***Edited to add 2/24/17: FREE PRINTABLE list at the bottom! I put mine on the side of my fridge and check off as I get to work on them…that way, it seems a lot less overwhelming!***
-Canisters…In my kitchen, I use canisters (crocks) to hold my kitchen utensils, like tongs, spatulas, slotted spoons, etc. If you have canisters holding anything, dump them out and give the canisters a quick wash AT LEAST every 6 months…you’ll be astonished what accumulates in them, even if it’s just dust!
-Spatulas…speaking of my canisters, if you’re not taking apart your spatulas when you wash them, DO IT NOW!! The rubber usually comes off of the handle, and you’ll be totally grossed out by the probably black stuff you’ll find. Just don’t tell anyone that you forgot…for awhile…
-Faucet aerator…on most faucets, there is a part that holds a screen where the water comes out that unscrews. Periodically unscrew that and take its few innards apart-oftentimes, you will find bits of sand and other particles in here, and you can just rinse it and it will be as good as new. While you’re at it, unscrew the one in your bathroom, too! You might need a pliers quick, if you’ve never taken this piece off.
-Reusable grocery bags…just think of what these handy sacks hold. If you’re like me, I put all of my groceries in them…meat, veggies, eggs, etc. Sometimes I also use them for other errands too. Just think about that for a minute, and you’ll get where I’m going with this. Plus, they probably sit on the floor of your car, and who knows where else. Throw them in a load of laundry quick!
-Sponges…personally, I’m a washcloth gal. But if you use sponges, please regularly disinfect them. Like, several times a week. At least twice a week. They are breeding grounds for all sorts of bacteria strains, and they’re used to supposedly wash dishes and counter tops. The best way to do this would be to put about ¾ of a cup into a gallon of water and let them sit for about 5 minutes. If you’re like me and can’t use bleach (years of using it in my house cleaning business made it caustic to my respiratory system), you can throw it in the dishwasher and set to the heated dry setting, or use the same heated vinegar trick listed above, except heat it to boiling. Replace these bad boys every couple of months, or earlier if they’re looking…bad.
-Ice cube trays…we constantly refill these and put them right back into the freezer. My husband actually loves to refill the few empty spaces he just made. But when was the last time you actually washed yours? They get everything from hard water stains to fruit flies (in a Minnesota August, anyway)…so do your drink a favor and actually wash these from time to time before you refill.
Just A Little Elbow Grease
-Sprayer head…same idea as your faucet’s aerator. You can often take apart the end of it. Also, if you have hard water stains or buildup, take this opportunity to get that off and make it sparkle again. Setting it in a bag with a chemical such as Lime-A-Way in it with a rubber band holding it closed does the trick. For a more natural version, heat up some vinegar so it’s hot enough that you don’t want to stick your finger in it, but not so hot that it’s boiling. You can stick the sprayer head and faucet aerator (not the rubber gasket!) in some sort of basin or bowl with this hot vinegar, or put it all in a freezer bag with a rubber band to close it up, and leave for about an hour, or until it stops bubbling. Give the pieces a little scrub and a rinse, and they’ll be all pretty again!
-Dish Rack…the dishes are clean when you put them on this space, so the rack itself is clean, right? WRONG. Extra wrong points if you’ve got any pink stuff anywhere nearby, that’s mold folks. If you set them on a towel, wash the towel every week and the space it covers. If it’s a wire rack with the plastic slant basin, wash both parts once a month at least. If it’s the wooden fold-up kind, you can wash that too. Use the sink-often times that rubber and wood isn’t dishwasher safe.
-Garbage Disposal…regularly flush this with cold water, especially if you also have a dishwasher, so it keeps the lines clear. Periodically freeze vinegar in an ice cube tray and pour these into the disposal and then let ‘er rip! Letting the disposal break through the ice will sharpen the blades, and the vinegar will deodorize it!
-Sink…sure, we wash our dishes in it…but when was the last time you actually washed your sink? About once a month, give it a good scrub with either Comet or baking soda and vinegar, to both kill germs and make it sparkle. At least once a week I wipe down the whole sink area, faucet, and between the sink and the wall.
-Highchair…if you have a mini-me or several, you know what I’m talking about, and you’ve been dreading this for awhile. Just do it. My Olivia has a booster seat that has a tray on it, so it sits on one of our regular dining chairs. Clean all around this thing, immerse it in the tub, whatever you need to do. Just do it.
-Toaster/Toaster Oven…ohhhhh, the crumbs and how long they’ve been there. There is usully a plate on the bottom that comes off with a screwdriver. If not, at least flip the whole thing upside down outside and give it a really good shake. Take out some frustration. If yours is a toaster oven, as is mine, wipe it out and wash the grate. It’s probably been awhile.
Block Some Time
-Fridge/Freezer Coils…when was the last time these appliances were pulled out? Did you know this affects their efficiency (how much you’re spending on electricity)? It sucks, but pull these out at least once a year and dust off the coils on the backside of these appliances. I also take the opportunity to clean the floor under these…as you can imagine, it’s usually super gross.
-Under the Sink…pull out everything under the sink and wipe down the bottom. I know in my house, this area is a catch-all, and I usually just throw everything down there, not particularly caring where it lands. I’ve got vases, cleaners, copper sponges, rubber gloves, and even a mousetrap under mine. Take this opportunity to get rid of anything and consolidate, and wipe down the bottles of cleaners-they go everywhere with us and you guessed it, the bottoms and handles get pretty abused and bacteria visited.
-Dishwasher…since you wash dishes in it, it’s pretty clean right? WRONG. Same as the dish rack scenario above, except that this mold is probably black! For this appliance, remove the bottom rack so you can have a good look at the drain. Remove any scraps and debris before it ruins your appliance. Extra points if you remove the screws holding the basket in place and clean under that basket. Super gross….but it’s better than eating it on your dishes, I’d say. Put it back together and throw a cup of vinegar on the bottom of the dishwasher and run it on the pots and pans cycle without soap. It will remove grime, scum, and grease from the lines, minimizing a watery mess later on when this appliance backs up. If your dishwasher has an odor, vinegar will fix that, too. You can then sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of your dishwasher and run it on the shortest cycle-this will make the interior bright and shiny again! Hot tip-don’t rinse dishes too well before loading them into the dishwasher. Dishwasher soap needs some debris, otherwise it just turns to foam in the appliance, which will really give your appliance wear and tear.
-Coffee Maker…periodically clean this, and your coffee will always taste great. Run a couple cycles of 50/50 vinegar and water, or until you stop seeing junk floating in the solution when it gets to the carafe (I know, how delicious), and then a full cycle of just water. The vinegar descales this appliance, leaving its innards squeaky-clean. Leave the coffee filter out when you do this. Then you can wash any removable parts, like the carafe and filter holder, and wipe down the burner and exterior. If you have a Keurig-style coffee maker, you can do the same thing by adding vinegar to the reservoir. These coffee makers have more removable parts, such as the water reservoir and K-cup holder. Keurig also recommends carefully using a paperclip to clear the needle periodically. Then you can carry on with the vinegar and water trick-just be sure to run a full cycle of just water after you’re done seeing floating debris in your cup.
-Wooden Cutting Boards/Butcher Blocks…I use separate cutting boards for meats and veggies and those are plastic-but my butcher block, that’s a different story. I have a very small kitchen, so my butcher block serves as an all-purpose island as well as food prep space. It gets dark and sad looking very quickly. It’s actually kind of incredible to restore it to be gorgeous again, and it’s pretty simple, it just takes a little time. First, take a scrub brush to it to make sure that food debris is off it. Then add (you guessed it) vinegar. A spray bottle of 50/50 water/vinegar is great, straight vinegar is great, whatever, it’s not picky. Let that soak while you put about a ¼ cup of salt into a bowl with just enough lemon juice to make it into a paste. Add that on top of the vinegar and scrub a dub a little. It’s deodorizing, debacteria-izing, and de-dark-spotting, all at the same time. If it gets a little dry, just add a little more lemon juice. When you feel like it’s about as good as new, thoroughly wipe it clean with a damp cloth. Let this dry completely, I do these steps before I go to bed often, actually, because I’m talking about completely dry, in hours, not minutes. Several hours later, take food grade mineral oil that you can find in most stores in the health and beauty isle. If you’re not cool with using a petroleum-based product, go to a hardware store and find their cutting board oil, it’s often plant-based. Do not use things like olive/vegetable/linseed/walnut/coconut oils, because when these get wet, they go rancid, and that’s not something you want happening near your food. Anyway, pour a little mineral or specific cutting board oil onto your wooden cutting area of interest, and rub it in. Essentially, the wood is “drinking” in this oil, so it may take several applications, depending on how deprived your area is. Keep applying until it no longer soaks up the oil, and wipe it off. There you go!
-Crockpot…we LOVE us some freezer meals in this house. Which means our crock has seen better days. This is easy, it just takes some time. Periodically I put 50/50 vinegar and water and SLOWLY add some baking soda (I’d say maybe 4 Tbsp or so). Then turn it on Low for about 3 hours and let it do its thing. Dump it out in the sink after and give it a little soapy water scrub. Good as new!
-Oven…let’s talk about your oven, and let’s do it in parts. It’s one of the most used, and most neglected places in a home, so let’s do this.
- Wash your stove drip pans, if yours has them (all gas stoves, many electric do, induction does not). You can use oven cleaner if you’d like and set them in the sink for 15 minutes. Otherwise, you can wash them in soapy water and then apply a baking soda paste with a little water to them and let it sit for 20-30 mins before you wash them again and scrub off the softened debris. If they’re made of teflon, do not get anywhere near them with anything scratchy. If they’re made of ceramic, you can gently use an abrasive sponge to help you out.
- Gently lift on the lip on the front of your stovetop, above the oven door (and knobs, if yours are located on your oven front). Does it lift up to expose burner innards? There’s probably all sorts of awesome other food treasures in here, so give it a good wipe and see all of the wonder you can find.
- The knobs-a couple times a year, just pull these off and let them soak in some soapy water before giving them a very gentle scrub, letting them dry, and put them back on. Wipe down the area behind them as well.
- Inside of the oven-yeah, I loathe doing this too. If you have a self-clean cycle, you really don’t have an excuse to not do this regularly and quickly wipe out the ash after. If you’re lucky enough to have to do this manually, just do it, at least twice a year. Same process as the burners, and make sure you give the racks a little TLC also!
- Once in awhile, pull out the appliance to get those crevices between the countertop and the appliance, as well as the floor underneath it a good cleaning. If yours is electric or convection, you don’t have anything to worry about other than it being heavy. If yours is gas, just take a look behind the stove by the wall to make sure it’s a flexible gas hose back there. Know where the gas shut off valve is, just in case! Periodically, if your oven has a bottom broiler drawer, you can actually pull this out fully so you can sweep and wipe underneath without having to pull it out. Likewise, you can take something narrow, like a wire hanger, butter knife, etc and put a damp cloth around it and stick it between the appliance and the countertop to clean it without moving the whole thing.
- Did you know you can get to those annoying spills between the front glass panes? Two ways, actually. You can quickly spot check it by inserting a wire coat hanger or fly swatter handle with cloth wrapped around it through the vents in the bottom of the door (these are easy to get to with the broiler door removed). For a more in-depth approach, on most models you can unscrew the two screws right on the top inside of the oven door-these hold the handle, as well as the two panes of glass together. Be super careful with the outer glass…the one part will want to swing into its normal place to shut the oven, while the outer will not, so you will have to do a quick catch glass and remove handle maneuver, but nothing too difficult. Clean in between the glass and just reassemble.
Would you add anything to this list? Feel free to share your gross cleaning story with us!