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Spring Cleaning Day 1: Reclaim Your Kitchen Sink

A light and airy kitchen with white walls, oak counters, and a white porcelain sink.
Switlana Sonyashna/Shutterstock

Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a little overwhelming. That’s exactly why we’ve put together a four-week challenge to help you cast off the grime of winter. Let’s kick things off with the kitchen sink!

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The Spring Cleaning Challenge runs for a whole month and we’re getting a headstart on spring by starting today! By the first day of spring, you’ll already be well on your way to a tidier home.

Why Start with the Kitchen Sink?

If you’ve ever followed along with cleaning challenges, read books about how to tackle power-cleaning your house no matter how overwhelmed you are, or otherwise dabbled in the fine art of banishing home grime and disorder, you’ve probably noticed something. The kitchen sink is a common starting point in many different guides and methods.

Why do so many cleaning guides and books, including the famous “FlyLady Method”, start with cleaning the kitchen sink? It’s easy—if the kitchen is the heart of the home then the sink is what keeps the beat and flow of that heart.

If your sink is a mess, the entire workflow of the kitchen is hampered. Everything from meal prep to tidying up after meals is inefficient and frustrating. So we reclaim the kitchen sink, then we reclaim the kitchen, and once the heart of your home has a clean bill of health we reclaim everything else.

It might sound like a bit of an overpromise on our part, but once you get your sink sparkling it starts a chain reaction. When your sink looks really nice you don’t want to pile up dishes in it and the whole kitchen workflow improves. Here’s how to make that happen.

Cleaning Your Kitchen Sink

A sunny kitchen with a stainless steel sink under a large window.

Cleaning and polishing your kitchen sink is a pretty simple affair, it just requires some elbow grease and a few basic items you likely already have in the kitchen or can easily acquire.

What You’ll Need to Clean Your Sink

Whatever kind of cleaner you use, we recommend wearing gloves. Even basic dish soap is pretty rough on your skin and other cleansers are even harsher. There’s no reason to beat up your skin when you can avoid it.

Extra Durable Dish Gloves (10 Pairs)

These gloves will ensure your sink gets stripped of grease but your hands stay safe and sound.

As far as powdered cleansers go, baking soda is about as gentle as can be if you’d like to avoid any cleaner fumes. Comet scrubbing powder is a classic gentle-on-the-sink option (though it does have a relatively strong cleaner smell).

And, if you have a stainless steel or porcelain sink, it’s tough to beat the classic Bar Keepers Friend option—we’ve used it for years on our stainless steel sink and swear by it. Not only do we love it, but it has a very mild smell.

Bar Keepers Friend

For traditional steel or porcelain sinks, you can't beat this 140-year-old classic cleaning powder.

If you have a newer composite-material sink that isn’t stainless steel or porcelain, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when selecting a cleanser to avoid scratches or clouding.

How to Clean Your Sink

Tools in hand, you’ll be done in no time. Here’s how to go from pile-o-dishes to a tidy sink in just a few steps.

  1. Empty your sink of all dishes, utensils, and whatever else may have found its way in there. Now is a great time to run the dishwasher to get a head start on keeping your sink clutter-free.
  2. Remove any food scraps and clean the sink strainer of debris.
  3. Stopper the drain, put a few drops of dish soap into the basin, and fill it with roughly half an inch of hot water. (If you don’t have a stopper, feel free to simply use a bowl of hot soapy water.)
  4. Using the hot soapy water and your nylon brush, scrub the lip, sidewalls, and bottom of the basin. The goal here is to loosen and remove surface grime like small food particles, oils, and other things that will get in the way of the next steps.
  5. Wipe down the faucet with the hot soapy water too, as well as any other attachments on the sink such as a hand sprayer or built-in soap dispenser.
  6. If there is limescale building up around the base of the faucet or soap dispenser (two common places where hard water drips and then evaporates leaving behind mineral buildup) soak a rag or paper towel with white vinegar and wrap the area. The mild acid in the vinegar will eat away at the mineral buildup while you work on the rest of the sink.
  7. Pull the strainer and give that a good scrubbing with the nylon brush. If you have a combo strainer/stopper (you twist it to lock it into the drain) pay special attention to the metal stopper plate. The surface of that is a prime collection point for cooking grease and gunk. Do the same thing with the garbage disposal baffle (the rubber collar that sits in the opening of the disposal).
  8. Drain the sink and rinse the surfaces with water.
  9. Dampen a soft sponge or rag and sprinkle the sink liberally with your powdered cleanser of choice. Scrub the cleanser into the surface, paying special attention to any staining.
  10. Rinse the cleanser and evaluate the sink. Repeat to remove any remaining stains.
  11. If soaking any limescale deposits, use the vinegar-soaked rag to scrub at the remaining deposits. Light mineral buildup should be gone at this point, more severe buildup may require multiple treatments with longer soaking.
  12. For sinks with a garbage disposal, a little cleaning and deodorizing are in order. Chop up a lemon or lime (or simply use a Plink citrus oil capsule). Run the disposal with a stream of warm water and drop the lemon pieces or capsule in. Run for 10-20 seconds.
  13. Wipe the entire sink down with a dry rag to remove any water. This step will help avoid any water spots or mineral buildup.
  14. Drip a few drops of olive oil around your now clean sink and buff into the surface with a clean rag. When you’re doing the sink should have a uniform wet/polished look.

It might be tempting to skip that last step, but we’d really encourage you to actually buff and shine your sink. If you’ve never done it before it probably sounds like a silly step, but we assure you it has a weird halo effect when it comes to keeping your kitchen clean. Think of it like detailing your car: once your car is so incredibly clean you’re loath to get it dirty. The same thing happens with the sink.

Have a bad habit of dumping dishes into the sink and leaving them for a later day to deal with? It feels bad to muck up a sink you just scrubbed and polished to perfection, so you’re more inclined to put them right into the dishwater instead. Trust us! You’ll soon find yourself aiming to keep your sink in a polished state which will solve the dirty-dish-pileup problem overnight.

Now that your kitchen sink is in order, you’re ready to tackle the rest of the kitchen (and, in turn, the rest of your home). Follow along with our Spring Cleaning Challenge over the coming weeks for more tips, tricks, and guidance. Better yet, subscribe to our newsletter to get all four weeks of cleaning tips–along with other great content—delivered right to your inbox!

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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