The best method for kitchen cleaning, no matter how much time you have. 

By Real Simple
Updated August 07, 2018
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Kitchen Cleaning Plan, beautiful kitchen with vegetables in the sink and window
Credit: Lisa Romerein

The kitchen is one of those spaces where the cleaning battle never seems to end. But there's one thing that makes the process more manageable: adopting a kitchen cleaning plan. In our new book, The Real Simple Method for Organizing Every Room, we've developed a plan you can customize based on how much time you have. If you only have 15 minutes to spare, start with the first section. Want to upgrade to an hour-long cleaning session? Add on part two. Ready to devote an entire weekend to a kitchen-cleaning spree? Head straight to section three. No matter which section you tackle, the plan is designed to make every minute count, so you can get your kitchen sparkling faster.

If You Have 15 Minutes...

  • Hide what you can. This is not the time for an overhaul. Throw dirty dishes in the dishwasher; heck, throw anything in the dishwasher, as long as you remember not to turn it on. Then, use the pantry to store cabinet overflow and random bags of snack foods that were out on the counter before a surprise guest announced they were on their way over in about 15.
  • Wipe down surfaces. A sparkling countertop makes the whole room look spiffy.

If You Have 1 Hour...

  • Edit your kitchen drawers. It takes mere minutes to round up duplicate tools. Test them all, keep the one that works best, then donate or toss the rest. Extra credit: Move rarely used pieces (turkey baster, melon baller) to a bin on a high shelf.
  • Pare down the pantry. Toss any expired foods, and consolidate doubles into one container. As you're slimming down your supply, store like items with like to avoid doubling up again.
  • Clear off countertop space. Move any appliances you don't use every day (food processor, blender, toaster) to bottom shelves so they're not taking up precious prep-work space.

If You Have a Weekend...

  • Fix your fridge. It's time to invest in clear bins for your food items so you can see exactly what you have at any give moment. In the same spirit, pull out the crisper drawer it it's possible with your model. The minute that thing is closed, it's like food in there doesn't exist because you're not seeing it. Without the drawer, you have a nice, open shelf that keeps items visible, prompting you to use them.
  • Curate the containers. The same logic goes for food containers. Get rid of the large yogurt tubs or opaque lidded bowls you use for leftovers. If you're not seeing what's inside, you're likely to forget about what's in them. Invest in a uniform set of clear glass containers—square or rectangular ones take up less space than round ones.
  • Pick apart the pantry. Remove everything and wipe down the shelves. Then, organize items in clear jars or plastic boxes, arranged by food type. (Pastas in one, beans in another.) Stash the stuff you reach for most often at eye level.
  • Pick your fave pots and pans. Chances are, you don't use every pot or pan in the 10-piece set you bought, and it's easy to stockpile saucepans without realizing it. Sift through your collection and keep only the ones you use on a regular basis. (If one looks too clean, it's probably not one you use often.) Edit your collection, wash your faves, and hang them up. Donate the rest, or give them to a niece or nephew on their way to college.

Afraid your living room, bedroom, and bathroom will be jealous when they see how neat and tidy the kitchen is? Our new book has cleaning checklists for every single room in your home.