The 4 Essential Cleaning Supplies I Started Buying After Graduating from Culinary School

published Jan 3, 2022
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washing dishes

My year at the French Culinary Institute taught me much more than learning how to cook. The truth is, I walked away surprised at how much non-cooking knowledge I actually acquired. Not only did I come away feeling confident in the art of the sauté and braise, but I also picked up plenty of handy tricks for working smarter and more efficiently in my kitchen.

One major lesson: the importance of a good arsenal of cleaning supplies. After graduating culinary school, I introduced four key cleaning products into my own kitchen. Eleven years later, I’m still using these helpful — and inexpensive — essentials on the regular. Here is my list of must-have, culinary school-approved cleaning supplies.

1. A giant tub of baking soda

I know. Duh, right? But until culinary school, the only baking soda I bought was in tiny cartons, intended for mixing up muffins and cookies. I was enrolled in culinary night school, and I’d often arrive to class early. There, I’d see the superstar cleaning crew tidying up after the day students. While I marveled at their efficiency, I noticed one item that was always in use: a giant tub of baking soda. Baking soda was used for just about everything, including deodorizing sinks and getting rid of plate and cup stains.

I had never thought to use baking soda instead of the fancy cleaning supplies I kept buying, but after realizing how inexpensive it is, I picked up a gallon and have never looked back. I promise: Once you stock this cleaning supply, you’ll find all sorts of clever ways to use it.

2. Cleaning wipes

My mother has always been mindful of the waste she creates (and brings into) her kitchen, so when I left home, I tried to keep that same mentality. I washed my dishes with reusable cloth rags, got my windows sparkling with everyday vinegar, and used concentrated cleaning solutions to make the product stretch just a little further. I definitely avoided those single-use, pre-moistened cleaning wipes.

But cooking full-time is a messy job, and as a culinary student, I realized half of creating dinner was cleaning up spills, crumbs, and messes. Add in raw meat or fish, and you’ve got plenty to disinfect. Now I always keep two types of cleaning wipes on hand: gentle compostable wipes, which help ease some of my environmental guilt, and heavy-duty ones for disinfecting.  

Credit: Sarah Crowley

3. Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend

My last two essentials are Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend. Both are powders that go to town on stainless steel (among other surfaces). I knew that my mother was a Bon Ami fan, but I assumed using it required too much elbow grease. After using both of these products to scrub down the hard-working dishwashing pit in culinary school and at professional restaurants, I realized I was wrong. They are seriously magical. 

Plus, both are inexpensive and can be easily found in just about any grocery store. Because professional kitchens have a lot of stainless steel, I used these a lot in my professional career. Even though the only steel surface in my kitchen is a two-compartment sink, I use these two proven powerhouses almost daily. Now that’s what I call getting schooled!

Which cleaning products are on your cleaning essentials list? Tell us in the comments below.