How to Keep Your Kitchen Clean All the Time

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Professional chefs know a thing or two about keeping kitchens clean. Now, you can learn their secrets and use them to keep your kitchen clean all the time, too.

A clean kitchen featuring a large island

5 Secrets to Keeping Your Kitchen Clean

Guess who knows a thing or two about keeping a kitchen clean, no matter how busy it gets? Professional chefs, that’s who!

Bet you thought I was going to say me, right? But many of my kitchen cleaning tricks come from years spent working under the watchful glare of picky kitchen managers and chefs. Although it’s been a few years (okay, a few decades), I still follow the kitchen rules they taught me.

So, read on for the secrets professionals use to keep even busy kitchens clean. The more of these tips you put into practice, the cleaner your kitchen will stay.

1. Clean While You Cook

The dirtier your kitchen gets, the harder it is to clean it. That’s why Julia Childs swore by the “clean as you go” rule.

Use a “scraps bowl” while preparing food. Keep a bowl next to your cutting board while chopping food and toss the scraps into it, rather than making multiple trips to the trash can or compost bucket. This practice will reduce spills and drips on the floor.

Wipe spills when you make them instead of leaving them for later. Frequent wiping keeps countertop messes under control. It’s also crucial for food safety.

Always leave one side of the sink empty for washing. You need to wash your hands often while cooking, especially if you’re handling raw meats or poultry. So, at least one side of your sink should stay empty. If you’ve got a divided sink, this is easy enough to do even if you’ve got to wash dishes by hand. For single-basin sinks, though, you should use a “washing up bowl” filled with soapy water. Set it to the side of your sink, so you can wash hands and rinse utensils while cooking.

2. Keep Your Kitchen Curated

Chefs (and tidy people) know that the less stuff you’ve got to rummage through to find what you need, the faster you’ll work and the less mess you make. So curate your kitchen by making sure everything in it is earning its place. Then, tidy up what you’re keeping, so it’s easy to use.

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Purge spices you never use. That saffron left from a recipe you made six years ago has long since lost its flavor, so why keep it? Toss anything that doesn’t smell or look fresh. Then, adopt the chef’s practice of alphabetizing your herbs and spices to make finding the right ones easy.

Guard your countertops. If you only bake now and then, there’s no reason to give space to your stand mixer. Put it away and only leave out things you use at least twice a week. Most importantly, if you can’t wash something, don’t display it on your kitchen counter, where it will collect grease and dust.

No knickknacks in the cooking triangle. The space between the cooktop or stove, the kitchen sink, and the refrigerator is known as the cooking- or kitchen triangle. Most food-preparation tasks happen in that triangle so, not surprisingly, most spills and kitchen messes do, too. Keep knickknacks and decorative items out of the kitchen triangle, and you’ll find the messes are easier to clean.

3. Make Clean-Up Easy

The less effort you or other family members have to put into cleaning up messes, the cleaner your kitchen will stay. So, before cooking a meal, always make sure there’s room in the trash can for the scraps and packaging you’ll be adding to it. Then, take these additional steps to keep the kitchen clean:

Keep cleaning supplies and rags handy. Soapy water and a microfiber cloth are enough for most spills. Use homemade disinfecting wipes or bleach water to clean surfaces contaminated by raw meats or poultry.

Hang separate cleaning and hand towels. Even these days, people often don’t wash their hands well enough. Whatever’s left on their skin gets on the towel they dry with. Don’t use that nasty towel on your food preparation surface — keep separate towels for mopping up spills instead. (I love these bar mop towels because they’re absorbent, textured enough to scrub messes, and you can get rid of stains with bleach.

Switch to cordless floor cleaners. Any time cleaning is a hassle, cleaning gets put off. That goes for cleaning floors, too. If you’re still using a corded vacuum in the rest of your house because they’re more powerful, more power to you. But in the kitchen, you need something easy enough to use at least once a day to deal with crumbs and dirt. A broom and dust mop are the obvious choice, but cordless vacuums work well, too. (I use a powered sweeper, which you can read about on my Recommended Products page.)

4. Don’t Let Things Sit

You’ll never, ever see a professional chef go home after a shift and leave behind a filthy kitchen. (And if they did, you wouldn’t want to eat there.) It’s not just that dirty kitchens attract all sorts of pests like cockroaches, though they do. It’s also because crusty, dry messes are harder to clean.

If you can’t wash dishes right away, at least rinse or soak them. (Parents with teenagers find themselves saying this one a lot!) This is where a divided sink or the washing up bowl mentioned above comes in handy. If you don’t have time to do the dishes after a meal or snack, soak them.

Tackle stovetop spills when they happen. The longer splattered food sits on your cooktop, the more “baked on” it’ll get. Use pot lids or grease screens to keep messes from happening. (I love this splatter screen, which also keeps grease from flying around the rest of my kitchen.) Then finish every cooking session by wiping down the stovetop, including the knobs.

5. Have a Kitchen Closing Time

Ever notice that the kitchen at your favorite restaurant closes about an hour before the bar does? It’s not just so kitchen staff can grab a shift drink before the whole place closes (though that happens). It’s also because the kitchen staff has a routine they follow to close the kitchen every night, and they need time to do it. So do you.

Now, you don’t have to be concerned about washing your kitchen’s walls or cleaning grease traps daily like a restaurant does (or should). But your kitchen does need a nightly routine which, at a minimum, includes:

  • Empty the sink and wash it with hot, soapy water.
  • Run the garbage disposal to make sure there’s no food sitting in it.
  • Wipe countertops, stovetops, appliance handles, and the inside of the microwave.
  • Clean crumbs and spills on the floor.
  • Empty the trash can, so it doesn’t attract pests or stink up your kitchen.
  • Set out a clean towel for the next day.

The Key to Keeping a Clean Kitchen

Remember, the ultimate secret to keeping a clean kitchen is to deal with messes as they happen. The easier you make this to do, the cleaner your kitchen will stay. So, make sure you’ve got cleaning supplies handy and that your countertops aren’t so cluttered that it’s hard to wipe up spills. Wash dishes as you use them or use half the sink to soak dishes while keeping the other half empty for hand-washing. Finally, at the end of each day, give your kitchen a quick once-over to tidy spills and empty the trash. Voila, you’ll have a clean kitchen all the time without spending all of your time cleaning it.

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  1. Love your book and routines. I now do the Daily every day without prompting. Sure would like an app for my iphone though to send me reminders of the other cleaning jobs….I find too many reasons to ignore my printed list!

    1. I’m so glad you like the book, PJ! I’m planning to create an app in 2018 — it’s just a somewhat steep learning curve. 🙂

    2. I second his request, I love your guides and an app would be wonderful. I wish you the best on making that happen and will watch for updates 🙂

    3. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to create and release an app by the end of the year. 🙂

  2. I do these things and they work! Now if his 25 year old daughter would do them as well, my kitchen would always look great!! :o)

  3. hi Katie

    do you have any tips on resolving mould and things please as i’m in process of my neighbours flat leaking and causing me to have mould and its making my chest bad, its in my kitchen and my bathroom

    by the way your tips and cleaning routines are completely awesome as this has me cleaning daily one room at a time throughout tuesday to friday then all deep cleans on sundays.

    many thanks

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