5 Things You Absolutely Must Clean This Holiday Season — And 3 Things You Can Ignore

published Dec 13, 2021
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The holiday season can spark a frenzy of clean-all-the-things energy in even the most laid-back host. With friends, family, and out-of-town guests to feed and entertain, we feel extra inspired to get our homes into tip-top shape. Not to mention, the marathon cooking and baking sessions (check out our fun Cookie Time Machine!) that will be happening this month in our kitchens.

All of this can be a LOT, right before the holidays, so consider this our formal permission not to go overboard with the silver polish. Instead of tackling every last corner of your kitchen, focus on the areas that really matter. Here is what you need to clean before the holiday festivities begin — and what you can forget about until after the New Year.

Things to Clean This Holiday Season

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Tidy up the kitchen windows.

Winter sunshine has a knack for highlighting dingy or dusty windows. Although guests may not comment on gleaming glass panes, they’ll definitely notice dust and cobweb collections. Use a window cleaner or mixture of vinegar and water on the inside panes. If you really want to earn a gold star, tackle the inside and outside panes with a diluted ammonia mixture and wipe them dry with a cloth. Do this chore on a cloudy day so the sun doesn’t dry the windows as quickly, leaving behind streaks. You can skip the screens and the track, unless you’re in the zone and want to keep going.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

2. Clean the oven.

Unless you’re regularly scrubbing the inside of your oven, it’s probably due for a major deep clean. Over time, spills, drips, and crumbs build up, and can affect an oven’s performance — not to mention, add some not-so-pleasant flavors and smells to whatever you’re cooking. Use the baking soda and vinegar method for deep cleans; just be prepared to put in a little elbow grease. While you’re at it, you should also clean your oven racks — and brush up on some tips for keeping your oven in fighting shape all year-round.

Credit: Rebekah & Graeme

3. Wipe down the kitchen sink.

Ideally, you should be cleaning the kitchen sink regularly. At minimum, wipe it down at the end of the day. But with an increase in cooking tasks, your sink will be seeing a lot more grime. Be sure to regularly empty the drain catch, and don’t forget all of the little fiddly parts of the sink. Just before guests arrive, we’ve got a little polishing trick: The key to a shiny stainless steel sink is flour. Yes, flour! Rinse out your sink, dry it completely, and then sprinkle on a little flour. Buff until the sink is shiny with a soft cloth.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

4. Spiff up the refrigerator.

Early and often: That’s how much you should be cleaning your refrigerator. Cleaning this everyday appliance is less about how it looks; the goal is to create a sanitary environment and cut down on the potential for bacterial spread. Also, while you should be cleaning the door and handle of your fridge daily, it’s best to do this more often during the holidays, or anytime your kitchen sees more traffic. Additionally, now is a good time to toss expired sauces, condiments, and dairy, and do a thorough wipe-down of the drawers and shelves.

Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Kitchn

5. Degrease cabinet exteriors.

Grease and grime can make cabinets look old and tired. Use a damp rag to get rid of any settled-on film. Pay close attention to the cabinets over your range — and then reach for a Magic Eraser to scrub out dirt or food smudges.

Things You Don’t Have to Clean This Holiday Season

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Don’t scrub kitchen baseboards.

Before you find yourself on your hands and knees, scrubbing away at the baseboards, take a step back and breathe. It’s unlikely your guests will notice (or care about) normal wear and tear in such a highly trafficked area. You can run a Swiffer along the edge or a vacuum, but you don’t have to do more than that.

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2. Don’t organize and clean cabinet and drawer interiors.

Step away from the silverware drawer: Trust us, no one will be doing a close inspection of your flatware drawer or your mixing spoons, for that matter. Ditto goes for the pots and pans inside your cupboards. Concentrate instead on “appearances.” You can organize in the new year.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

3. Don’t do a heavy-duty mopping of the kitchen floor.

While we love the feeling of a sparkling post-mop clean, you can skip this chore until the holidays are done. Keep crumbs, dust, and pet hair at bay with regular Swiffer or broom and dustpan runs, but save the heavy-duty flooring clean until things have quieted down.

What do you make sure to clean during the holidays? Sound off in the comments below!