You know how to clean a kitchen. So do I. But there are things we learned from our parents, shortcuts we developed ourselves, and just straight-up habits that may make our cleaning, well, less than optimal.
Heck, half the time I research a story for Kitchn, I learn I've been doing something wrong my whole adult life! And while some of these habits could just be optimized better — making sure you're really cleaning the most effective, efficient way — others are actually adding undue risk to your family through cross-contamination.
Think you're doing it all right? See if you have any of these bad kitchen cleaning habits you should break ASAP.
1. Starting from the bottom.
After my family has dinner, there's one place that truly looks terrible: the floor. It is amazing how much food my preschoolers manage to spill, and to be honest, I make a mess when I prep too. But if I go with my gut, which is to tackle that mess ASAP, I'm breaking one of the biggest rules that applies whether you're doing a big cleaning job or just nightly cleanup: Start from the top. Inevitably, when you're dusting or wiping down counters, debris will fall onto your newly cleaned floors. So even if they're an eyesore, leave the floors until last!
2. Cleaning all surfaces the same way.
It says "multipurpose," right? While a sponge and spray cleanser can hit many surfaces, if you have more sensitive materials — like stainless steel, wood, or marble — you risk damaging them if you use the same cleaner everywhere.
The key: Read the directions, and follow them! Manufacturers are clear about where their producs can be used, and if it means having two cleaners in your cupboard instead of one, it's better to use the storage space than to ruin your countertops.
3. Using paper towels for everything.
Paper towels are a major kitchen cleaning convenience. They sop up spills, pick up grease, shine windows, and more. They're also wasteful. And not necessarily the best tool for the job at hand. Before you reach for that next paper towel, take a pause: Could you use a dish towel, sponge, or microfiber cloth instead? Reusable materials will do in most cases.
4. Not cleaning the cleaners.
Pretty much everything we use to prep and cook food, we wash: knives and pots and pans, dishes and cutting boards, etc! But there's a tendency to think that the things we use to clean just stay clean, and unfortunately, with all that exposure to moisture and debris, that's just not the case. Your dish sponge and the sink are two of the biggest offenders, harboring the kinds of bacteria you'd normally find in a toilet. Make it a practice to change out your sponge frequently and wash your sink nightly to keep them ship-shape.
Related: How To Clean Your Kitchen Sink
5. Leaving it until the morning.
I don't know a single person who hits the end of a meal and thinks, "Yay, I can't wait to wash the dishes!" It's just not a thing. Sadly, leaving the dishes until the morning can have a few bad consequences.
First of all: pests. Ants, fruit flies, roaches, and mice would be happy to snack on the bits of food you've left in your sink. Some of them may scuttle away before sunrise, so if you make a habit of leaving out dirty dishes, you can be feeding a population without even knowing it.
Also, if you've ever tried to clean dried-up mac and cheese, you know that some things that are annoying to clean at night are just about impossible to dislodge in the morning. And finally: Waking up to a clean kitchen just feels good. It doesn't take that long to wrap it up, but having a fresh start is worth the effort.
Got any other bad cleaning habits to add? Discuss in the comments below!