Speed-Clean Your Pantry Checklist

Take your pantry from filthy to flawless in just 15 minutes.

  1. Check Minutes 1 to 3:

    Move the trash can near the pantry. Empty shelves onto the counter, tossing out anything expired or suspicious (old cracker boxes, ancient bags of flour, outdated canned goods). Most dried herbs and ground spices should be replaced every six months (jot down those you throw away so you’ll remember to replace them); goods like honey and brown sugar can last forever.

  2. Check Minute 4:

    If you’re overloaded with canned goods, make a bag for a local food bank (see for locations). Separate the “keeper” contents into two categories: everyday items and occasionally used items.

  3. Check Minute 5:

    Fill a bowl with warm water and a squirt of dish soap. Dip a sponge cloth in the solution, wring it out, and wipe down sticky jars and dusty cans. Let dry.

  4. Check Minute 6:

    With a handheld vac, clear the shelves of crumbs, being extra diligent in the corners.

  5. Check Minute 7:

    Sprinkle baking soda on any honey drippings, jelly spots, or other residue. Top each with a paper towel soaked in hot water. Let sit for a few seconds.

  6. Check Minutes 8 to 9:

    Lift the paper towels and use a spatula (or an old credit card) to dislodge the now softened sticky stuff. Then dip and wring the sponge cloth again, and wipe down all shelves.

  7. Check Minutes 10 to 11:

    Dry shelves thoroughly with a cloth. Apply shelf liner (it wipes clean and makes it easier to slide things in and out).

  8. Check Minute 12:

    Place items that tend to get lost—loose packets (oatmeal, Sloppy Joe mix), tiny jars (bouillon)—in a plastic bin.

  9. Check Minutes 13 to 15:

    Reload the pantry. Put everyday stuff—cereal, pet food, lunch ingredients, snacks—at the most accessible levels. Light occasional items (spare paper towels) belong on top. Heavy occasionals (jugs of oil) can go on the bottom. Group by category: baking supplies all in a cluster, for example. Keep multiples (three cans of chickpeas, say) together, so you don’t lose track of your stock.