The complete guide to cleaning and organising your kitchen
The kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in the house. Here, food is prepared and eaten, family traipse back and forth, homework and socialising occur, and pets scour the benches for scraps. With all this activity, it’s no wonder the room can quickly end up in a state.
By keeping up with a regular cleaning routine and incorporating organisational techniques, you can create an efficient and health kitchen that’s enjoyable for work and play. In this article we look at what you need to create the ideal kitchen routine, from cleaning supplies to techniques and organisational hacks.
Cleaning supplies for the kitchen
You’ll need a range of cleaning items to keep your kitchen tidy. Sarah Coffey from The Kitchn recommends the following basic kitchen supplies.
- An all-purpose cleaner for counters, cupboard surfaces, shelves, walls, and splashbacks.
- Dishwashing liquid and sponges, scrubbing brushes, bottle brushes, pot scourers, and tea towels.
- Stainless steel cleaner for sinks and appliances.
- Spongers, rags, microfiber cloths, reusable towels, or paper towels.
- Gloves to protect your hands.
- Cleaning bucket.
- Floor/glass/stone cleaner for specific surfaces.
If you have specialised equipment, you may need other products to maintain and look after them. For anything you’re not sure about, follow manufacturers instructions.
Selecting certified natural cleaning products
Many typical cleaning products from the supermarket or hardware store contain harsh chemicals such as ammonia bleach, corrosives, petroleum distillates, and phosphates. These are highly toxic chemicals that can irritate skin and eyes, leave pollutants in the air and on surfaces, are poisonous if swallowed, and harmful to the ecosystem if they’re allowed to enter waterways.
Natural cleaning products like the Living Green range are made from sustainable plant- and mineral-based ingredients. They are kinder on your skin, home, and air. They’re also usually biodegradable, so they won’t poison wildlife or destroy delicate ecosystems.
It’s important to be aware that many companies like to “green wash” their products by using deceptive language to claim their products are natural and good for the environment when the opposite is true. It’s useful to know what to look for when you read labels (see our article on ingredients in cleaning products) and to choose products like the Living Green range that have a certification from a reputable international body to demonstrate they’re safe for your family and the environment.
When choosing natural cleaning products for the kitchen, we recommend:
- Looking for plant- and mineral-based ingredients and certification. Don’t just reply on a product having the word “natural” or “green” in its name.
- Avoid products containing parabens (preservatives), phosphates, phthalates, bleach, and other known allergens.
- Consider packaging. Can it also be recycled or reused?
- Concentrated products often last longer and go further. Where concentrates aren’t available, you should consider buying larger sizes of cleaning products. This often costs less and also cuts down on the amount of plastic.
- Many natural cleaning products can perform multiple tasks, so you may find you need less specific cleaners as time goes on.
Cleaning tips for specific surfaces
Now that you’ve assembled your cleaning gear, it’s time to tackle the job at hand. Your kitchen contains a range of different surfaces where food, dirt, and grime can accumulate. Here are our cleaning tips for different holiday chores.
Clutter: Your first job when cleaning the kitchen should be to remove clutter from the benches, put items away in cupboards, stack dishes in the dishwasher or hand wash, and place items that don’t belong in the kitchen into a box or hamper to be put away later.
Microwave: Remove the turntable and wash in the sink with dishwashing detergent. Spray the internal surface with all-purpose cleaner. Leave to sit for two minutes with the door closed. Then open door and wipe surfaces clean.
Refrigerator: Work from the inside out. Start by emptying out all the food. Toss out or compost anything that’s gone off. Remove shelves and drawers and wipe down with multi-purpose cleaner. For stubborn stains, wash in the same way you’d wash dishes. Wipe down wall and floor surfaces in the fridge, then replace shelves and food. Finally, wipe down the door, top and sizes with all-purpose or appliance cleaner.
Pet area: If you have pets, you may feed them in or near the kitchen. Make sure you wash their bowls after every meal and you clean and disinfect the area where they eat. Pets often spill food on the floor that can turn rancid and attract flies.
Small appliances (coffee maker, toaster, hand beater, etc): First, clear away crumbs from drip trays or crumb catchers by removing them and adding to hot soapy water in your sink. Next, squirt cleaning liquid on your towel and wipe down the surfaces. Rinse the turntable, dry, then replace in the microwave.
Surfaces: Different countertop materials require different cleaning methods. You can find out more about which product is good for your surfaces by looking at product websites or comparing manufacturers instructions. Focus on finding the right cleaning product for your countertop.
- Marble: Wipe down with a damp, soft cloth, then dry with a clean cloth to prevent streaking and water spots. Choose a pH neutral non-abrasive cleaner for deeper stains. Remember that marble is porous and can stain so wipe up any spills as soon as they happen. You’ll need to reseal the surface at least once a year.
- Granite: Wipe and rinse with warm, soapy water. Choose a non-abrasive cleaner and a cloth that won’t cause scratches. You’ll need to reseal the surface at least once a year.
- Laminate: Wipe down with warm, soapy water or an all-purpose cleaner. Grease removers will get up most stubborn stains.
- Tile: Soapy water will leave behind a film, so choose a non-abrasive gentle cleaner. Have a toothbrush and a mould cleaner at the ready to clean the grout.
- Wood/butchers block: scrape off dried food, scrub with hot water and mild soap, rinse with hot water and dry thoroughly. The Kitchn recommends using salt and lemon juice to get rid of stubborn stains. If stains remain, you’ll need to sand and oil.
- Stainless steel: Wipe down with warm water and a little soap. You can scrub the countertop lightly in the direction of the grain before drying. Polish with mineral or olive oil – wipe on in the direction of the grain, then buff away with a dry cloth.
Cupboards: First, if your cupboards don’t reach right to the ceiling, dust and/or wipe down the top surface and wipe and replace any items displayed there. Remove and sort your stored items, and donate anything you’re not using to a friendly family member local charity shop. Wipe down the cupboard surfaces inside and out, then replace your items. This may be where you consider purchasing additional storage solutions, such as the shelf-stackers we discuss below, to help organise your items. Wipe down both sides of the cupboard doors, and don’t forget to wipe the door handles
Sink: After washing the dishes, fill the sink with hot water to rinse and sterilise it. Wipe down faucet and handles and make sure no visible food particles remain around the plughole.
Rubbish bin: This is one of the dirtiest places in the kitchen, so it’s important to clean it as often as possible to prevent germs spreading. Clear out the rubbish, then take the bin outside and hose it down. Wait until it dries, then spray with cleaner or disinfectant. Give the can a good scrub, especially on the internal surfaces, then rinse with the hose. Once dry, you can take it back inside.
Stovetop: Use an all-purpose cleaner or grease cleaner to spray the stovetop and front of the stove. Leave for a few minutes, then wipe down with a clean dry cloth. You can sweep crumbs on to the floor if you’re going to vacuum them up.
Floor: Sweep, vacuum, and/or mop your floor, depending on the type of surface. You should do this chore last as you’ll collect up all the crumbs and grime you’ve wiped off benches and cabinets.
Kitchen cleaning tips
There are a few common mistakes people make when cleaning the kitchen. To get a spotless finish, make sure you:
- Clean handles, knobs, and controls. These are often the dirtiests parts of the kitchen as they frequently come into contact with our fingers.
- Clean appliances like the coffee grinder and food processor that you use all the time.
- Hand wash sharp knives in the sink and dry immediately to help preserve their sharpness. Don’t put them in the dishwasher.
- Use an oven liner at the bottom of your oven to catch spills. This make it much easier to clean.
- Wash your reusable shopping bags in the washing machine.
- Clean the inside door of the dishwasher.
- Work from the top down, and clean the floor last. This means you’ll wipe up any crumbs that you spill.
Kitchen organising tips
As well as keeping on top of cleaning in your kitchen, it’s important to create good habits and systems so you can easily find ingredients you need and keep clutter at bay.
The first step to improving organisation in your kitchen is to declutter. Take all your ingredients, utensils, appliances, crockery, and cooking tools out and donate/sell/recycle any you don’t use. Every kitchen has random gadgets, double-ups, and well-meaning presents from relatives you never use. It’s time to get rid of them and work with what you need.
When organising your kitchen, consider zoning it based on tasks you perform throughout the day. Keep your kettle, coffee maker, toaster, and toast condiments in a breakfast zone, your baking ingredients and mixers in a baking zone, school bags, pens, and craft bits in a homework zone, cleaning products, sponges, and rubbish bags in a cleaning zone, etc. Zones allow you to group items where you’re likely to use them.
Here are more top tips for organising your kitchen:
- Use a magazine holder or wine rack to store sports drink bottles, to keep them from rolling around.
- If you’re limited for crockery cupboard space, hang mugs from hooks by their hands.
- Use cabinet risers to create smaller shelves within your cabinets, effectively doubling your storage space.
- Wicker baskets can be a great and inexpensive way to store items like tea towels, napkins, and cookbooks.
- Store tools and ingredients together. For example, designate a cabinet for baking. Stack ingredients in storage containers and hang measuring cups and sieves from a corkboard on the door.
- Add a blackboard or whiteboard somewhere so you can jot down ingredients as you run out.
- Use vertical space – for example, the gap between your refrigerator and the wall - for narrow vertical organisers. These store a significant amount of food and give you a full view of exactly what you’ve got.
- Make better use of corner shelves in the pantry with lazy susans, allowing you to easily locate cans or containers.
- Use shower caddies to store fruits and vegetables. They’re excellent for keeping lemons, capsicums, and avocados ripe for longer.
- Magnetic spice jars that attach to a wall strip or fridge door save on space and are easily accessible.
- Clear containers enable you to identify the ingredients you need at a glance. Labelling containers is also useful (you don’t want to mix up salt and sugar!) and they are a great way to add a pop of colour to your kitchen decor.
For more kitchen organising tips, check out this A-Z guide from The Kitchn.
A clean, organised kitchen will enable you to find ingredients and utensils with ease and keep your family safe and well-fed. What are your top kitchen-cleaning tips?