As much as we wish it weren’t true, sometimes the kitchen needs a good purge. Baked-on grease, dusty pantries and cluttered counters aren’t just unsightly—they’re unsanitary, too! And since no one has yet perfected the self-cleaning kitchen, it’s up to you—with the help of a little elbow grease—to get the job done. Here are some smart ways to tackle the worst jobs—without sacrificing your sanity in the process.
Tackle Your Oven the Smart Way
Next to the refrigerator, the oven has got to be the worst thing to clean in the kitchen. And unfortunately, there’s no great way to get it sparkling besides a good old-fashioned scrubbing. But you can make it easier on yourself. Loosen baked-on grit by heating it: set the oven for 225 degrees, and pop a pan of water in for 15 minutes. The rising steam from the water breaks up the caked-on stuff. Hit harder-to-clean spots with a paste made from baking soda and water. Then spritz with white vinegar for some all-natural foaming action. Last, pull out the racks and let them soak in a hot bath for up to an hour. Not a miracle cure by any means, but it beats scrubbing all day.
Stand Up to Your Stovetop
Of course you can’t really call the oven clean until you’ve given the stovetop some much-needed attention. Stoves are tricky, though; depending on the type you have, you may have a little more work in front of you. Generally speaking, for a flat cooktop, it’s up to our old friends vinegar and baking soda. Make another paste and spread it on the surface. Let it sit for a few hours, then wipe it away, loosening any lingering remnants with a nylon scraper. For a stove with electric coils, follow the same steps, but remove the burners first to wipe out any food scraps that may have collected below. For a gas stove, gently lift the burners and then follow the steps outlined here to get both the stovetop and burners spiffy clean.
Get Your Pantry in Order
You could write a whole book on pantry organization (and indeed, someone has—it’s called DIY Pantry Cleaning Hacks, and you can buy it on Amazon). But the main things to do are a) pitch out expired foods and b) wipe up the crumbs and sticky stuff. Only then should you contemplate a serious reorganization. Generally, homeowners follow a system resembling this one: frequently-used items, like cereal and snacks, go on the eye-level shelves. Place lighter items up top—your spices, baking ingredients and extra paper towels, for instance. Then put heavy items on the lowest shelves, things like large jars of oil and vinegar. This is where extras can go too, for instance, any “just-in-case” items, like canned food and emergency supplies.
Take on the Refrigerator
When it comes to loathsome kitchen cleaning tasks, this one ranks right up there. You probably already know the basics of fridge cleaning (if not, Apartment Therapy has some great insights), but there are a couple of things you can do to make the process a bit smoother. First place the trash can next to you to hold anything you’re not going to keep. Next, wipe down anything you plan to put back—it will save time cleaning next time. Soak the trays and shelves in a large tub to lift grimy food residue fast. And don’t forget to vacuum the refrigerator coils! It will save you money on your electricity bills and improve the efficiency of your fridge.
Confront Microwave Grease
A greasy, nasty microwave is no place for your popcorn. But it’s not exactly fun to clean out either. Fortunately, Good Housekeeping has a tip that should take some of the pain out of microwave cleanup. Essentially, you fill a microwave-safe bowl with a cup of water and a few tablespoons of vinegar and set it on cook for a few minutes. The boiling, steaming solution will loosen baked-on grit—but be sure to let it cool a little first before you try removing it! Then attack the walls and door with vinegar, water and a sponge for super clean snacking.
Attack the Coffeemaker
Want a really tasty cup of morning joe? You’re going to have to clean that coffee maker then! Luckily, this one is pretty cut-and-dry. Fill the water reservoir with water and vinegar, then set the pot to brew (or use the clean cycle, if your brewer has one). Run through a few more cycles using water, which will eliminate that vinegar taste. Once that’s done, scrub outside and underneath the coffee maker to get rid of any crumbs, beans or grinds. If you have a reusable filter, pull it out and let it soak overnight in vinegar and water to wash away buildup and improve the taste of your coffee.
Sort Out Counter Clutter
To listen to decluttering acolytes and Marie Kondo devotees, you’d think a cluttered kitchen represented some sort of spiritual decline. While we’re not sure we’d go that far, a counter full of junk does make your kitchen seem a lot messier than it is. To combat clutter, hang mounted baskets under the cabinets and store excess stuff there. And maybe consider installing a small appliance garage too—it’s a great place to stuff infrequently-used products, like the blender and crock pot.
Put Cabinet Junk in Its Place
Of course, if your counter is cluttered, chances are pretty high that your cabinets are, too. If you’re currently suffering from cabinet overflow, use stacked shelves and drawer pulls to make a place for everything. And don’t overlook your doors—throw a few command hooks on the back and you can use them to hold everything from pots to spoons to measuring cups. Meanwhile, don’t neglect the top of the upper cabinets either—if they’re anything like most peoples’, they could probably use a good dusting!
Once you do all that, you’ll totally deserve a lazy Sunday binge session, so here are a few ideas what to watch. Trust us—binging feels amazing after you’ve just cleaned house!