Tulips and ramps and morels and fava beans and… bleach.
Yes, it’s that time of year. You should deep-clean your kitchen at least once a year, especially after 12 months of cooking more than you usually do! As warm weather appears ’round the bend at last, it’s a good idea to leave your kitchen in safe, welcoming shape. (We’ve got your post-clean organizational tips right here. TLDR: Get that junk drawer out of there!)
Here’s where we’d start.
1. Look Up
Hi, ceiling fan! Hello, top shelves with an inch of room that you use for absolutely nothing except collecting dirt! When dusting and cleaning, start with the stuff at the top of your kitchen, including the ceiling, which you can dust, because dust and dirt fall. It just makes sense. Clean the light fixtures (once they’re fully cool). While you’re on that stepladder (easy does it!) make a mental note of anything you want to change. Do you need to re-caulk something? Dust more often? Make a sticky note on your phone, and add it to your to-do list.
And although we have tons of cleaning products from which to choose, we don’t judge you if you’re a vinegar-and-water person, an all-purpose cleaner person, or a lemon-and-salt person. Just do something! (These folks have wise ideas, too.) And since this may be only an annual affair, up the ante and use the stuff that will kill bacteria and viruses.
2. That Pantry
Might as well clean the outside of the cupboards as well as the inside, right? Give them a wipe-down, at minimum. Open them up and clean the hinges, the very back of the cabinet, the whole deal. Because you emptied the whole thing, right? Good. This is the right time, by the by, to get rid of the garlic powder you bought in 2002. Whole dried herbs and spices are best within two years; ground spices lose their oomph after a year. Smell each bottle. Any that doesn’t smell like much goes in the trash.
While you’re at it, arrange the pantry in a way that makes sense; do you need to have 12 types of pasta falling on your head every time you open it, or are there things you eat more often? (Personally, we like to organize baking and savory items in different parts of the cabinet, for cookies in a hurry.)
3. Those Countertops
Do the online research and figure out how, once and for all, to get that coffee pot stain off the formica. (Ding, ding, ding! It’s a melamine sponge!) Move everything off the countertops and clean behind the faucets (it’s gross; we guarantee it) and under the soap dispenser and whatnot. You’ll be glad you did. Inspect the grout behind the sink while you’re at it; time to re-caulk for a better seal against water damage? Add it to the list!
Also, before you plop back the Vitamix, Instant Pot, coffee grinder, electric kettle, and toaster, really consider whether each of them deserves the precious countertop real estate. Time to buy something new? Throw something out? Do it; you have our full support.
4. The Fridge
“Everybody out of the pool!” That’s you, talking to your fish sauce, sweet soy sauce, vinegar-honey hybrid, and everything else that has made your refrigerator sticky, smelly or downright unpleasant. You must check the “condiment graveyard” that is the fridge door while rapidly pulling everything out and putting it back in before it goes bad. Toss anything unidentifiable or unlabeled. Use a moist microfiber cloth to wipe each shelf, bin, and crisper drawer. (Apply a hot water “compress” to soak, then wipe any super-sticky spots.) While putting perishables back into the fridge, group like items together and put soon-to-expire foods toward to the front. Bonus: Make a dinner menu involving all the about-to-go-bad buddies.
5. Oy. Freezers.
No one, and we mean no one, enjoys dealing with the freezer. If yours looks like a polar climate you don’t recognize, however, it may well be the day for you to defrost it, get rid of the hunkiest icicles, and start afresh. (What’s in there, anyways? As one organizational guru told us, you want a Sharpie and roll of tape handy for labeling absolutely everything.)
Get everything out of there. Use a cooler or, if it’s cold where you are, use your porch or garage to keep food cold while you work. Mystery meats and unrecognizably freezer-burned foods go into the trash. Consider adding baskets to keep smaller items in one spot. Now put everybody back, grouping fruits and veggies together in one spot, meat in another, prepared items in yet another, and so on. And don’t forget to keep your butter, nuts and chocolate in the freezer!
6. Throw Away the Sponge
Don’t even think about the last time you replaced it. (We like these, by the by.) How’s the sponge holder? Does it need a run through the dishwasher? Replace that water filter, while you’re at it. And since you’re lurking around the sink, clean it! We like Bar Keepers Friend for a deep-clean; break out a mask, because it’s pungent.) And how gross is your garbage disposal? Here’s how to clean it properly.
7. Inspect Pots and Pans
You don’t want to be cooking with really scratched nonstick. You just don’t. Now is the time to prune the collection, and check out your cast-iron and copper cookware, too. Does anything need a re-seasoning or some TLC? Does your copper need a glow-up? We’ve obviously got the goods if you need to go shopping. While you’re at it, which knives need sharpening? Any silver need polishing?
8. Condition Cutting Boards
We really love our wooden cutting boards, particularly for produce. They’re better for your knives than glass, to boot. Wash them by hand, and once in a while, like now, rub each board down with some of this Boos Cream to keep them in tip top shape. Don’t have it? Olive oil, mineral oil or another decent neutrally flavored oil will do the trick; just make sure your board is dry first. Same goes for any major butcher blocks.
9. Appliance Time
Clear everybody out of the house for a few hours, open the windows, and commit to the self-cleaning function on your oven. See if there’s anything else (like your coffee makers!) that can self-clean, while you’re at it. Be sure the toaster crumb tray is clean. Take care of the gunk at the bottom of the dishwasher. (The center of the spinny fan? You can clean that, and it’s likely gross and stinky.)
OK, take out the trash, step back, and breathe. Now that everything is clean and tidy, take a global look at it and make sure there’s not an easier way to organize anything. (Go here and here for tips!) You may need to commit to a slide-out rack, a better trash can, or some gorgeous glass and olivewood storage jars. Treat yourself; it’s a nice reward for a job well-done.