How to Keep Your Kitchen Clean with 15 Tips
#1 Start with a Clean Space
Wash your hands and wipe down your counters right before you start cooking. I recommend this not just for general health reasons, but because it will give you space to cook. I generally clean my countertops and glass top stove with Sprayway and I’ve found that it works really well on most smooth surfaces.
I always make sure to wipe down my stove before I use it because I also use it as counter space. If I don’t I end up burning a practically invisible reside.
#2 Empty the Dishwasher
Starting with an empty dishwasher, lets you put things straight in as you are cooking, like scissors covered in chicken juice from opening the container or your vegetable peeler that you’re not going to need for the rest of the day.
If you have a lot of prep dishes, the dishwasher can run while you are eating. Then you can empty and reload after the meal. Or if you don’t have a ton of dishes from cooking, you can run your dinner dishes right after dinner.
#3 Empty the Sink
You will need the sink as you cook, so you might as well make the space early on. All the dirty dishes that might be sitting in there, can now go into the waiting dishwasher from tip 2. Depending on the size of your sink, if it’s empty before you start cooking, you might have room both to use the tap and let a few things soak.
#4 If You Aren’t Going to Use it Again, Put it Away
As you use ingredients, put them straight back into their place. Spices go into the spice rack. Flour into the cupboard, and so on. As you use spoons, knives, and plates, put them in the dishwasher as you go. If it needs to soak, start it soaking right away. That way when you are done cooking, it will be done soaking, and you can clean it or put it in the dishwasher
Soaking your dishes before they have a chance to turn into a dried-out mess, helps to make clean up a breeze since you can easily skip the hard scrubbing. You might have stuck on bits, but they are few and far between. I use Bar Keepers Friend on all my pots and tough jobs. It takes off burned bits without the scrubbing or scratching, which extends the life of my pots.
#5 Use a Spoon Rest
Spoon rests help to limit sticky spots on countertops and the stove. My mother hates them and thinks they are a uni-tasker, which can be replaced by a plate. I think she’s wrong. They take up less space than a plate would, to do the same job, especially if you are worried about handle drips. They also keep me from misplacing my spoons while I’m cooking, because I know that they are in the spoon rest.
I love my spoon rests. I have a fancy Le Cruset spoon rest that was a wedding gift, and my other is a stainless steel OXO spoon rest that I’ve had for years. They are both dishwasher-safe, so I just pop them in after I’m done cooking or baking and they clean well.
#6 Throw Things Away as You Go
Don’t make extra work for yourself for later. Later you is like present you, but more tired, so help them out. Throw away or recycle extra packaging as you go. If you have compost, put your cooking scraps in the bin as you go. It might take a week or two to develop such a new habit, but I promise you it’s worth it.
#7 Your Trash, Recycling, and Compost Bins Should be Convenient
These bins need to be near where you are cooking. I like them either under the sink, which is where I do a lot of prep. Or no more than 3 steps away from the sink, with a foot pedal lid. Foot pedal is my favorite trash can style. It is hands-free, keeps the smell in, and is relatively dog resistant. I’ve tried the swinging tops, and they just get filthy. No lid is very smelly and I don’t like needing to take the trash out that often.
I’m also a big fan of scented trash bags. They help to keep the smell at bay for us humans in the house. I have no doubts that the dogs still enjoy the trash smells without difficulty. They can sniff, but they now know to not go into the cans.
#8 Give Yourself an Extra Set of Hands
If you are meal prepping or even just putting away leftovers, these clipping bag stands are super helpful. They help me load several zip locks at once. I don’t need to wash my hands repeatedly or worry about getting food on the outside of the bag.
#9 Use Aluminum Foil and Parchment Paper
Aluminum foil is wonderful for controlling messes and clean-up in ovens. I like the heavy-duty and non-stick varieties for my everyday needs. The heavy-duty is for extra-large messes. The non-stick is for any food I’m worried about sticking, burning, or adhering in any way to my pans. Parchment paper deserves an honorable mention for most baked goods, like cookies.
All three of these will help you keep your pans clean without having to scrub them when you are done.
#10 Try to Deal with Spills as They Happen
It’s easier to clean a spill while everything is wet than when it’s turning into dried crud on the counter. When Sprayway doesn’t work (which is almost never) or I’m concerned about contamination (like chicken), I’ll use a Clorox wipe or a scrubbing sponge with some dish soap. Cleaning the spill this way, will save you time overall and help to keep your kitchen looking great as you cook.
#11 Use a Food Scale When You Can
By using a food scale, there is so much less to clean at the end. There are no measuring cups and spoons filling the sink. I still use measuring cups and spoons as recipes call for them, but not for most of my everyday things.
I know that volume measurements are very American, but a lot of other places use scales and I can see why. Not only does it accurately measure ingredients like flour, without complicated sifting methods, but it’s incredibly useful for sticky things like honey. I hate getting honey out of measuring spoons.
I use my food scale for everything from salad dressing at lunchtime to raw chicken while I cook dinner. I mostly thought of food scales as a dieting thing, until I started watching Good Eats Reloaded during lockdown. Alton Brown recommends food scales in so many episodes and you can see how he uses them in his kitchen.
#12 Give Yourself the Time You Need
It will take a few extra minutes to clean the kitchen when you start. But you will get faster as time goes on. I know I did. Those extra moments to throw things out and put them away are worth it. The hardest part is committing to changing your habits. But overall, I’ve found that all those little moments reduce my stress.
#13 Empty Your Bins Regularly
Having a full trash can when you start cooking is extremely frustrating. Recycling might be able to chill out on the floor for a bit before becoming a chew toy, but trash and compost don’t have that option. So, save yourself the frustration and take it out regularly. We normally take ours out every 2-3 days, but it’s just the two of us.
#14 Store Your Most Used Items Near Where You Use Them
By storing your most used items near where you use them your kitchen becomes more efficient. You might even save a few minutes as you cook. My vegetable peeler lives in a drawer by the sink. My stirring spoons are in a jug near the stove. I have a lazy susan near the stove and microwave for easy seasoning.
#15 Pan Storage Shouldn’t Be Frustrating
I used to keep a barely contained teetering pile of cookie sheets and muffin tins in my extra-deep cabinet. It seemed like it was filled to capacity and then some. Then I bought a pan organizer and it worked beyond my expectations. It saves me time both for finding what I need and for putting things away.
These are my top 15 tips for keeping your kitchen clean as you cook. Are any of them surprising for you? Do you do any of these already? I would love to hear in the comments below.