21 Little Ways to Have a Cleaner Kitchen in 2021

updated Jan 4, 2021
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Cropped shot of a woman cleaning a kitchen counter at home.
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New year, new start, right? Well, we’re all still probably up to more of the same. But why not focus some of that New Start Energy into the one room in your house that needs it the most: the kitchen? See, our kitchens are likely feeling the least new and exciting of all. Because we’ve been using them so much … for nearly an entire year.

With all that use, comes the wear and tear and dirtiness. So we thought we’d use the new year as an excuse to get a cleaner kitchen. Even if you’re thrilled to spend the time cooking and baking in there, these practices will make you enjoy your kitchen even more.

Here are 21 little ways to have a cleaner kitchen in 2021. On their own, none of these things take up all that much time or effort. But each one will have a huge impact on the cleanliness of your space.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Replace your sponge every week.

Sponges get disgusting, and “disinfecting” them might be doing more harm than good by giving room for the scariest germs to take over. But the convenience and efficiency of sponges is hard to match with other dish-cleaning methods. Rather than trying to get a scuzzy sponge clean and wondering if you’re smearing a germ cocktail on your counters and tabletop, decide here and now to replace it every week. Picking a day (Friday!), helps keep the habit going. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Sweep more often.

Even if you vacuum your kitchen floors regularly, there are corners and crevices that your regular unit just can’t reach. Once a week, get out your good broom and put those angled bristles to good use. You’ll be surprised and satisfied to get those crumbs and dust bunnies out from under your appliances and cleared from around your toe kick areas. 

Credit: Lauren Volo

3. Scrub your sink nightly.

Your kitchen sink is almost certainly dirtier than your toilet. To cut down on the growth of bacteria and try to fight this disturbing fact, scrub your sink every night after the dishes are done. We like Bar Keepers Friend and a scouring pad (which you use only for your sink and never for dishes).

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Empty your dish drainer regularly.

Preventing a backlog of dishes is one way to keep your kitchen humming. If you leave any dishes on a rack to air dry, designating a time to empty it will ensure that you’re not stacking wet dishes on dry ones. And it means that dishes in the sink have a place to go once they’re cleaned. Consider emptying yours every morning and, if needed, again every afternoon before dinner prep. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

5. And don’t let the dishes pile up.

Did you see that little bit in the blurb above? The one about having a place for dishes in the sink to go? That’s key because you really shouldn’t let dishes pile up in the sink. A mess begets more mess and it’s easy to let this get out of control. If your sink is clean, and empty, it will likely stay that way. The point: Wash dishes as you use them. Or, if possible, add them to the dishwasher.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Add vinegar to your dishwasher.

Speaking of the dishwasher. You do need to clean it from time to time in order to keep it running its best. Between those deeper cleans, you can add a bowl of vinegar to the top rack. We explain why, here.

Credit: Lucy Hewett

7. Soak your oven knobs.

No doubt you wipe down your stovetop after using it to cook, but when was the last time you gave the knobs a bath? Prepare a solution of warm water and a few drops of dish soap, remove your knobs, and give them a good soak. Then rinse and let air dry before replacing them. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani/Kitchn

8. Stop pre-washing your dishes.

Getting your dishes too clean before you put them in the dishwasher is costing you time and wasting the power of your dishwasher, which uses sensors to determine how well to clean your dishes. Scrape larger bits of food into the garbage can, but don’t bother washing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. 

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9. Shut the kitchen down nightly.

A regular, mini-deep clean keeps your kitchen ready to go at all times and makes it a pleasant place to be. Our kitchen shut-down routine includes vacuuming the floors, making sure the chairs are pushed in nicely, scrubbing down the sink, emptying the trash, and wiping down all the counters. 

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10. Wipe your containers before putting them in the fridge.

Fact: If you put dirty things in the fridge, the fridge also gets dirty. Always put away leftovers and various containers away with a damp rag in hand, so you can wipe things down first.

Credit: Catherine Meschia

11. Clean your trash can.

It isn’t pretty, but it needs to get done. Take your trash can (and your recycling bins while you’re at it!) outside, hose it down, and then scrub the cracks and grooves where junk collects. If it’s too cold where you are, you can also do this in your bathtub.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

12. Vacuum out your drawers.

Over time, crumbs and other debris collect in drawers — especially if members of the household are careless about making sure drawers are closed when cooking. Empty your drawers and run a vacuum cleaner with a nozzle attachment through them. It won’t take all that long. Promise.

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13. Banish paper clutter.

Paper clutter accumulates; if you leave any papers out on the counter, the pile is sure to grow. Be strict about removing it daily so you don’t end up with an overwhelming mess of mail and coupons and school papers. 

14. Wipe your mats and wash your rugs.

Although they get just as dirty as your floors, kitchen mats don’t usually get cleaned as often. Give them a good vacuum and wipe-down, front and back, now and then add them to your regular kitchen floor cleaning routine. If you have kitchen rugs, wash them. 

15. Wipe down your kitchen chairs.

Kids or not, kitchen chairs can get grubby over time. Wipe them down with a soft rag, such as a microfiber cloth, and some gentle all-purpose cleaner. 

Credit: Erika Tracy

16. Clean your backsplash.

Vertical spaces tend to get neglected when it comes to cleaning. But kitchen vertical spaces, including backsplashes, get dirtier than most. Grab a wet rag or a Magic Eraser and wipe down your backsplash areas. Realizing your backsplash is greasier than you thought?Read this.

17. Wipe down your cabinet fronts.

Another vertical surface that could use some cleaning: your cabinet fronts, which get touched repeatedly. Use a microfiber rag and some all-purpose cleaner or warm, soapy water to wipe them down, concentrating on the areas around the knobs and the knobs themselves. 

Credit: Cat Meschia

18. Clean your vent hood.

Your vent hood sucks up your cooking steam — and a great deal of grease along with it. And dust clings to grease. You get the picture. Getting it clean will make you feel like your kitchen is so much cleaner … because it will be. Use warm, soapy water and a rag to clean the outside. And here’s how to clean your range hood filter

Credit: Cambria Bold

19. Use trays or bowls to contain messes.

Ready for something super simple yet mind blowing? If you have something that tends to leak (a honey container or packages of meat, for example), store it on a plate or in some sort of vessel that will contain the mess.

20. Have a home for everything.

It’s hard to clean around a toaster that you use once every three months. Ditto for ingredients that should be in the pantry but are on the counter for some reason. Have a home for everything and make sure you put things back in said home. With less stuff out of place, it will be easier, in general, to clean your kitchen.

Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Kitchn

21. Make a clean-fresh-spills promise to yourself.

We’re big fans of the clean-as-you-go way of cooking. But even if you don’t want to commit to a complete overhaul of how you’re used to doing things, choose this small but impactful way to keep your kitchen clean. Whether it’s drips on the counter as you’re cracking eggs or the casserole that overflowed in the oven, make it a habit to clean messes before they harden and stick (as soon as your oven is cool). Your kitchen will stay much cleaner this way.