Small Steps to a Perpetually Clean Kitchen

Bucket of kitchen-cleaning products

A clean kitchen is one of the greatest simple pleasures for home cooks, but maintaining that level of clean can prove to be a challenge. Whether you're hosting friends for cocktails or simply trying to get a last-minute meal on the table, you can take small steps each day to promote the best environment for any cooking occasion. That way when you want to set aside time for a big scrub down, there's truly little to do achieve your cleaning goals. Moreover, a clean kitchen fosters the best setting for creative cooking, so get a jump on any mess. Here, we’ll break down planning methods and systems to achieve your kitchen dreams without the fuss.

  • 01 of 10

    Devise a System to Handle Waste

    recyclables in boxes

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    This may seem obvious, but the best way to effectively deal with mess is to make less of it in the first place. To help yourself achieve this goal, it’s good to plan how to deal with all the types of waste created in the kitchen. Generally, it’s good to divide waste into several categories, including compost, trash, and recycling. In particular, a big portion of our waste is food, which stinks up the trash, causes it to fill up faster, and fails to degrade properly when delivered to a landfill versus composting. Store your compost in the freezer, outdoors, or use a tightly-sealed bin with odor blockers to separate your food scraps from regular waste.

  • 02 of 10

    Create Counter Zones

    Utilizing space between the counter and the lowest shelf

    Katherine Carter

    Designating parts of your counter for certain activities and equipment will help contain mess as well as turn you into an efficient cook. For example, you can create a permanent home for your large wooden cutting block by the stove so it's always the designated prep spot and makes for an easy swivel to the pot. Some of us like to keep everything out of sight, removing items like mail that do not belong in the kitchen and keeping only the essentials—identify the tools you use most often and store everything else in the pantry. Alternatively, you can turn organization into a stylish centerpiece by housing items like oil, salt, spices, etc. on a decorative tray or turntable.

  • 03 of 10

    Keep a Clean Fridge

    man cleaning refrigerator

    Are you guilty of letting food go bad in the fridge? Well, you likely already know this isn’t doing yourself any favors, so break the habit. Be honest with yourself about your eating habits so you can buy accordingly. Then, learn to store food properly so it lasts longer. Finally, make sure you do an inventory of your fridge (and pantry for that matter) before you go shopping, so you don’t accidentally buy something you really don’t need.

  • 04 of 10

    Wipe as You Go

    Hispanic woman spraying and wiping counter
    Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd / Getty Images

    You don’t need to clean in high gear every time you use your kitchen—simply wiping down surfaces as you use them is a great way to maintain the clean streak. This counts not just for the counters and stovetops, but inside the microwave, fridge shelves, around the sink, and even the walls and cabinets (assuming they’re prone to splatter or spill stains)

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  • 05 of 10

    Clean as You Cook

    man cleaning pot

    Cooking can get messy quick if you’re not vigilant. What’s more, it puts a damper on the fun when you’re wading through piles of food scraps, used pans, and open bottles just to get a meal prepared. So, set yourself up for an exponentially smoother experience by cleaning as you cook. This may look different depending on the type of meal you’re making, but as an example, you can portion out ingredients ahead for a mise en place approach. Wash dishes and cookware as your food cooks to knock out a little bit at a time. Don't forget to set a timer first so you don’t get distracted from forget to turn off the heat of your stove or oven!

  • 06 of 10

    Keep Sponges Fresh

    soapy sponge

    Admittedly, dirty sponges are a pet peeve. They give way to the scariest germs and create a foul odor over days. That said, reusing a smelly, old sponge is certainly not conducive to a clean kitchen. Every few days, nuke it in the microwave for 1 minute or run it through the dishwasher, using the wash and dry cycle. Most experts suggest replacing after 2 weeks maximum. Moreover, if you have a dishwasher, this is generally a better option than hand-washing plateware. You’ll save energy (especially if your model is energy star-certified) and skip sponges altogether.

  • 07 of 10

    Scrub the Sink

    cleaning kitchen sink

    Perhaps your kitchen sink looks clean, but we guarantee there's traces of bacteria lurking. In fact, it’s widely said that a flushed toilet bowl is cleaner than the kitchen sink. We recommend using environmentally-safe products like vinegar, citrus juice, or baking soda so you don’t dump toxic chemicals down your sink every day. Also, if a piece of food falls into your sink, don’t just brush it off and put it on your plate again. Instead, toss it into the compost or another place where it will decompose properly. 

  • 08 of 10

    Pantry for Success

    organized dry goods

    Truly organizing your kitchen appliances, utensils, and wares will help you tremendously whether it's creating a last minute pantry dinner or meal prepping for next week. What’s more if you have to rip apart a drawer just to find the can opener, you’re creating unnecessary stress for yourself. So, if you haven’t already, consider nabbing some essentials to keep your drawers, pantries, and fridge organized. We collaborated with iDesign on a home collection that will help you do just that, featuring turntables, multi-use bins, and drawer organizers.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Empty the Dish Rack (or Dishwasher)

    dish rack

    No one likes dealing with dishes, but like it or not, keeping them clean and in the right place is a big part of maintaining a clean kitchen. That’s why emptying your dish rack or dishwasher is so important. After all, when your dishes are stacked in a tower it’s tricky to get to what you need and the likelihood of something breaking is far higher. One trick is to actually time how long it takes you to empty your dish rack or dishwasher. This way, when you’re tempted to skip it due to running short on time, you can ask yourself if you really do have the extra minutes to spare.

  • 10 of 10

    Don't Forget to Sweep

    kid sweeping kitchen

    Take it from people who sometimes neglect their floors—you want to sweep regularly to prevent ants and dust bunnies. The floors aren’t what most people spend their time staring at, but the combination of crumbs, dust, spillage, and pet hair mean they accumulate dirt quickly. Even if you vacuum, there's plenty of nooks and corners that mess creeps into. We suggest keeping a broom and dustpan tucked behind your fridge or another discreet location for easy access. This way, you don’t have to leave the room to get in a quick sweep.