The 23 Most Brilliant Tips for Keeping Your Kitchen Counters Cleaner, Forever

updated Jul 16, 2020
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A kitchen with clean counters will serve you well in so many ways. Not only will things look sharp and orderly, but empty counters also offer you the most cooking space possible. Minimal counter clutter also means less stuff to clean because you can wipe counters easily — so cleared-off counters also tend to be clean and healthy counters, too.

Even if you like the lived-in look of a few intentionally placed items set out on the counters or you refuse to put the coffee pot away because you use it at least once a day, the more you can get off of your counters and stored elsewhere, the better.

Here are some creative ways to think about and store your kitchen items so that your counters stay as clear as possible.

1. Put most things in cabinets or drawers.

It seems obvious, but this is the foundation of your whole clean-counter mission: Store as much as you can in organized cabinets and drawers, saving countertop space only for the absolute essentials. Much like the always-clean-sink principle in which you do your best to not even leave one dirty dish in the sink so that it doesn’t attract more, a cleared-off counter is much more likely to stay that way.

2. Get rid of stuff you don’t use or need.

The best way to create more space anywhere in your kitchen is to get rid of anything you don’t really need. Here’s a list of 27 things to declutter from your kitchen to get you started on your edit. Some common categories of things you can probably get rid of are duplicate kitchen tools, cookbooks you don’t ever (or rarely) use, and almost all those coupons and other paper scraps.

3. Hang knives from a magnetic knife rack.

Rather than taking up counter space with a bulky knife block, hang knives from a magnetic strip instead. Your knives will still be just as accessible, but won’t take up any valuable horizontal surfaces.

Credit: Lana Kenney

4. Use trays or stands to corral items left on the counter.

If you have things out on the counters, either by necessity or choice, placing them on trays or stands makes the difference between the look of a messy hodge-podge of things left out and a purposeful selection of items that you’ve chosen to keep within reach or on display. This kitchen uses trays, turntables, and even a platter to create homes for items left out on the counters.

5. Group items together.

Placing items that live on your counters together in eye-pleasing vignettes gives a far more orderly appearance than items spread out across the whole space. Groupings look meaningful and artistic instead of like stuff that has no other home.

Credit: Cambria Bold

6. Get cookbooks off the counter.

Unless you’re truly referring to each of them, each day, your cookbooks are likely better off on a shelf up high, or even somewhere outside of the kitchen, rather than taking up counter space.

7. Keep attractive, large cookware on the stovetop.

A beautiful Dutch oven can live on your stovetop. This frees up valuable real estate inside your cabinets, so you can use that space to store smaller things that you may otherwise be tempted to keep on top of your counter.

Credit: Olivia Muenter

8. Or use the top of the fridge.

Same concept here: Freeing up cabinet space and therefore kitchen counter space. While we may not store something utilitarian on top of the fridge for fear of it looking out of place, the above Dutch oven must be left out for viewing pleasure, and its placement near a plant suggests the deliberateness of the move.

Credit: Naomi Vacaro

9. Distract the eye.

These counters are delightfully bare already, but the use of eye-catching stools ensures that any viewer’s gaze is pulled to the blue color rather than anything sitting on the counters.

10. Have an official ban on certain items.

While it’s unrealistic and maybe undesirable to have a kitchen counter that’s completely empty, it’s a good idea to keep your own rules about what is and isn’t allowed to stay on counters for storage, like appliances, pantry staples, mail, or olive oil (it’s better in a cool, dark place!).

Credit: Rikki Snyder

11. Add hooks to your backsplash.

Instead of letting sink-side essentials (like a dish scrubber and tea towel) take up space on the counter, add a few removable adhesive hooks to your backsplash above or right next to the sink.

Credit: Alexis Buryk

12. Use the sides of your cabinets for storage.

A hook-and-rail system is perfect for storing small kitchen tools. By freeing up the space they take in your drawers, you could clear your whole utensil urn off the countertop.

13. Install a pegboard for ample wall storage.

A pegboard opens up so many storage possibilities. This pegboard stores several types of items that are often stored on top of the counters, including oil and vinegar bottles, a pepper mill, wooden spoons, canisters, and a cutting board.

Credit: Alexis Buryk

14. Add a shelving unit.

Adding a shelving unit to your kitchen can make your counters the workspaces they’re intended to be. The wire shelving unit above stores several typical “counter items,” including a stand mixer, fruit bowl, and knife block.

Credit: Anna Spaller

15. Hang your fruit.

We get that leaving your produce out helps ensure that it gets eaten before it’s past its prime. But traditional fruit baskets take up valuable counter space. A hanging fruit basket like this one makes excellent use of vertical space that’s in the air and frees up usable square footage on your countertop.

Credit: Lana Kenney

16. Use a ceiling rack for more than just pots and pans.

S-hooks allow you to hang just about anything from a ceiling rack that’s traditionally used for pots and pans. Hanging cooking utensils like spatulas and tongs that are often stored in containers on the countertop frees up counter space yet keeps them perpetually within your grasp.

17. Bring in an island.

Even a tiny rolling island can free up counter space. Use it to house something that’s been kept on your actual counter, like a butcher block. One with a shelf or two underneath opens up even more storage possibilities.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

18. Store things (like cutting boards and tools) on the inside of a cabinet door.

Rather than leaning them against your backsplash or putting them in a jar, hang adhesive hooks on the inside of a cabinet door to store your cutting boards and kitchen tools.

Read more: The Smartest Ways to Put the Back of Your Cabinet Doors to Good Use

Credit: Joe Lingeman

19. Use cake stands as trays.

Even if the items you set on your cake stands aren’t completely off your counter, simply elevating them above the counter with a cake stand gives the same contained look that a tray accomplishes and makes it particularly easy to clean around. Set oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, or even your dish soap and sponge on them.

20. Or try a lazy Susan.

Countertop items can also be contained on lazy Susans. What’s nice about these is that you can store a bit more on them and still have access to the items. This can lend an overall cleaner look because the items you have out are less spread apart.

21. Store your extra scrubbers and sponges on the inside of cabinet doors.

Shelves that stick to the inside of your cabinet doors are the perfect out-of-sight place to store items that you may otherwise leave on the counters adjacent to the sink.

22. Store cutting boards upright.

If you definitely want to keep your cutting boards out, at least store them upright rather than set horizontally on the counter. You’ll take up far less counter space and still have your boards at arm’s length.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

23. Hang a storage rod on the wall.

Adding a rod with hooks to a kitchen wall frees up drawer and cabinet space in order to ultimately free up counter space.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The 23 Smartest Tips to Keep Your Kitchen Counters Cleaner, Forever