Tips and Tricks for Easy Kitchen Cleanup
We asked home-efficiency expert Cynthia Townley Ewer, author of Houseworks, to explain the best way to make your kitchen sparkle.
Food Preparation Surfaces
Public health officials recommend sanitizing food preparation surfaces by washing with hot, soapy water. Rinse with clear water, and then sanitize the cleaned surfaces with a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach to 1 liter of water. Use this method on counters, in sinks and for cutting boards — wherever food may be placed during preparation.
Heat plus grease plus food spills equals a tough cleaning chore: the oven. Baked-on food and spattered grease require additional firepower in the form of specialty cleaners. Commercial oven cleaners do the job well, but they are formulated with corrosive products such as sodium hydroxide (lye) and should be handled with extreme care.
Safety First: Whatever the cleaning method, protect eyes, skin and clothing while cleaning the oven. Wear long sleeves and rubber gloves to protect arms and hands; safety goggles or glasses prevent injury to the eyes. A painter's mask guards against corrosive fumes, particularly when using spray oven-cleaner products. Where possible, use a liquid formulation.
Follow Directions: If using commercial oven cleaners, read the directions first, then follow them. Oven cleaners may be formulated to work on warm ovens or cold ones, so get the method straight before you begin. Newer versions offer fume-free cleaning for a healthier home.
Rinse Clean: After cleaning, use a spray bottle filled with water to rinse the oven walls, and then wipe them dry with a cleaning cloth. This process removes the last traces of oven cleaner and prevents your next meal from tasting like cleaning chemicals! Similarly, be careful to remove all traces of oven cleaner from around the oven door gasket and seal.
Try Green Alternatives: If you don't like the idea of corrosive commercial oven cleaners, there is a greener option: baking soda. Sprinkle an even 1/4-inch layer of baking soda in the bottom of a cold oven, and then lightly dampen the soda with water; it should be moist, but not wet. Spread the paste over the walls and ceiling.
Let the soda paste stand for 12 to 24 hours, re-wetting if it dries out. The paste dissolves grease and softens burned-on food, making it easier to remove next day. You will need to apply some elbow grease to the job, but you'll avoid working with corrosive cleaners.
To clean oven racks and drip pan the green way, soften them up with an ammonia bath. Place the racks and pan in a large leak-proof black garbage bag, and add 1/4 cup non-sudsy ammonia. Seal the garbage bag, and place it outdoors or in a garage overnight. The ammonia will soften baked-on food and make for easy cleaning the next morning. Rinse thoroughly and remove any remaining food, and then dry the racks and drip pan before replacing them in the oven.
Sink and Under-Sink Area
Sanitation is the name of the game when it comes to cleaning sinks and the areas beneath them. Moisture, food waste and the hygiene challenges of meat and poultry preparation mean that the wet area of the kitchen can become a happy breeding ground for bacteria. Under the sink, drainpipes and garbage disposal units harbor germs and odors. The presence of moisture combined with holes necessary for plumbing fixtures creates an attractive home for insects, mold and mildew.
Spray and Wipe: Use a disinfecting all-purpose cleaner in a spray bottle to clean sink surfaces, fixtures and rim. Rout dirt from the base of the faucet or around the rim with a cleaning toothbrush, then wipe dry with a cleaning cloth.
Get Tough: If stubborn deposits or stains require an abrasive cleaner, you can use powdered cleansers on ceramic sinks — but only inside the sink. It's too hard to rinse powdered cleanser from sink rims or countertops.
Keep the Shine: For stainless steel sinks, use a paste of baking soda and water applied with a cotton cleaning cloth, or use a commercial product specially formulated for cleaning these sinks. Avoid powdered cleanser; its abrasive qualities can scratch the surface of the steel.
Out Stubborn Spot: Use full-strength white vinegar to tackle water spots in the sink. Spray or pour it on generously, let stand and then rub the spots with a scrubbing pad.
Clean and Fresh: Under the sink, clean the cabinet walls, doors and the cabinet floor with a disinfecting all-purpose cleaner. Wipe them dry with cleaning cloths, and then leave the cabinet doors open for at least two hours, allowing the area to dry completely.
Because microwaves cook food from the inside out, there's less heat buildup to harden foods inside the oven. Take a gradual approach to microwave cleaning.