The holidays are over. Decorations are packed away for the next 11 months and you start the deep cleaning process of all action-packed rooms. Your kitchen probably saw the majority of the action during the holidays. How that splatter of mashed sweet potatoes got on the ceiling is anyone’s guess. But that mess just means it’s time for a deep cleaning. Here we round up a collection of cleaning guides that, if followed, will help you get your countertops, appliances, floors and more shining like new. It’ll make your kitchen look like the holidays never hit it that hard.
A good portion of your deep-cleaning efforts should focus on the areas that see the most impact from spills, splatters, and the like. These are things that everyone touches and things that people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about cleaning.
- Refrigerator. Few appliances get out of hand as quickly as the fridge. Leftovers, forgotten food, leaky containers — before you know it, you’ll dread opening the refrigerator door to grab some coffee creamer in the morning. Begin by taking all the food out of the fridge and placing it in a cooler. You don’t want to have to toss out all of your food because it went to rot on your countertops! Then remove the shelves and drawers and set them aside. Use a baking soda and water solution to wipe the inside thoroughly. Got stubborn, sticky spots? Try a nonabrasive scrubbing tool or put warm, wet paper towels on top to loosen the spot. Once the interior is washed, get those shelves and drawers wiped down. There’s no point in having clean walls if the shelves aren’t clean as well! You can even task you kids with helping by having them wipe down the drawers and shelves while you clean the interior. That way the whole fridge will be clean in no time! Also, take some time out to clean out any old food that may be sitting in your refrigerator. That mystery meat that keeps getting pushed to the back should be dumped ASAP!
- How often: Many experts recommend a top-to-bottom cleaning every season but at least twice a year. Don’t forget to regularly clean out any fans or ice makers. You’ll also need to make sure that any place with filters is regularly cleaned. Build-ups of bacteria happen in these areas quicker than most.
- Dishwasher. The dishwasher, like the washing machine, is one of those appliances that many assume is self-cleaning. I mean, it constantly has water and soap running through it, so it must be clean, right? But that’s not the case. Lime scale, soap scum and food particles cause the machine to work inefficiently. A clean dishwasher begins with hot water. So check to make sure your hot-water heater is operating at the optimal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (about 49 degrees Celsius). Next, empty the filter of food and debris, remove and clean the racks, and wipe the inside with a dry cloth or sponge. Avoid using hand soap or dish detergent, which can damage the machine’s components. Finally, use white vinegar or baking soda to remove hard-water stains.
- How often: Every four to six weeks.
- Microwave. Food splatters are a fact of life when using this appliance. Even if you can live with seeing a mess every time you nuke your burrito, know that food particles can eventually make your machine run less efficiently. And nobody wants a cold burrito. Plus all of the smells and tastes that linger in the microwave will linger in your next microwaved dish (or maybe just the strong ones). Prevention is the name of the game here. Cover your food to minimize splatters, and wipe the inside of your microwave daily with a wet sponge or towel before food has a chance to harden. For more stubborn spots, try heating about 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe container on high for two to three minutes. The steam should help loosen the caked-on spots. Next, use white vinegar to wipe out the inside. Also, make vacuuming your microwave’s vents part of your vacuuming routine. Now you won’t be embarrassed if a friend wants to use your microwave!
- How often: Daily maintenance. Steam clean once a week.
- Range and oven. This appliance probably took the brunt of your holiday cooking messes. It’s not the easiest or quickest thing to clean, but as the star of your kitchen, it’s necessary. Remove the burners and trays and soak them in soapy water for 20 minutes, then scrub clean with a sponge. Wipe down the stove-top. For the oven, remove the racks and soak them in sudsy water in your sink, then wipe clean with a sponge. Look to your owner’s manual for the right cleaning method for the oven, but you can begin by vacuuming out the crumbs on the bottom and wiping the inside with a damp sponge. A commercial oven cleaner will be your best bet but there are alternative solutions as well. As a daily preventative measure, try putting parchment paper on the bottom to catch drips and spills and change out as needed.
- How often: As needed. The stove top should be wiped down after every meal to prevent any buildup of messes.
- Stainless steel. Stainless steel appliances continue to be the norm in most kitchens. While its name implies a certain built-in cleanliness, steel surfaces, including countertops, are still prone to rust and stains. Use soft sponges and microfiber cloths to wipe steel surfaces. Avoid steel scouring pads, which can scratch surfaces. For tough spots, use plastic scrubbing pads. For brushed or polished steel surfaces, always wipe and scrub with the grain direction. Use CLR for any hard-water stains, and diluted vinegar, baking soda, alcoholic solvents and chloride-free glass sprays elsewhere.
- How often: Daily.
Spots and stains on countertops are probably the most visible and pressing messes in your kitchen. Each material is different, so do some research before you break out the abrasive cleansers, which could damage your countertop beyond repair.
- Marble. Few materials offer the subtle beauty of marble. But it comes with a price, both in terms of cost and maintenance. Etching from lemon juice, alcohol, or tomato sauce can wreak havoc on your precious marble surfaces. First, avoid acidic substances coming into contact with your countertop. That includes cleaning products but also vinegar, lemon juice, and bleach. To clean, just use mild soap, water and a nonabrasive sponge. At least once a month, experts recommend applying a spray sealer to help reduce stains and etching.
- How often: Daily. Seal once a month.
- Granite. Still the most popular countertop material, granite is relatively easy to keep clean. You can get by with using a soft cloth and warm water, or cleansers made specifically for granite. Every year or two, seal your slab with an impregnating water-based sealer made for granite. You’ll still want to avoid acidic cleaners and citrus when possible. And don’t use steel wool, which can scratch most countertops. Plus, never place a hot pot or pan on a countertop surface. Always use a trivet or hot pad for protection.
- How often: Daily. Seal every year or two.
- Butcher block and cutting board. Even if you don’t have full butcher block countertops, chances are you’ve got a hefty cutting board that needs cleaning. Unlike, say, laminate surfaces that take awhile for stains to penetrate, wood surfaces require fast acting. After you’re done cutting or chopping, remove all food waste and scrub the surface with mild soap, then dry it. To disinfect, avoid chemical cleaners whose residues can taint food. Instead, use undiluted vinegar. For tough stains, try lemon with table salt, or baking soda. Over time, your wood may need an oil boost. Spread it evenly, let sit for 15 minutes, then wipe off any excess with a clean towel.
- How often: After each use. Oil as needed.
It’s hard to feel like you’re operating in a clean kitchen when you know a huge, disorganized mess lurks behind your cabinet doors. Begin by taking everything out and sorting by what you want to keep, toss, and donate. Then, wipe down all the shelves and walls to remove stains and any food crumbs. This is a good time to assess what you can do to improve storage and organization. Don’t just stop where you store food. Take some time out to wipe down and organize your cutlery and appliances. Maybe you should think about donating that old blender that lives in the back of the cupboard that no one uses. Or maybe you see that you have a lot of things that are broken that you thought you got rid of but you kept because you thought you could fix it. Once you start the process, you’ll find it hard to stop.
How often: As needed.
Walls see a fair share of abuse from splatters, scuffs, and dings. Start including your walls every now and then in your vacuuming routine. This will help keep dust from accumulating and making the walls look drab. For spots, wipe clean with a damp cloth. For tougher areas, try a thick paste of baking soda and water. If all else fails, consider a Magic Eraser. Be sure to also wipe down any hand prints or fingerprints from little ones. You’ll be amazed and how quickly those start to accumulate when you start to look for them. Also, make sure that if anything splatters up to wipe it down fast. You don’t want to have to spend hours wiping down one stain
How often: Every few weeks or as needed.
A clean floor begins with regular vacuuming, sweeping, and/or mopping. But food stains and scuff marks need a little more attention. Laminate floors need a barely dampened mop and small amount of gentle cleanser. For tough spots, you’ll want to get on your hands and knees and work on the spot with a scrubber. The same goes for tile floors, but grout lines will give you more trouble. Hardwood floors are a different beast and will depend on the kind of finish that’s on your wood: polyurethane, shellac, wax or varnish. Reducing dirt by not wearing shoes inside your house is the first line of defense. Vacuuming, sweeping and dust mopping with a solution of dishwashing soap and water will take care of the rest. You’ll start to notice how much better your floor looks once you regularly clean it.
How often: Daily, once a week or as needed.
You don’t realize how much smell affects your sense of what is clean or dirty until you smell something bad. No matter how clean your kitchen looks, if it smells off, it will feel dirty. Garbage disposals are a common odor culprit. There are several methods for ridding your sink of stink. Create a pasty liquid with lemon juice and baking soda and pour the fizzing mixture into the disposal. Let it sit for a few minutes. Run cold water and turn on the disposal for one minute. You can also sprinkle baking soda down the drain, then pour in vinegar and let it sit for about five minutes. Run hot water for 30 seconds and repeat as needed. Or try cutting up a lemon and placing a slice into each slot of an empty ice cube tray. Fill the tray with vinegar and freeze. Toss a handful of the cubes into the disposal every few days and run it with cold water until they’re crushed. Now your once smelly garbage disposal will smell lemony fresh.
How often: Let your nose guide you, or every few days.
What good is a view if it’s blurred by smudges, dirt, and the odd bird imprint? Don’t leave out windows in your cleaning routine. Before you begin, make sure you protect your floors, walls and countertops from any drips of cleaning solution you’ll be using. A solution of warm water and mild dish soap is a safe bet. Use a sponge to scrub down the windows, getting into the creases and corners. Then use a squeegee and wipe dry with a clean towel. Don’t forget to clean the window screens and the exterior glass. There’s no point having one clean side if you can’t see through the other side.
How often: Up to you, but two to three times a year is recommended.
Pots and Pans
A dirty pan will make even the most spotless kitchen feel like a mess. You know, the ones with grease and who knows what caked in the corners that never seem to be clean? Washing by hand with dish soap and warm water after each use is the best way to go, but you’ll want to employ different methods for different materials. Always be sure that the dish soap you use has a grease fighter in it to help eliminate those tough stains. Dishes still dirty? If your pot or pan can handle steel wool use it! Now your pots and pans will look almost as good as the day you bought them.
How often: After each use.
Finally, what good is a clean kitchen if you’ve got fruit flies buzzing around? Fruit flies have to enter your home, so start by making sure your windows and doors are sealed properly. Next, make a trap by pouring some vinegar or red wine into a dish and cover it with plastic wrap. Then poke a few holes through the top and leave the trap out on the counter to attract the flies. The flies will enter and drown or get stuck and die. As a preventative measure, consider mesh covers or glass containers for your fruit. Also be sure to regularly take out your trash. You’d be amazed and how quickly fruit flies will gather around your garbage can.
How often: As needed.