Wondering how to keep the kitchen clean without having to spend every day cleaning it? You are not alone.
I HAVE A BUSY KITCHEN
I often refer to mine as a “working kitchen” because it’s nothing like the kitchens some of my friends have: beautifully decorated rooms where they drink coffee or eat take-out. They’re not into cooking, and that’s okay — they’re always eager to come over when I throw a dinner party.
In contrast, my kitchen is more of a mish-mash of decor where cookbooks and jars of home-canned food crowd the shelves and the kitchen table functions as both a dining surface and a place where my son plays on his laptop.
Since I do recipe development and food photography in addition to feeding a family, I cook at least three meals a day. Mine is a busy kitchen because it’s in constant use, and that means it can very quickly become a shocking mess if I’m not careful.
THESE 20 TIPS WORK
When most people visit my home, they remark at how clean my kitchen is. Honestly, I don’t spend all day cleaning — I do what I can to minimize messes, which is what these tips are all about.
So if you’re struggling to keep your kitchen clean, here are 20 tips to help you out.
How To Keep The Kitchen Clean
1. Keep the sink empty. Used a glass or a plate? Rinse it and put it in the dishwasher immediately. No dishwasher? Keep a soap-dispensing sponge to make it easy to wash dishes right after use.
2. Use a tray to corral paper clutter. My family has a habit of dumping papers, keys, and phones on the kitchen island. I hung a mail sorter near the door, which reduced the paper pile a bit but other stuff still accumulated. Then a friend gave me a wood butler’s tray which I left on the island until I could find a permanent home for it. Before I could, everyone started to use it to hold their keys, phones, etc., so I left it in place. It corrals the mess on my island, and it looks nice, too. Problem solved.
3. Use coasters under jars. I don’t mean under your beverage glasses, although that’s always a good idea. Put coasters under things like honey and jam jars to catch drips and you won’t have to worry about the sticky mess getting on other things when you rummage through the cupboards.
4. Never work directly on your countertop. If you’re chopping vegetables, use a cutting board. Prep raw meats on top of a rimmed baking sheet so you can just pop it into the dishwasher. Roll out pastry or dough on top of wax or parchment paper that you can toss when you’re done.
5. Use a scrap bowl and a garbage bowl as you prep. Toss vegetable trimmings and peels in the scrap bowl as you’re making dinner, then transfer them to a container and freeze until you have a chance to make vegetable stock. Putting trash like food wrappers into a bowl as you work means you only have to make one trip to the garbage can, so you’re less likely to leave a mess behind.
6. Keep the trash can accessible. No one likes looking at a trash can, but tucking yours under a cupboard makes people less likely to use it. Get one with a foot pedal, and you don’t even need a free hand. Worried about odors? Tuck newspaper in the bottom to catch drips and change it regularly.
7. Keep wipes handy and use them. A container of cleaning wipes under the sink makes it easy to deal with spills and splatters. When you’re done cooking, grab a wipe and go over the counters and the sink faucets. Grab another and clean drips on the floor.
8. Vacuum, don’t sweep. I cannot stand brooms for indoor cleaning. Yes, they’re retro, but there’s a reason for that: technology has improved since Grandma’s straw-bristled broom was her pride and joy. Brooms mostly just move dust from one spot to another, and they leave behind that irritating line at the dustpan. Get an inexpensive stick vacuum and use it on the high-traffic areas in your kitchen at the end of the day — you can get that done during a commercial break, and will be amazed at what a difference it makes! (Or use a cleaning robot like mine.)
9. Use floor mats to catch cooking crumbs. You already know that mats placed at your home’s entrances reduce the dirt people track indoors. They work the same way in the kitchen. Place a floor mat with a non-slip backing in front of your sink, stove, and wherever you stand to prep food. They’ll catch spills along with crumbs, so you aren’t spreading them across the floor as you move.
10. Line the top of your refrigerator. Even if you store boxes of cereal up there, the top of your refrigerator is still a dust-magnet. Cover it with a sheet of wax paper a decorative towel or tablecloth. Switch out with a clean liner every week or two.
11. Spray, measure, and pour over your sink. No matter how careful you try to be, spraying cooking oils or measuring ingredients over the counter is messy. Why clean it if you don’t have to? Do that kind of work over the sink where you can just rinse it away.
12. Use a splatter screen when frying. Frying and sauteing food can leave a greasy, dust-collecting mess on surrounding surfaces. Pop a splatter screen on top of your pan to prevent this and toss it in the dishwasher when you’re done.
13. Cover food while microwaving. Use inexpensive microwave splatter screens and rinse them after use. I’m such a fan of the things that I literally took a permanent marker and wrote on the back wall of my microwave: “USE A SPLATTER SCREEN!” I haven’t had to scrub cooked-on food for years now.
14. Set spoons on a saucer. Cooking spoons, stirring spoons, measuring spoons: don’t put them on the counter! Rest them on a saucer that you can pop into the dishwasher, which is so much faster than having to wipe up a mess when you’re done.
15. Wrap your oils. Even the most careful cook finds that bottles of olive or avocado oil get grimy after a few uses. Cockroaches and other pests are attracted by oils, which is why you need to keep those bottles clean. An easy way to do this is by wrapping them tightly with a paper towel fastened in place by a rubber band. Change the towel during weekly kitchen cleanings.
16. Prep ingredients in bulk. Cleaning a big mess once a week is much easier than cleaning seven or more smaller messes throughout the week. So, look at your weekly menu plan and figure out which ingredients you can prepare in advance. Chopped onions, celery, carrots, and other vegetables will stay fresh in air-tight containers in the fridge, so why not spend a weekend afternoon knocking them out? You can shorten that into a mere half-hour with a vegetable chopper/dicer. (I’m crazy about mine!)
17. Use a baking sheet to catch oven drips. Never — let me repeat that, NEVER — line the bottom of your oven with foil. It’s a fire hazard, and it will most likely void your oven’s warranty. Instead, position a baking sheet on a rack immediately below any drippy food you’re cooking — like casseroles, frozen pizzas, etc. The sheet will catch drips so your oven floor stays clean, and all you have to do is pop the dirty sheet into the dishwasher.
18. Use washable placemats. Like the kitchen floor mats earlier, placemats catch crumbs and keep them from getting knocked around. They also catch drips, which is why it’s important that you buy washable ones.
19. Keep your cleaning spray handy. Even if you’re diligent, there will still be little messes to clean — fingerprints on your appliances, grime on your drawer pulls. Keep a bottle of homemade all-purpose spray cleaner and a microfiber cloth handy.
20. Establish a daily tidying routine. I’m a big fan of following a short daily routine to get every room in the house looking tidy between deeper cleanings. Spend a few minutes each and every day, even if you didn’t cook, to deal with common kitchen messes and your kitchen will always be clean.