These Are the Grossest, Most Neglected Areas in Your Kitchen, According to Cleaning Pros

published Jan 19, 2023
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A person cleaning a kitchen counter with a cloth and spray bottle
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Just when we think we’ve gotten a handle on taming the most disgusting areas of our kitchen, we get thrown another curveball. The sponge you thought you had in check? It turns out microwaving it doesn’t make it any less gross, and you should stop doing so immediately. That innocent-looking spice rack? Surprise! It’s also a germ depot

But sometimes you don’t need a microscope to identify the grossest, most-neglected areas of your kitchen. We went straight to the people on the ground, professional cleaners, to get the dirt on what they’re seeing (and deep-cleaning) in our homes. 

Alex Vito, owner of The Soapranos Cleaning Co., which works throughout New York City and select New Jersey counties, names the refrigerator as the spot people really neglect. It’s here where he finds things like moldy food and items long since expired (like, five years). Leave it unattended for too long and you get layers of grime that, in his words, “pancake on.” 

To deal with a situation like that, “the best thing to do is soak it,” Vito says. He recommends spraying on a basic bleach solution or one of water and vinegar and letting it sit. He’s also a big fan of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers for those tough spots that need a little extra elbow grease. 

Vito reports that the inside of your oven is equally disgusting. (Layers of crud, but with the bonus of being baked-on.) For this job, he reaches for an oven cleaner like Easy-Off, which works best when it has some time to soak in. Instructions recommend two hours, but Vito advises that tough jobs may take longer. When the time is up, wipe the crud away with paper towels, and a rigid sponge or Brillo pad

The final word from Vito on gross and neglected places in your kitchen? Behind both of these major kitchen appliances. “Most folks never move their appliances,” he says. “Mice, cockroaches. Even clean homes have them.”

Michael Dimopoulos, founder of Lazy Susan’s Cleaning Service NYC, which serves New York City and parts of New Jersey, names the trash can as the most disgusting place in the kitchen. “From leaking juices to lingering food smells, spills inside and out of the trash can, your trash can is highly susceptible to messes — and germs — that can cause your whole kitchen to feel and smell gross.” 

His strategy for managing this is one part prevention, one part maintenance. He recommends using sturdy, tear-proof garbage bags, noting that he prefers scented ones, and sprinkling baking soda in the bottom of your trash can once a week to freshen it up and absorb smells. “But sometimes, you need to clean the actual bin,” he says. To do that, empty it out and wipe it down with a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar. “Just as baking soda does, vinegar cuts through smells, with the added benefit of fending off germs,” he says.