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 Care.com and is the arts and entertainment features writer for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.