It's one of the busiest spaces in the home. The kitchen gets used from morning to night every day. That leads to spills, trails of crumbs and smudges on everything from big appliances to drawers and cabinets. Home cooks who spend a lot of time tinkering with recipes and creating elaborate dishes require a clean kitchen to complete these culinary masterpieces without fail.
There are many types of chemicals used in cleaning and sanitizing kitchen tools and equipment that are safe for areas where food is prepared or consumed. Knowing the best types of cleaning materials in a kitchen and their uses can cut down on the amount of time and effort you put into making the appliances and tools in the space shine.
Cleaning Materials in a Kitchen and Their Uses
A well-stocked kitchen has a host of cleaning tools to handle any type of mess that is made in the hub of the home. Having certain items on hand will ensure you are prepared to cook and clean properly.
Rubber gloves, for example, may seem mundane, but they come in handy when using abrasive scrubbers and harsh cleaners. They keep hands from getting nicked by rough edges and aggressive scrubbing actions.
Speaking of scrubbing: from breaking down baked-on grease and sauces to gently scrubbing non-stick pans, a good non- or lightly abrasive scrubbing pad can work on cast iron cookware, stainless steel pots, ceramic dishes and plastic without damaging or nicking the surface. A scrub brush is also a basic cleaning tool that makes food prep easier, and should be stocked in different sizes. A long-handled scrub brush, as well as thin bottle brushes, makes quick work of dirty items with narrow openings.
A plastic scraper is perfect for digging out gunk stuck in the corner of pans or sweeping around a skillet to remove that last stubborn layer of scrambled eggs or pasta. The thin piece of pointed plastic works on enamel or non-stick cookware without causing nicks and dings.
Stovetop grates, oven floors and some baking pans require the serious scrubbing power of super fine steel wool. It will quickly take off baked-on food that attaches itself to burners and other oven items. Always wear gloves and test the item before taking the abrasive product to its metal surface.
A good dish cloth can whisk away dry crumbs, and is absorbent enough to mop up spills in one fell swoop. A stack of thin, lightweight, non-terry cloth towels can also be ideal for quick hand-washing, buffing a serving platter and swiping up drops of sauce or oil spills. Throw one over your shoulder or tuck it into your apron waistband to have on hand for quick attention to a sudden spill or mess.
Lastly, this may surprise some seasoned home cooks, but a dish drainer is handy even if you own and use a dishwasher. Some items, such as wooden spoons and expensive knives, can be ruined by the high heat and forceful jets of water in a dishwasher. A dish drainer allows you to quickly wash items and set them aside to dry while sauces are simmering or cakes baking.
Soaps and Cleaners for Kitchen Items
A good cleaner, whether homemade or commercial, can save your arms from scrubbing, as well as save the pot or appliance from wear and tear. A few different types of general cleaners are good to have on hand for various surfaces and situations.
Grease-cutting dish soap is an effective liquid dish soap that will quickly pick up grease. This keeps the pot or surface from getting rubbed raw in your efforts to remove stubborn stains, saucy fingerprints and globs of oil from the surface.
Multi-purpose cleaner is there to help with tougher jobs. Floors, sinks, stovetops, appliances and countertops may require a more abrasive cleaner, such as baking powder and water or a powdered cleaner like Bar Keeper's Friend.
Sanitizers for Cleaning Kitchen Equipment
The types of chemicals used in cleaning and sanitizing kitchen tools and equipment should be safe for food. Many homemade cleaners use household detergents and sanitizers to great effect in the kitchen's many types of surfaces, from wood and tile to laminate and stainless steel.
A mix of 1 part chlorine bleach to 2 parts hot water can rid the surfaces of germs with one good rub down. Always test a small, unseen area before you begin to make sure the bleach doesn't react badly with the appliance or cupboards material.
Vinegar, on the other hand, can be used in a spray bottle without mixing, although not on granite or countertops that can be etched by this acidic cleaner.
After cleaning with soap and water, drying and then cleaning with vinegar, a light spray of hydrogen peroxide (3 percent) can kill off any lingering bacteria from raw meats or vegetables. Keep the hydrogen peroxide in a dark or opaque bottle because long exposure to light will break down the peroxide.
Commercial cleaners that use pine oil can disinfect kitchen surfaces, typically with one pass. Dilute 1/4 cup of the pine oil cleaner with 1 gallon of warm water. Rinse all areas after cleaning to ensure that the disinfectant is wiped clean from the surfaces.
Why Cleaning is Vital to a Kitchen
It's important to keep bacteria at bay in a busy kitchen. Kitchen countertops, work areas, handles and sinks should be wiped down daily. Cleaning everyday removes dirt and crumbs, as well as keeps grime from building up. But it doesn't remove all bacteria from the surfaces of the kitchen.
Wiping down all tops, sides and crevices in the kitchen with an antibacterial a few times a week will ensure that the appliances, handles and other surfaces that get touched often stay clean and free of germs. Try to do a thorough cleaning once a month if weekly isn't possible.
How to Clean Kitchen Items
Going over kitchen items and surfaces with a sponge or cloth doesn't always kill all the bacteria that can lurk in nooks and crannies. Once bacteria have gained ground in a small area, you can inadvertently spread the germs to other areas where food is prepared. There are a few proven methods to ensure that the kitchen materials, appliances, cookware and utensils are clean.
Methods of cleaning and sanitizing kitchen tools and equipment include:
Disassembling. Remove all parts, blades, handles, screens and glass or plastic inserts. Wash each with a food-safe disinfectant and dry before reassembling.
Immersion. For cookware, utensils, appliance inserts and other items that are covered in a layer of grime, immersing them in a bath of sanitizing solution can make them easier to clean. The sanitizer, such as diluted bleach or straight vinegar, can lift stubborn food bits or thin layers of bacteria that are beginning to colonize.
Sterilizing. Place smaller items in a large pan of boiling water and add a food-safe sanitizer that won't introduce dangerous vapors into the air. Items can also be steamed in a dishwasher or in a colander over a larger pot of boiling water.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.