“Dirty kitchen, prepare to be conquered!iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Keeping my kitchen clean and germ-free often seems as daunting as mastering nuclear physics, or some other completely unrealistic goal. Cooking three meals a day and serving countless crumby snacks equals messy countertops, oil-spattered stovetops and other nasty kitchen messes.
Fortunately for aspiring neat freaks everywhere, you can take a few simple steps to minimize the mess and eliminate the growth of icky, not to mention dangerous, bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and listeria. Keep reading for a few gems of wisdom (some common sense, others not so obvious) to help you maintain your kitchen in the healthiest way possible.
- Take Preventive Measures
- Pitch in as a Group
- Knock Out Two Meals at Once
- Avoid Pileups
- Run on Empty
5: Take Preventive Measures
You can prevent head injuries by donning a helmet, sunburns by wearing sunscreen and so on. Become a preventive princess in the kitchen by taking steps to avoid messes that don’t really need to happen in the first place. For instance, cover food in the microwave so it doesn’t pop, spatter and turn into a crusty mess. Put lids on sugar pots and coffee canisters so they don’t spill or invite insects into your home. Cover pots and pans when simmering soups and sauces on the stove.
Taking a couple of simple steps on the front end will greatly reduce the hassle come cleanup time. Besides, who really wants to scrape spaghetti sauce off the ceiling?
4: Pitch in as a Group
We’re well into the millennium, so there’s no need to keep up that June Cleaver 1950s kitchen mentality. In my personal and completely biased opinion, anyone who’s old enough to feed himself is perfectly capable of helping out with the cleanup. Toddlers can carry unbreakable plates and utensils to the sink. Older kids can load the dishwasher once you’ve rinsed the dishes thoroughly, or they can dry pots and pans after they’ve been washed. As for husbands? They can handle any kitchen-related chore. Plus, they can take out the trash — there’s no reason to ditch 1950s roles that work in your favor, is there?
The bottom line is that many hands make light work. Contributing to the cleanup process will foster a good work ethic in your children and make everyone proud. What to do if the kids don’t like it? They know where the microwave is. A few TV dinners will surely help them appreciate your efforts in the kitchen and make them more inclined to lend a hand in the future.
Resist the urge to wipe up stove spills and spatters as you make them. There are going to be more messes, so save it all for one big cleanup at the end.
3: Knock Out Two Meals at Once
“Eggs are messy. Multitask when you have to use them! Whip up an omelet for dinner, and crack a few for the school bake sale cookies.Hemera/Thinkstock
Perhaps you’re waiting for a pot of water to boil or a casserole to bake. As long as you’re stuck in the kitchen, you might as well be productive! The next time you’re drumming your fingers on the countertop, consider thinking ahead to future meals and figuring out what can be done ahead of time.
Here are some time-savers that work for me. Slap together a few ham and cheese sandwiches for tomorrow’s school lunches while you wait for the dinner timer to ding. Chopping fruit for lunch? Toss your dinner veggies on the cutting board in preparation for suppertime. Planning ahead will surely streamline your mealtime tasks, plus it’ll cut down on the number of items you’ll have to wash.
2: Avoid Pileups
I love a good meal. Nothing makes me happier than a glass of wine and a full tummy. The best way to kill that buzz is to stand up from said meal only to be confronted by 8 feet of counter space covered with crusty bowls, congealing pots and greasy spoons.
Whenever possible, rinse dishes and utensils and put them in the dishwasher as you go along. If you’re really ambitious, you might even be able to hand-wash some cookware and put away ingredients before you even take your first bite! Again, resist the urge to wipe down those countertops until the meal is served and all of the dishes have been done, unless you really enjoy wiping water, soap and crumbs off the same surface area repeatedly.
Use the age-old refuse bowl that Rachael Ray popularized to keep all of your compostable materials in the same place while you cook. If you don’t compost, simply put them down the garbage disposal as you go. Nothing ruins an appetite quite like the sight of slimy lettuce leaves and browning banana peels.
1: Run on Empty
“It’s much easier to clean your fridge when it’s empty. Wait to do the wipedown before or after vacation.Hemera/Thinkstock
Leaky soda cans, moldy cheese and expired milk make your refrigerator a very sticky and smelly place. Fortunately, the thankless chore of cleaning out the refrigerator can be made a bit easier by waiting until right before or after a vacation to clean it out. Most of your food will either be eaten or tossable, so your fridge will be exceptionally empty and easier to clean. The same concept goes for your pantry, which is equally crowded, but hopefully much less messy, since you’re probably not storing too many spillable liquids there.
So, how do you know what to get rid of? Obviously, anything that’s expired or stale is past its prime. Be sure to toss out any freezer items that have taken up residence for more than 9 months and refrigerated jars, bottles or cans that have been open for more than 6 months.
Lots More Information
- 14 Green Kitchen Cleaning Tips
- How to Clean Small Kitchen Appliances
- How to Clean Large Kitchen Appliances
- How to Clean Cookware and Servingware
- How to Clean Cooktops
- Uses for Salt: Cleaning Your Kitchen
- "A Clean Kitchen, Top to Bottom." Martha Stewart Living. January 2007. (Nov. 9, 2010). http://www.marthastewart.com/article/a-clean-kitchen-top-to-bottom
- "How to Clean the Kitchen." Mrs. Clean USA. (Nov. 9, 2010). http://www.mrscleanusa.com/en/cleaning-tips/kitchen/kitchen-cleaning-tips.html
- "Kitchens and Pantries: Refrigerator and Freezer." Good Housekeeping. (Nov. 9, 2010). http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/getting-organized/clutter-solution-refrigerator-freezer-may07