Clean wood shelves with herbs in jars and food in containers, plus a pantry cleaning checklist overlay in the corner.

A Cleaning Checklist For A Practical Pantry

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Ever look at your pantry and think it looks like a tornado struck? It’s hard to find what you need when everything’s a mess, so you spend money buying things you already have.

Messy pantries attract pests, too. So let’s tackle this spot with my easy-to-follow pantry cleaning checklist.

Pretty Isn’t Always Practical.

We’ve all sighed over Instagram pantry pics. Although satisfying to look at, they often require daily upkeep, especially if your family gets things out of the pantry. Emphasizing an aesthetic also leads to storing things inconveniently or a poor use of space. 

With this pantry cleaning checklist, we focus on preventing pests, decluttering and donating excess, and organizing the rest to make the pantry serve us—not the other way around.

Pro Tip

Finish cleaning and decluttering before you buy organizing containers and bins. You may not need them at all. And if you do, you’ll know exactly what size to get.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies.

  • Cleaning supplies: Peppermint essential oil, white vinegar, warm soapy water, baking soda, floor cleaner.
  • Cleaning equipment: Spray bottle, microfiber cloths, bucket, vacuum with attachments, mop.

Step 2: Prep.

First, mix up a pantry pest control spray using equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Then add a dash of peppermint essential oil, which is known for repelling pests in stored products like those found in our pantries.

Now, let’s get the pantry ready for a thorough cleaning by pulling everything out of it. Start by emptying those shelves. As you do, sort items into keep, donate, or discard piles. Also, keep a list of things you need to replace.

Step 3: Clean and Spray.

Dust: Time to dust or vacuum it to get rid of loose debris. Be sure to get the undersides of shelves plus doors, trim, and baseboards. 

Wipe: Fill the bucket with warm water, add a couple drops of dish soap, and stir in some baking soda for extra cleaning and deodorizing power. Now grab a microfiber cloth and give those shelves, doors, and baseboards a good scrub. 

Rinse: Refill the bucket with fresh water, grab a fresh microfiber cloth, and rinse the soapy residue from all your freshly scrubbed surfaces. Let them air dry.

Vacuum and mop: Go around the base of walls with your crevice attachment, then vacuum the rest of the floor. Mop it, too, starting at the wall opposite the door and working your way out.

Spot test then spray: Spot test the natural pantry pest control spray on a hidden area of your shelf and wall. Wait a few minutes then wipe the spots with a damp cloth. If it’s all good, apply the spray and let it dry in place where it’ll work its pest-prevention magic.

Step 4: Declutter and Sort.

Here’s where we get your pantry working for you, not against you. As we go through this step, keep dumping or donating things that have just been taking up space.

Now, the first key to effective pantry storage is grouping things by function. For example, huddle your oils together on a tray to catch drips. Stash canned goods by category like vegetables, soups, etc.

By grouping things, you (and your family members) can skip the rummaging and go straight to what you need.

Pro Tip

Wipe items with a soapy rag as you sort them so you don’t restock your shelves with dust.

Once you get things grouped, you’ll probably find a few duplicates. Combine any partially used items and repackage dry goods in air-tight containers to keep them fresh and protect them from pests.

Step 5: Finish Up.

Here’s the second key to making your pantry practical: store things so they’re easy to access. That means thinking about who’s most likely to need them, and how often.

For example, if your kids don’t see snacks, they’ll dig around for them and mess up your pantry shelves. So, stash their snacks at eye-level—and put your goodies where they won’t see them.

But also consider how often you need something—why give up prime space to stuff you rarely use? Also, it’s safest to keep heavy things on the bottom shelves so you don’t pull them down on you.

And there you have it: a clean, organized pantry that’s convenient to use. To keep it tidy, give it a good sweep every couple of weeks and mop it monthly.

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9 Comments

  1. I’m starting a new job soon. With my significant other and I both working each week, I’m going to use your printables to make cleaning a faster and easier task. My life revolves around checklists, so your site is amazing to me. Thank you so much for all your hard work. 🙂

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Congratulations on your new job, Kaila. I’m glad you’re enjoying the printables!

  2. I’m just reading over the days and this one is a day I’m NOT looking forward to. I am though looking forward to how my house will look when I’m done. So far the daily cleaning routine is going good, the other day my daughter wanted to make the bed before we got out of it.

  3. Raquel@2dayswoman says:

    Alright, your post has really inspired me to clean my pantry (long overdue!) I suspect I’m going to find all sorts of things lurking in the back….We usually have a good suply of canned food just in case we get stuck at home.
    I hope your husband is recovering well. Best wishes to you and your family.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you, Raquel. He’s recovering nicely! I’m due for a pantry-cleaning, too, after our house guests leave. Three weeks with other people going through the cupboards and pantry willy nilly (and not even paying attention to my pretty shelf labels… *sniff*) means it’s a mess.

  4. Small Town Mommy says:

    These are some really great ideas. I love my pantry but it can definitely get out of hand.

  5. Mariette's Back to Basics says:

    Dearest Katie,

    First off, I hope that your husband is recovering well. That’s more important even than the pantry.
    Guess after several moves and quite some years I learned some tricks in keeping the pantry neat. Important is to have a sequence where you put the newest items so you don’t end up keeping the old things forever. Grouping by use is great and I do that too.
    I’ve learned to place flour and also rice in the freezer for avoiding any meal bugs. Works very well.
    Wishing you both well and sending hugs,
    Mariette

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you, Mariette. He’s recovering nicely! The tip about putting flour and rice in the freezer is an excellent one. I freeze ours for a few days after we get it home to kill anything that might be in there already, then move it to air-tight canisters. Fortunately, we don’t have a meal bug problem. (Though I’m going to keep my fingers crossed on that, the way our luck has been of late.)

  6. amy @ fearless homemaker says:

    love this post! when i married my husband + we moved in together, i discovered all sorts of creepy stuff – sauces that expired 5+ years ago, etc. ick! i’m super guilty of leaving 5 potato chips in the bottom of a bag, pushing it to the back of the pantry, then ignoring it. i’m trying to get better, though! =)

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