Clean Your Kitchen the Smart Way

Tips for cleaning your kitchen clutter one step at a time.

cleaning dirty dishes

Keeping a kitchen clean is about staying on top of the situation, rather than letting yourself get crushed under a huge pile of dirty dishes.

Start with the Sink
If you or the house owner has let the kitchen go, there is a good chance you'll find yourselves standing in the doorway feeling instantly defeated. The Internet housekeeping guru known as the FlyLady, a.k.a. Marla Cilley, says she believes that key to breaking that sense of hopelessness a person feels when confronting a messy kitchen is to "shine the sink."

Even if it means taking the dirty dishes out of the sink and setting them on a counter or table for the time being, make that sink look as close to brand new as possible.

"That gives them that little bit of hope to get the ball rolling," she says. "Once you have a shiny sink, you are ready to move on to the whole kitchen."

Conquer Mini Tasks
It's easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of any cleaning job. Breaking it all down into manageable mini-jobs helps immensely.

  • Remove everything from the kitchen that doesn't belong (like mail, work projects and school items that got dumped there).
  • Put all spices and cooking oils back in the cupboards.
  • Take all the clean utensils and cooking tools off the counters and put them in drawers.
  • Find a permanent place for everything that has been sitting out and getting in your way.
  • Don't forget music! Playing your favorite music motivates you to clean, just as people use it to jazz up an exercise routinue.

Grab Your Cleaning Fluids, Solutions and Concoctions
Take out all the cleaning products you'll be using and put them in one place. This way you won't have to go back and forth for them. And you'll be able to see if you need refills on anything. Just remember the important rule when it comes to cleaning supplies: Never mix a product containing bleach with a product containing ammonia. This combination creates lethal fumes.

Consider Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Solutions
If you're interested in green cleaning options, Jorge Lee of Marin House Cleaning in Sausalito, Calif., says, "Most grime will come out with a sponge, baking soda and some elbow grease." An effective all-purpose cleaner can be made from equal percentages of borax, liquid castile soap, vinegar and water."

Not sure if you want to make the switch? Check out the 7 Benefits of Green Cleaning

Treat Your Sponges Right
Sponges spread germs if not properly maintained. Each sponge should have a specific job. Don't use the same sponge for different tasks, the way you would use cross-training shoes for different sports. You can sterilize sponges by microwaving them on high for a minute or washing them in the dishwasher. Or, err on the side of safety--toss and replace with new ones on a regular basis. Using washable rags instead will cut down on the trash.

Clean Counters Correctly
Take everything off the counters (including the tops of all appliances) before you wipe them down. David Losh of Seattle House Cleaning says, "In the kitchen, we start at the far ends of the counters and work towards the sink. If need be, the counter items can be moved towards the sink; [we clean] out the toaster over the sink, then move the items back to the outer edges so we have room to clean closer in to the sink. By moving things en masse, it's possible to wet the entire area to be cleaned. Wetting action does much more than scrubbing." Take it from a pro.

Take Your Time on Windows
If you want your kitchen to really sparkle, you need sunlight from nice clean windows. Washing windows is never a fun chore. But the problem is most people rush through it, with lackluster results. Don't be too hasty. Experts advise that you devote at least three or four minutes per window. It saves a lot of grunt work on your part and then you have to do it less often! And, according to Lee, "The hands down best thing for use on windows is club soda, the kind you use for mixing well drinks." It will help you get the job done.

Be a Proactive Cleaner
The FlyLady recommends that you start cleaning before you start dirtying. Fill the sink with hot soapy water before you've dirtied your first dish. That way, as you cook a meal, you can plunge whatever pots, pans, and dishes you have finished using directly into the water. Don't go to bed with a sink full of dirty dishes. The only thing worse than rinsing dishes when you are aching to go to bed is walking into a dirty kitchen after work the following day.

Experts agree that keeping a kitchen clean means simplifying. Store or discard utensils you don't use very often; ditto with rarely used appliances. Cleaning as you cook means the job breaks down into smaller tasks, rather than growing into a crazy ordeal.

Steve Penhollow writes about pets and family issues for and is the arts and entertainment features writer for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

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Comments (18)
Elaine L.
Set a good example and maybe the other pigs will follow
Posted: November 14, 2013 at 3:13 PM
Diana O.
Great to spread the word to help peolpe be aware of things of this sort. We learn every day.
Posted: September 18, 2013 at 6:45 PM
Leslie R.
Thanks for the tips :) looking forward to clean and sparkling kitchen :)
Posted: August 26, 2013 at 4:27 PM
Lisa C.
Totally agreed with everything said. Love cleaning ^ ^
Posted: July 30, 2013 at 6:52 PM
Photo of Donna M.
Donna M.
Very good article, I love cleaning! :-)
Posted: April 14, 2013 at 2:50 AM
Photo of Lynn L.
Lynn L.
This is a wonderful article.
Posted: February 28, 2013 at 9:15 PM
Barbara R.
yes i have found if i can keep my family loading the dishwasher and my counter stays clean i am a happy camper
Posted: January 09, 2013 at 7:02 PM
Photo of Dede L.
Dede L.
i love cleaning
Posted: December 08, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Ashley B.
Wow! This is great as I am just getting started!
Posted: November 21, 2012 at 7:43 PM
Maritza C.
I agreed all this comments are rights, I like to clean the kitchen and keeping clean it make me feel good.
Posted: August 11, 2012 at 7:01 PM
Arlena C.
i love clean..... smile:)
Posted: August 07, 2012 at 2:22 PM
Photo of Kassie B.
Kassie B.
Making lists and routines is the simplest and easiest way to always get the job done n done the best way. :)
Posted: July 24, 2012 at 2:09 AM
Photo of Miriam J.
Miriam J.
Hello Christyna W.

I am interested in reading your book, "The Queen of Shiny Clean", but was not able to find anywhere online where it is available. Is there anyway I could get a hard copy? Thank you so much! I would love to learn to clean more efficiently.
Posted: April 04, 2012 at 8:30 PM
Photo of Christyna W.
Christyna W.
Well, yes a clean sink is at all times # 1, however I do believe that simply clean the dishes after using and do NOT let it pile up is more than anything else, number one!!!! In that way the kitchen looks already a whole lot better, no matter what!!

I have been cleaning for over 10 years , and sometimes still help older couples if needed, no matter the mess in the house an 8000 square feet house (yes you read that right 8000 square feet) never takes me longer than 6 hours to get it organized and good looking. WHY?? work according a system, a system that works!!
I ones wrote an e-book "The Queen of Shiny Clean" and revealed my secrets!
It Works!

"The Queen of Shiny Clean"
Posted: February 13, 2012 at 8:11 AM
Photo of Linda F.
Linda F.
I found out that it's hard to keep things clean if you have houseguests. They sometimes don't like the things I cook, when I get @thing cleaned, they will come behind me, and mess it all up !! My hair is getting thin!!I grew up with a Mother that would clean all day long. I do the same!!
Posted: January 28, 2012 at 7:31 PM
Photo of Tracy F.
Tracy F.
I agree keeping the kitchen sink clean and so it shines helps me too! I use Bar keepers and then wipe it dry with a towel. looks new! such a small motivation but it works!
Posted: October 10, 2011 at 10:52 AM
Photo of Kathy M.
Kathy M.
I like this article!
Posted: September 23, 2011 at 10:22 AM
Photo of Crystal M.
Crystal M.
This is a good article reminding me of natural products to use.
Posted: August 15, 2011 at 11:50 AM
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