How To Clean a Kitchen

A kitchen with a variety of work surfaces.
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In today's modern kitchen, it's not unusual to have a variety of surfaces that require unique cleaning solutions.

Remember when you could hide a stack of dirty dishes behind those swinging saloon doors? With open floor plans all the rave, the pressure is on to keep a clean kitchen. But whether you cook on the latest induction cooktop while looking onto the family room, or you're still waxing the original linoleum floor tucked in the back of the house, a clean kitchen is its own reward.

Traditional cleaning normally calls for some products that include chemicals or other materials that can be harmful to the environment. For "green" alternatives, use these substitutes for the materials highlighted by an asterisk below.

Green Alternatives to Traditional Cleaning Supplies

  • Green glass cleaner. Mix ½ vinegar and ½ water in a spray bottle. Date and label the bottle.
  • Microfiber cloth. Like microbeads, microfiber sheds fibers into water treatment plants and waterways. Instead, use ripped-up, old T-shirts to polish fixtures and clean mirrors. Wash and reuse.
  • Green oven cleaner. Using a half cup of baking soda mixed with three tablespoons. Brush this brush paste on the inside surface of the oven. Let dry for two hours. Spray with vinegar and scour off with a safe scouring sponge. Rinse with water.

Things You'll Need

  • Hot water

  • Liquid degreaser, such as Dawn liquid soap

  • Mild liquid cleaner

  • Cleaning rags

  • Safe scouring sponge

  • Microfiber cloth*

  • Glass cleaner*

  • Fume-free oven cleaner*

  • Cleaning gloves

Clearing the Decks

Empty old food or expired products from the refrigerator and go through items on the island, countertops, and table, throwing away and sorting as necessary. Wash and put away the dishes.

Mid adult woman loading dishwasher
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Getting clutter and dirty dishes out of the way makes cleaning a kitchen less daunting.

Cleaning the Appliances

Not all appliance need to be cleaned after every use, but during a complete monthly cleaning, you'll want to address all the appliances in your kitchen, one at a time.

Tips for General Appliance Cleaning

  • Using a rag or sponge, squeeze hot soapy water onto dried-on debris. Let it soak to soften the dried-on food.
  • Working from top to bottom, wash the outside surface of each appliance. If washing stainless steel, wipe in the direction of the grain.
  • Rinse with water. Immediately dry with lint-free cloth.
  • Wipe away recent spills inside appliances.

Cooktops

Gas cooktop: Remove burner grates, caps, and bases and place them in hot soapy water. Using a sponge or rag, let the soapy water sit on hard-to-clean areas. Wash and, if needed, scour with a baking soda/water paste. Rinse and dry. Replace the bases, caps, and burner grates.

Gloved hands removing soap from stove top range with microfiber
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Dry off the cooktop with a lint-free cloth and replace base, cap, and grates.

Electric coil cooktop: Carefully lift up and pull the electric heating elements straight out. Remove drip pans and place them in hot soapy water. Never place the electric elements in water. For baked-on grime, place drip pans, grates, or gas burner caps and bases in a plastic bag and spray them with commercial oven cleaner. Store outside for several hours. Wearing gloves, wash the oven cleaner off in hot, soapy water.

Ceramic and induction cooktops: After washing away food debris with hot soapy water, use a paste made from a half cup of baking soda mixed with three tablespoons of water to scour the cooktop with a scouring sponge. Rinse with clear water and a lint-free cloth.

Tips

For hard, cooked-on stains, spray the cold cooktop with a small amount of heavy-duty oven cleaner. Let sit for 20 minutes, then wipe away the residue and rinse with clear water and a lint-free cloth.

Self-Cleaning Oven

Self-cleaning ovens are a fantastic invention that burn away excess food particles using high heat. Follow manufacturer's instructions, which often entails merely wiping away the fine ash after the self-cleaning cycle is completed.

Standard Oven

For a "green" cleaning of our oven, brush a baking soda/water paste on the interior surfaces of your oven, then let sit overnight. In the morning spray with vinegar and wipe clean.

When using chemical cleaners, begin by removing the oven racks. If possible, take them outside and spray them with heavy-duty oven cleaner. Allow the cleaner to sit on the metal racks as you move indoors to work on the oven.

  1. Be sure the oven is cold. Spray every surface inside the oven with heavy-duty oven cleaner. Also, spray the inside face of the oven door and window.
  2. Allow the cleaner to sit for at least two hours and no more than six hours.
  3. Wearing gloves, wipe the surfaces clean with a wet rag or sponge.
  4. Rinse with clear water.
  5. Wash and rinse the oven racks and return them to the oven.
  6. Wash the outside of the oven door with hot soapy water.
  7. Rinse and dry the outside surfaces, using a lint-free cloth.

Refrigerator

It's a good idea to run through this refrigerator cleaning process once each month.

  1. Wipe off top of the refrigerator, which often collects dust.
  2. Using hot soapy water, wash away kitchen grease from the surfaces of the refrigerator. (Take this opportunity to also wash off cupboard doors directly above the refrigerator.)
  3. Empty the contents of the refrigerator.
  4. Remove crisper drawers and wash them in the sink.
  5. Using hot soapy water, wash the inside ceiling of the refrigerator, starting at the top and moving down the back wall and sides.
  6. Remove and wash the racks, detailing underneath and around their edges.
  7. Wash out the bottom of the refrigerator.
  8. Remove items from inside the door and wash the shelves with hot soapy water.
  9. Wipe down the door gasket with soapy water, then dry it to prevent mold.
  10. Return crisper and racks to the desired locations.
  11. Restore the contents to the refrigerator.
  12. Wash and dry the exterior of the refrigerator.
  13. Remove the bottom grill and wash it.
  14. Wash the kitchen floor directly in front of the refrigerator.

Freezer

Freezers don't need to be cleaned often, but when you do, make it a thorough job.

  1. Turn off freezer and remove items. Let the freezer reach room temperature before proceeding.
  2. Use hot soapy water to wash inside walls of the freezer, shelves, and drawers.
  3. Wash and dry the door gasket.
  4. Turn freezer back on and return the food items to the chamber.

Microwave

If your microwave is used a lot, a weekly cleaning using the following steps should do the trick.

  1. Set a cup of water in the microwave and bring to boil. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Wash the rotating tray in the sink.
  3. Using hot soapy water, wash the inside walls of the microwave and rinse with clear water.
  4. Wash exterior and shine with a lint-free cloth.
  5. Replace the rotating tray.

Dishwasher

Dishwashers are circulating detergent and water constantly, so this kind of thorough cleaning only needs to happen once a month, at most.

  1. Clear debris out of the drain opening.
  2. Clean or replace the filter, if necessary (follow manufacturer's instructions).
  3. Fill a cup with vinegar and set on the top shelf and sprinkle the bottom of the dishwasher with baking soda.
  4. Run the dishwasher through its cycle.
  5. With a small amount of liquid soap on a rag, wipe down the door gasket.

Wash the front of the dishwasher with hot soapy water, rinse, and dry it with a lint-free cloth.

Cleaning Countertops

Countertops can be one of the most expensive elements in a kitchen, as well as the most visible. All types of countertops can be washed with hot soapy water as long as you don't let the water sit. Know the safest method for working with your countertops, and research the manufacturer's cleaning instructions for particular information. The following are general guidelines.

Laminate Countertops

  • Wash after every food preparation session using hot soapy water or a mild household cleaner.
  • For stain removal, coat the countertop with a paste made from baking soda and water, let sit for 5 minutes, and wash off. Repeat if necessary.
  • Test before using a scouring pad on laminate as micro-scratches can affect the appearance of your countertop.

Wood Block Countertops

  • Clean after every food preparation session using hot, soapy water.
  • Stains can be removed using a lemon, cut in half. Sprinkle salt directly onto the stain, then rub in the salt with the lemon. Clean off with water and vinegar.
  • Butcher-block can be sealed with a wood sealer or wax. A less toxic option is applying layers of food-grade mineral oil.

Quartz or Engineered Stone Countertops

  • After every food preparation session, clean with hot, soapy water and a rag or scrubbing sponge. Dry and polish with a lint-free cloth.
  • Stains are unusual on engineered countertops, but it's alway a good idea to wipe them up as you go.
  • You can use a plastic putty knife to scrape up dried-on food.
  • It's safe to use a bleach-based multi-surface cleaner on engineered stone countertops.

Marble and Granite Countertops

  • Clean after every food preparation session, using hot soapy water.
  • Wipe up spills promptly to avoid stains.
  • Use a plastic putty knife or a sponge with a scouring brush to gently scrape off dried-on food.
  • Stains can be removed with a multi-surface cleaner. Rinse and polish with a lint-free cloth.

Wrapping It Up

Modern new light interior of kitchen with white furniture and dining table.
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When cleaning shelves and cabinets, start at the top, working your way down, paying special attention around hardware.

Cabinets

Cabinets can be washed down with hot soapy water and a sponge. Give extra attention to the cupboards above the stove and refrigerator, as they can tend to collect grease. Dry and polish cabinet surfaces with a lint-free cloth.

Lower cabinets take a lot of abuse in a busy kitchen and are often neglected. Get a short stool you can sit on. To do this job justice, plan on ten minutes of scrubbing, once a month, minimum. Be especially vigilant on lower cabinets under the sink, food-prep areas, and on eat-in kitchen islands. Spills can build up on the lower cabinet door trim.

Final Touches

You are now headed into the final stretch:

  • Wash down backsplash and use glass cleaner on the windows.
  • Sweep and mop the floor.
  • To clean ceramic tile grout or remove spots and stains, use a baking soda/water paste and scour with a soft bristle brush.
  • Take out the garbage and recycling.