The Ultimate Guide to a Clean Kitchen
During the holiday season, our kitchens become the prep space for enormous meals, cookie factories for shipping out dozens of treats, and the most popular hang-out spot for family and friends. And somewhere between the tenth batch of cookies and the third unexpected guest, the room turns into a chaotic mess. While some degree of inevitable mess must be embraced during this busy time, if you give yourself a head start with a deep clean before the big event, it won’t seem so daunting. When every pot and pan is clean and the stovetop is degreased, you’ll be ready to get cooking when it’s time to make Christmas brunch. And with a decluttered fridge, finding room for all of the leftovers has never been easier. Follow these ten steps to get your kitchen truly clean now, and we guarantee you’ll thank yourself later.
20-Minute Fridge Refresh
If you’re hosting the big meal, you’ll appreciate an organized refrigerator when it’s time to find a spot for the roast or a giant cake. Set a timer for 20 minutes, then follow our quick three-step plan, below, and use our printable speed-cleaning plan to stay on track.
- Take everything out of the fridge. Check the expiration dates and toss anything that’s expired, then wipe down the shelves, walls, and drawers with a sponge dipped in hot, soapy water. Quick tip: to deodorize, wipe down the walls a second time with a paper towel dipped in a bowl of diluted vanilla extract.
- Organize everything by categories and place party essentials so they’re easy to reach. Stock the door shelves with drinks you can grab quickly. Keep the vegetables and cheeses you plan to serve as appetizers near each other. If you know that guests will also be bringing dishes or drinks, be sure to leave a space open for them.
- Wipe down the door using a soft cloth dipped in soapy water. Be sure to wipe a stainless steel door in the direction of the grain.
Sanitize Your Microwave Touchpad
Your microwave’s touchpad likely isn’t on the top of your speed-cleaning checklist, but it should be. According to Elizabeth Scott Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at Simmons College in Boston, it’s one of the top five spots to clean after meal prep because it can easily become cross-contaminated.
With the microwave door open, wipe the touchpad with a cotton ball dipped in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Then dry with a microfiber cloth. Not only will the surface look cleaner, but this quick one-minute tip could help keep your guests healthy.
Declutter Your Counter
Whether you’re baking cookies to send to far-off family members or hosting Christmas dinner, you’re going to want all the kitchen counter space you can get. To declutter this area quickly, start by removing any appliances you’re not planning to use, like the toaster oven, and hiding them in a cabinet. Also move any decorative items to a cabinet or even to another room. Place essential cooking tools, like spatulas and spoons, in a holder, and use a tray to corral items you reach for again and again, such as salt and pepper shakers.
Replace Your Water Filters
If you haven’t replaced the water filter in your fridge or kitchen faucet for a year, you may not notice that the water no longer tastes fresh—but chances are your guests will. If you have an ice maker, empty out any ice that tastes off, and make a fresh batch before the party.
Fill a handheld water filter and store it in the fridge so you’ll have cold, filtered water ready for guests when they arrive. You can also transfer the water to a glass pitcher for a more elegant presentation.
Speed-clean the Stovetop
When you’re preparing a big holiday meal, your stovetop is the star of the show. Get it sparkling clean before the big day in three easy steps.
- Remove the grates and knobs and spritz them with a degreaser. Let them soak for a few minutes, then wipe with a wet sponge to make sure no residue is left.
- Wipe away crumbs with a damp paper towel. Soak cooked-on gunk with warm soapy water and let sit for five minutes before scrubbing with a non-scratch scouring pad.
- Replace the grates and knobs, making sure the “off” markings are correctly aligned.
Quick-Clean Your Cast Iron
If a cast-iron pan is your go-to for making your family’s famous caramelized Brussels sprouts, make sure the skillet is clean and seasoned before you start cooking. To season your cast-iron, coat the skillet in cooking oil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.
Unfortunately, you shouldn’t soak a dirty cast iron skillet (the water can cause it to rust), but that doesn’t mean you need to spend an hour scrubbing while your guests are waiting. Rather than resort to dish detergent (which can strip the seasoning off the pan), grab this $3 scrubber instead. It quickly scraps off cooked-on food. We also recently discovered The Ringer, a stainless steel pan scrubber. In our test, it cleaned even the dirtiest of skillets in less than three minutes, so you can get back to the party quickly.
Organize the Pantry
Similar to an organized fridge, a decluttered pantry will make meal prep much easier. To speed-clean your pantry, set a timer for 15 minutes, then jump in on the plan below.
- Move the trash can near the pantry. Take everything out, and throw away anything that’s expired.
- Using a cloth dipped in hot, soapy water, wipe down sticky jars, cans, and shelves. Using a handheld vacuum, clear away crumbs.
- Organize everything by categories, and be strategic about placement. Everyday items like snacks and lunch essentials should be kept on the middle shelf, while light paper goods belong on the top shelf. Before the big party, leave extras you might likely reach for (paper towels and plastic cutlery) in an easy-to-reach spot. Go through the menu you have planned and gather all of the pantry ingredients in one area.
Deodorize Your Garbage Disposal
Whether you’re hosting your entire family or a few close friends, the last thing you want is to be embarrassed by a smelly garbage disposal. Luckily, the trick to making sure it smells fresh is probably already in your fridge: citrus. Add pieces of lemon, orange, lime, or grapefruit peels to your disposal while running the hot water. The fresh citrus will help deodorize the disposal, while the running water will flush out an lingering bits of food. Now you’re ready to tackle the post-feast cleanup.
Deep-Clean the Floor
If you sometimes skip washing the kitchen floor during your weekly cleanup session (no judgment here), now’s the time to play catch-up. To make the most of your speed clean, be sure to choose the best method for the type of flooring you have. For a vinyl floor, mix up a solution of ¼ cup vinegar, one drop of dish soap, and warm water in a 16-ounce spray bottle. Spritz the floor one section at a time and wipe with a damp microfiber mop. If you have a natural stone floor, ditch the vinegar (the acid can harm this surface), and stick with a microfiber mop and hot water.
If you really want to make a good impression on your in-laws, use a steam cleaner to remove both stains and bacteria. This $32 machine does the work for you, so you won’t have to spend hours scrubbing grout.
De-Stink Your Dishwasher
A dishwasher saves the day after hosting a meal for 15, so get it ready by running a wash cycle before the big event. When the appliance is empty, place a cup full of vinegar on the top rack and run a wash cycle. For a light citrus-y scent, you can also try placing a lemon wedge in the cutlery container before running a wash cycle.
To load the appliance efficiently after the feast, brush up on these smart dishwasher loading tips. Did you know that to get plates cleanest, they should face toward the center rather than all in one direction? Also try varying the direction forks and spoons are placed, with some facing up and others down, to avoid nesting.