Keeping a tidy and hygienic kitchen doesn’t have to be a huge chore. Here’s how to keep things orderly and clean with minimal effort.
Start (and Finish) With a Clean Slate
The easiest way to stay on top of your kitchen is to return it to a tidy state after you use it. It’s rare that your kitchen gets totally out of control after a single meal prep session, it’s when you let the little things go that it suddenly feels overwhelming. With that in mind, you want to strive to start with clean surfaces and clean dishes and finish with them as well. If you’re washing dishes when you complete a meal, you’ll be sure that they don’t stack up and take over the entire kitchen. The moment you finish a meal, do the following:
- Wash all of the dishes. Whether you hand wash your dishes or you fill up the dishwasher, do them as soon as possible. If you don’t have a full load in the dishwasher, at least get the dirty dishes in there and off the counter.
- Clean the counters. Keeping counters clean is one of many ways to help prevent cross-contamination in your kitchen, whether you’re worried about spreading allergens or germs.
- Wipe down the stove top. Use a half-and-half mix of white vinegar and water to clean up spills and messes on your stove top. Whether you splattered something on there or just cooked a meal, there’s definitely food residue and grime to feed bacteria.
One more note on washing dishes: Put them away right away. Use a cloth (to create less waste) to dry hand washed dishes. When the dishwasher is done, put stuff away so there’s room to start refilling (then you won’t end up with stacks of dirty dishes in the sink or on the counters). If the dishwasher or dish rack is empty, they’re ready for use the next time around.
Also, when you’ve finished hand washing dishes, take a few minutes to wipe down the sink. You’ll get rid of a bunch of germs that way too, and you can use the washcloth or scrubber you used for the dishes. Think of your sink as the last dish you wash every time.
Focus on Practical Storage
If you have an affinity for kitchen gadgets, you know they can make your kitchen look cluttered and overstuffed if each gadget doesn’t have its own home. While things like coffee pots, microwaves, and toasters and other daily use items might need a permanent place on the counter or microwave cart, your blender, air fryer, and air popper may leave you with no room for food prep.
Find homes in cupboards for your gadgets, and organize everything else you’re storing in your kitchen. Don’t be afraid to put gadgets in deep storage if they only get used a few times a year. If a device only comes out for Christmas baking, for instance, it’s fine to park it somewhere out of the way. Keep food and dishes tucked away neatly, so it’s easy to find what you need when you need it. Keep lids on storage containers, if you have space, or get a rack to store lids so you can always find them.
Keep a Kitchen Junk Drawer
A lot of people look down on the junk drawer but let’s be real. What random things are in your kitchen? Extra twist-ties, scissors, pens and paper for grocery lists and recipe notes, instruction manuals for your kitchen gadgets, and anything else you may need in the kitchen at any given time, among other things. The kitchen junk drawer is the perfect place for odds and ends that don’t have a home anywhere else in cupboards or drawers. Without a catchall space like that, odds and ends just float around.
Make Effective Use of Your Pantry
If your home is blessed with a pantry, you can make a lot of space in your kitchen by keeping all food items in the pantry space. Keep spices, sugar, and even your coffee in there. Pantries are for more than just canned goods and boxes of cereal.
When you add new items into the pantry, be sure to organize by expiration date. Keep foods expiring the soonest toward the front, so you use them first and avoid food waste.
Spot Clean and Deep Clean
It’s important to spot clean your kitchen every day that you use it. It only takes a few crumbs to catch the attention of bugs and critters, and spills and splashes are a breeding ground for bacteria. Each time you cook, take some time to clean down your counters and other food prep areas and items and sanitize using bleach or other methods.
Deep cleaning days might happen once a week or once a month, depending on how much cooking you do in your home. They should include cleaning your oven (inside and out), cleaning out your refrigerator (this is the perfect time to toss food that’s no good anymore), giving your microwave a good scrub down, cleaning out the dishwasher, and cleaning your garbage disposal.
Clean the areas surrounding your stove, since grease splatters everywhere. Vinegar is excellent for cutting through grease.
Finish cleaning by sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor. Like with your counters and stovetop, vinegar and warm water are a great solution—and they’re kid and pet-friendly too.
Once you get in the habit of regular cleaning, you’ll find it’s a lot faster and easier. When you’re only attacking the messes you created today it’s a lot easier to power through them than catching up on a kitchen that’s run wild for a week.