Here’s a Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning the Kitchen (and Everything in It)

published Apr 15, 2023
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Credit: Lana Kenney

As the center of your home life and the place where both literal and figurative nourishment takes place, your kitchen is the heart of your home. That might be why having a clean kitchen feels like the first step of having a completely clean house. In fact, even if you aren’t able to often achieve that idyllic state of whole-house cleanliness, cleaning your kitchen goes a long way in making it feel like you have.

While tidying your kitchen daily is imperative for maintaining a space that always looks and feels its best, regular deep cleaning is always a good idea. “Regular deep cleaning” here means something that falls between an after-dinner routine clean-up and a full-blown kitchen refresh (the kind where you soak the greasy oven hoods and dust your fridge’s condenser coils). It’s just enough of a scrub to have your kitchen looking speckless.

Here’s a guide to what to clean, how to clean it, and in what order. But first, we have some helpful things to keep in mind if you want to keep your kitchen cleaning brief and focused.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

A Few Things to Remember While Cleaning Your Kitchen

Keep these things in mind to make your kitchen-cleaning experience as pleasant and efficient as possible:

1. Don’t get too deep in this type of cleaning

You’re going for an overall deeper clean, not a deep cleaning of individual items. If you find yourself tempted to clean your oven interior, deep clean your dishwasher, take apart the toaster or scrub the grout, skip it for now and make a plan to do it soon.

2. Use the right tools

Having the right cleaning kit on hand makes any job more satisfying and effective. For cleaning the kitchen, you may want to have a razor blade scraper handy for scraping gunk from your glass stove top, for instance. Also, keep in mind that while white vinegar is definitely a cleaning workhorse, the acid in vinegar can damage natural stone countertops like granite.

Credit: Photo: Esteban Cortez

Kitchen Cleaning: A Step-by-Step Guide

The cleaning routine described in this post is intended for a weekly or biweekly cleaning, depending on how heavily you use your kitchen.

Here’s how to make your kitchen immaculate in about an hour:

1. Clear clutter off your counters

You can’t properly clean around junk that doesn’t belong in your kitchen in the first place. Start in one corner of the kitchen or one section of the counter, and remove everything that doesn’t belong on your counters.

It might be a good time to employ the laundry basket method. Don’t bog yourself down or raise the potential for distraction by putting items away one by one right now. Just clear them away from the counter. You can put things where they go after all the counters are clear or after the kitchen is completely clean.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Empty the dishwasher and the dish drainer and wash the dishes

Whether your kitchen is fairly clean, to begin with, or you have some floating dirty dishes or pans that still need to get washed, starting with empty places to put your freshly washed dishes ensures that bottlenecks don’t hamper your cleaning efforts.

If your dishwasher is full or nearly full of dirty dishes, wash any lingering dishes first and then run the dishwasher before you continue cleaning. Clean any burnt pans you’ve been putting off. Wash any and all dishes that are hanging around, including those water bottles that tend to be out on the counter next to the sink.

3. Dust the tops of the fridge and cabinets

No matter which room you’re tackling, cleaning from top to bottom always makes sense. This way, as dirt and dust are dislodged and settle on the next lower surface, you’re sure to clean it up. In the kitchen, you may begin at the top by dusting the overhead light fixtures, the top of your refrigerator, and the tops of your cabinets.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

4. Clean small appliances

Next, quickly clean your small appliances. You don’t want to spend too long on this or clean too deeply, but it’s a good opportunity to shine and clear debris from your microwave, coffee maker, toaster/toaster oven, or stand mixer.

Start with the interiors—dumping out crumbs from toasters and running a vinegar cycle through your coffee maker. Steam the inside of your microwave with vinegar and wipe it down. Finish up by wiping down the exterior of each small appliance. Use a microfiber cloth dampened with a white vinegar solution or a bit of all-purpose cleaner. (But don’t use vinegar on stainless steel—it could strip the shine.)

5. Clean anything else that stays out on your counters

In addition to some small appliances that get regular use, you may have a tray of cooking oils, a rack of mugs, or an urn holding cooking utensils out on your counters. Make sure these items are clean.

Give trays a dusting or wash or wipe them down, wipe down any bottles or containers, and, while you’re at it, consider whether there’s anything you’ve been keeping on the counters that you could put in a cabinet or drawer instead. This is also a good time to wipe down your dish rack (empty it first, obviously) and toss your drying mat in the wash.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

6. Scrub down the exterior of your stove and oven

Again, a thorough oven cleaning might be best undertaken at another time, but briefly cleaning the exterior goes a long way in obtaining a spic-and-span kitchen.

Start at the top: If you have a gas stove top, remove grills (you may want to soak them if they’re grimy) and wipe the surface underneath with all-purpose cleaner; if you have electric burners, those can be cleaned with diluted dish soap (again, wipe the surface below with all-purpose cleaner); and an electric glass stove top is super easy, just wipe the whole thing down with warm soapy water.

Once the top is clean, wipe down the front of your oven with an all-purpose cleaner, white vinegar, or diluted dish soap. Don’t forget the knobs and display!

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

7. Wipe down your counters

Once your dishes are all washed, you’ve dusted, and your small appliances are sparkling clean, it’s time to give your counters the royal treatment. Working in sections, take everything off your counters, including the things that live there, such as your tray of cooking oils or your urn of cooking utensils.

Dislodge crumbs caught between counters and the oven with a credit card or pan scraper, as necessary. Wipe your counters thoroughly with a bit of cleaner appropriate for your counter type and a microfiber cloth. Buff dry to make counters gleam. Repeat with each section of counter.

8. Deep clean your sink

Deep cleaning your sink is easier than it might sound. First, rinse it out. Use a scrubbing cleanser like Bon Ami or Bar Keepers Friend, being sure to address nooks and crannies with a detail cleaning brush. Scrub your faucet and any sponge holders or soap dishes as well. Rinse everything. Finish by filling your sink with hot water and adding bleach to the water. Let it sit for ten minutes and drain.

If you have a garbage disposal and want to keep it smelling good, you can add lemons (or lemon peel) or any other citrus to the drain and run the disposal (with water running).

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

9. Clear out the fridge

This may not be the time to do an entire refrigerator deep clean, but do go through your shelves and remove anything expired, wipe down any spills, and put things in their rightful places.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

10. Clean the outside of your large appliances

Wipe down the outside of your refrigerator and the dishwasher. Polish with stainless steel cleaner if appropriate.

11. Empty and wipe down your garbage can

Now may not be the time to completely wash your garbage can, but make it as clean as you can inside the kitchen by taking out the trash if it’s full, vacuuming out any crumbs in the bottom of the can, and wiping it inside and out with a disinfecting wipe. Do the same with your recycling and compost bins.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

12. Sweep, vacuum, and mop the floor

Sweep with a broom to pick up all the larger crumbs and debris that end up on the kitchen floor, especially near your cabinet toe kicks. Nudge your broom under the fridge and oven, too. After sweeping, use a vacuum cleaner to get the fine dust and dirt. Follow it up with a thorough mopping to get at dirt and grime.

13. Add your finishing touches

As the crowning glory to your newly pristine kitchen, replace your sponges, rags, and dish towels with fresh ones, light a candle, and put some cut flowers on your counter or table.

Credit: Minette Hand

If You Need a Deeper Clean:

Additional deeper cleaning tasks you may want to incorporate (in addition to oven interior cleaning, etc.) include exterior cabinet door cleaning, pantry cleaning, and cleaning underneath your appliances.

Remember that decluttering your kitchen, on the counters, inside cabinets, and your fridge and pantry interiors, makes a huge difference in the feel of your kitchen, and how clean and organized you and your household are able to keep it.

Read more: The First 3 Things You Need to Do to Declutter Your Kitchen

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: A Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning the Kitchen, and Everything in It