenever you do the dishes. Make it a habit to wipe off the exteriors of your kitchen appliances whenever you do the dishes.
Use vinegar and oil to buff stainless steel. Although stainless steel appliances are pretty, they tend to show fingerprints and grime easily. You can keep your stainless steel’s sheen by first cleaning it with vinegar and then using a little olive oil and a soft dry cloth to buff it and remove any lingering water marks. Always wipe in the direction of the stainless steel’s “grain.”
Wipe up drips on the stove immediately. A few seconds spent cleaning up a drip or spill right away will save you potential minutes of scrubbing later on.
Catch drips in your oven. Certain foods, like pies, tend to drip and splatter. But you can keep the bottom of your oven clean by using a drip pan. You can also cover the bottom rack of your oven with aluminum foil to act as a makeshift drip pan when using the top rack. (Never put aluminum foil at the bottom of your oven, as that can be a fire hazard.)
Loosen baked-on food particles and grease with water. Put a large bowl of boiling water in the oven—which should be turned off—and close the door for 15 to 20 minutes. This will soften the particles and make it easier for you to clean them off with a sponge.
Freshen up your microwave with water and lemon. Place a microwave-safe bowl with water and the juice of one lemon into the microwave and heat it on high for two minutes. Then, let the bowl sit in the microwave for an extra minute before removing it. You should be able to wipe away any food particles or grime on the microwave’s inner walls and tray with ease.
Refresh your garbage disposal with ice and lemon. The garbage disposal beneath your sink drain can start to slow and smell foul due to a buildup of food particles. Keep it running smoothly and smelling fresh by occasionally putting a few ice cubes and lemon peels down the drain and then running the disposal. The ice will help remove clogs while the lemon peel will help deodorize and leave a fresh lemony scent.
(Warning: Never put your hands or fingers into the sink drain when the disposal is on, even if it seems to have stopped or clogged. You could be severely injured by the blades.)
Clean your blender with soapy water. The easiest way to clean your blender—and keep your fingers safe from the blades—is to put a couple cups of warm soapy water in the canister and blend away. Then, simply rinse out the canister and cover and wipe down the base.
Run vinegar and water through the coffeemaker. At least once a month, fill your coffeemaker’s water chamber with equal parts vinegar and water and run it until the chamber is half empty. Let the machine sit for 30 minutes and then finish brewing. The vinegar will break down any calcium deposits that naturally build up in the coffeemaker after long-term use, allowing you to continue to get the best brew. Make sure to follow this with a rinse cycle or two of plain water to flush all the vinegar out of the system.
3. Making Kitchen Cleanup Less Tedious
Beyond doing the dishes and cleaning the appliances, tidying your kitchen on a daily basis can feel overwhelming. Here are some extra tips for making it quicker and easier:
Keep a broom handy. Mopping a kitchen is time-consuming, but sweeping daily can keep the floors looking clean for longer.
Prevent trash bags from clinging. Taking out the trash can be a real pain, especially if the bag tears. If your trash bags tend to cling to the sides of your plastic garbage pails, cut down on suction by drilling small, evenly spaced holes near the bottom of one side of the pail. This should help to save you time and effort, as well as help to avoid a mess.
Line your trash cans with multiple bags. Rather than replacing your trash bag every time it’s full, consider placing multiple bags in the can so that you can lift out the old bag and have a new one instantly ready to go.
Disinfect sponges in the microwave. Your sponges may become grimy after many uses. You can freshen them up by first dampening them under tap water and covering them with lemon juice. Put them in the microwave for two minutes on high to kill the germs that have built up to leave them smelling clean.
Schedule time for daily kitchen cleanup. Set aside a convenient time each day that you can devote to cleaning up the kitchen, even if it’s just 10 or 20 minutes. It might be first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed. Consider using a kitchen timer to keep you on task for your allotted amount of cleanup time—whether that includes sweeping the floors, wiping down the stove and other appliances, or hand-washing extra dishes.
Keeping your kitchen clean doesn’t have to feel like an overwhelming chore—if you devote a little time to it every day. And it helps to know how to avoid big messes in the first place.
READ MORE: 3 Guides for a Tidier Home