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Hate cleaning the kitchen after cooking a meal? Or want to know how to make it a little less miserable? You’re not alone! But we’ve got your back with 21 easy ways on how to keep your kitchen clean as you cook.
1. Pick a spot, any spot.
Know where you plan to do most of your work and stick to it. Many people struggle with clean-up because they tend to spread out their cooking gear and stations all over the kitchen when they don’t really need to.
If possible, keep to one or two areas and clean as needed. Doing so will help keep you organized and minimize what you have to do later.
2. Have a temporary trash bin, bowl, or bag nearby.
Unless you’re right next to a trashcan already, have a makeshift one nearby. You can use an old bag, a large designated bowl, a bag, or the item that your food came in.
I like to use whatever is available. However, my favorite option for when nothing throw-away is available is the Rachael Ray Garbage Bowl, which is made from melamine, comes in a variety of colors, and it’s easily identifiable from other bowls. It’s also easy to clean and maintain.
Either way, having something close and accessible for you to toss whatever into it can reduce your kitchen movement, helping you save time and energy. Above all, you’ll be able to contain the mess and keep it tidier, rather than needing to clean all of your counters later. Just make sure that there’s no lid and that the opening is always accessible for quick dumping.
3. Clean as you go.
Believe it or not, you can save a ton of time if you clean up as you go. Leaving things to sit until you get to it will only result in stuck-on messes that require scrubbing, soaking, or both.
However, if you clean things as soon as you’re able to, you’re likely only going to need to rinse and then place the item inside the dishwasher, or wash by hand with minimal effort involved. It will also help you avoid burnout later. Especially once you’ve already eaten, which can sometimes lead to procrastination or making matters worse than they need to be.
If you know a particular item will need a bit of elbow grease or that you won’t be able to get to it until later, fill it with warm, soapy water and get to it when you can. Then it can have time to soak, and you’ll have to put in less effort later.
4. Take advantage of bake, simmer, or roast times.
Cooking can have moments where there’s nothing much else to do other than wait for your food to cook, bake, roast, or simmer.
While it may be tempting to sit and watch TV or browse the Internet or to distract yourself in some other way, try using that time to clean as you go.
Cleaning as you cook can help you avoid putting more effort into cleaning up later. After all, if you’re cleaning as you go, you’ll have less to do after eating, which is typically when people start feeling the pangs of carb-induced lethargy.
And if you hate cleaning up after your meal, you’ll love how fast it goes when you start cleaning up as you cook—especially if you’re the one cleaning it up. And even if someone else will be doing clean-up, it’s still a courteous and stress-reducing habit to get into.
5. Plan ahead.
It’s always a good idea to plan when it comes to cooking, whether you choose to do it first thing in the morning or the night before. This way, you can set yourself and the meal up accordingly, if need be. You can also plan other factors that might be involved. For instance, are the dishes you’ll be needing clean? Do you have the ingredients needed for the meal?
You can also plan for how you’ll be cleaning up and what might be the best way to go about preparing your meal. This can be particularly helpful during large meals, such as around the holidays and when extra work is involved.
Sometimes, I’ll even try to warn folks if I’ll be needing their help tidying or prepping, just to avoid surprising them with it later. It also lets me figure out what I’ll be having them do (i.e., rinsing dishes and loading them in the dishwasher) to plan other things accordingly.
6. Prep before you actually start.
Preparing all of your ingredients and what you’ll need is a great way to save steps later and reduce unnecessary messes.
For instance, it may be helpful to measure out any seasoning and spices beforehand. Instead of dumping them into their own little bowls, try to consolidate all of them into one bowl or on a plate when they’re to be used together. Save the individual bowls for when ingredients need to be used separately from the rest.
You can also wash and chop any produce earlier in the day or the night before. Some people find it useful to prep veggies ahead of time, package them by measurement, and may even freeze them whenever possible.
7. Have an available dishwasher beforehand.
It’s always useful to make sure you have an available dishwasher and that there will be enough room for what you’ll be using as you’re cooking. This way, you can rinse as you go and slip whatever you won’t use again in the dishwasher when applicable.
Have a Routine.
One way to ensure that you always have a free dishwasher is to set up a routine. We like to make sure that the dishwasher is emptied first thing in the morning in our home after running it the night before, assuming it needs to run. This is usually left up to a designated person, but that’s up to personal or your household’s preference.
At night, we usually think about what’s going on the next day and determine if the dishwasher needs to run. If so, we set it to do so as we sleep or are done eating for the night. This is why planning the night before or having an evening cleaning routine can help.
To each their own.
We also try to make sure that everyone able to loads their unique dishes as soon as it enters the kitchen unless it absolutely needs to soak. Otherwise, nothing sits long in the sink at any given time.
Getting everyone to take care of their own dishes can take some getting used to, depending on the household. Still, it helps throughout other routines, including during kitchen cleanup. Plus, your kitchen will look and smell a lot better throughout the day, rather than when you finally get to that neglected load of dishes in your sink.
8. Rinse items straight away.
My absolute favorite trick for keeping the kitchen clean while cooking, ensuring there’s less effort throughout the process, is to rinse as soon as I’m done with an item if I’m no longer going to need it.
If you’re ever left scrubbing a pan, bowl, or having to whip out a sponge, it’s often because the food has had a chance to set due to being left alone too long. However, if you immediately rinse off that ketchup, jelly, grease, or other mess, it will likely rinse clean off. This saves a lot of time and effort, and it may even help to reduce stress.
9. Wash it sooner than later.
If you’re dealing with something that’s been in the oven or has a cooked-on mess, try to soak it as soon as you can instead of leaving it for later.
Things such as stainless steel pots or items with a lot of cooked-on mess are a lot easier and faster to clean if you get to them while the food’s still relatively fresh and not glued on.
10. Ask for help.
As mentioned before, asking for help is one obvious yet surefire way to speed up the cleaning process after cooking. However, if you feel awkward asking for help, start with smaller steps, such as asking someone to wash the dishes or load the dishwasher.
You can even ask them to help you prep ahead of time so that you can avoid the extra mess later. Either way, every bit and every helping hand counts, and there’s nothing wrong with asking. But also make sure to be gracious by saying thank you, even if you think they should be doing it anyway.
11. Reuse when possible.
Reducing steps is a crucial factor in speeding up your kitchen cleaning time. And one way you can reduce efforts is to reuse dishes or any other items you use to cook whenever possible.
Many people tend to take out multiple versions of the same tool or item when cooking because they assume it will speed things up. However, that’s not always going to be the case. Sometimes merely reusing what you already have used can be a lot faster and far less mess to clean up later.
12. Less is more.
When it comes to cleaning in general, less is often more. In other words, reducing the amount of clutter sitting out in your kitchen daily may help you and other members of your household stay tidier. It can also help you clean faster and more efficiently, even while helping boost moods and reduce stress due to visual and subconscious overstimulation.
Keeping a decluttered kitchen typically means having fewer items out on the counters as possible. That includes things that you might use but could find a home inside a cabinet when not in use.
Doing this won’t only look better, but you’ll have fewer distractions, making it easier to spot and clean up messes. You’ll also have fewer things to move around as you clean.
I often find that others who may be messier are less inclined to leave a mess because what they would leave sitting out would stick out like a sore thumb. That could mean even less work for you with fewer people to pick up after as well.
13. Get a good dish soap.
Believe it or not, not all dish soaps are created equal. Some tend to be more powerful or efficient at busting through grease and cooked-on messes than others. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a good, strong soap on hand for emergency messes, even if you prefer to use something gentler on average. Our top-favorite: Dawn Platinum 4x.
Check out our post on Top 10 Tricks and Clever Uses for Dawn Dish Soap to see its many other uses and hacks.
14. Rinse recyclables right away.
Just as it can be beneficial to rinse dishes whenever you’re done using them, the same goes for recycling. Try to rinse recyclable items as soon as you can so that they’ll be easier to clean and less likely to go in the trash as a result.
You can also add hot soapy water to greasier items, such as mayonnaise or peanut butter jars and dressing bottles so that they can soak as you continue to cook.
15. Pace yourself.
People tend to dislike cleaning up the kitchen or other areas because it can be a time-consuming task. However, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Sometimes it’s more about learning how to hustle, as it’s common for people to move rather slowly.
Planning and staying organized as you go about cooking is one way to overcome this issue, but so will moving faster. I sometimes even picture myself as though I’m working in a professional kitchen—aiming for efficiency, not sitting idle until I’m caught up as much as I can, and even turning it into a bit of a game.
16. Make sure cleaning items are easily accessed.
Part of knowing how to keep a kitchen clean while cooking is to make sure whatever cleaning items or products you plan to use are easily accessible, if not out already.
While you don’t need to take out things such as a cleaning spray or sponge right away, it’s often beneficial to have at least a damp cloth or good-quality microfiber cloth nearby, such as an E-Cloth or Norwex.
This way, you can focus on cleaning whenever you have a spare moment, rather than waste those minutes on finding something to clean with.
If you’re new to microfiber cloths or aren’t sure how to use them, you might like our post on 14 Tips on How to Wash and Maintain Microfiber Cloths, Towels, and Pads (new tab).
17. Find an incentive to do it.
While it may seem far-fetched, finding incentive or motivation to clean as you go is relatively simple: it means less work later on. However, if you still struggle, it might help find a way to entertain yourself.
For example, I love playing music as I cook and clean. Sometimes I’ll even listen to a podcast, Youtube video, or an audiobook if I don’t need to concentrate too much. Anything that doesn’t take too much of my attention away.
Over time, I eventually learned that even doing something as simple as multitasking with entertainment can turn even the more mundane or disliked tasks into not-so-bad ones. Sometimes I even start to look forward to it.
18. Learn your weaknesses.
Sometimes, learning your weaknesses can be an excellent way to work around them and improve your overall cleaning game. For example, I hated cleaning up after dinner because it would always take me what felt like forever and, at times, felt overwhelming. OK, and I was pretty much too lazy.
But I quickly learned that if I asked people to take care of their dishes, rinsed things early, asked for help, and got to it sooner instead of later—cleanup actually didn’t take that much time at all. And I also discovered that it can help to have a clutter-free space even more so.
19. Prevention is key.
Prevention can play a crucial role in how easy or quickly you’ll be able to clean your kitchen, or even how well you’ll manage to keep it clean.
Try to think ahead as you cook to figure out how you can prevent or reduce mess and avoid any extra work whenever possible, such as using non-stick cooking mats in the oven to reduce scrubbing. Or having a sink or bowl full of soapy water ready to wash when you have a spare moment.
20. Make things easier on yourself.
Sometimes being able to clean quickly means having the right tools. At the same time, those tools don’t need to break the bank nor be all that elaborate.
In fact, one of my favorite time-saving cleaning products would be nothing more than using a little water and a microfiber cloth, such as an E-cloth, for tidying up as I cook.
Microfiber cloths are great because they can be far more efficient and faster at cleaning up spills and debris than paper towels or other methods. They’re also ideal to use as you cook because there’s no real need for cleaning products or sprays.
That means less work, avoiding getting any product on or in your food, and not having to continually wash your hands.
You can also reduce steps by letting older members of the house serve themselves straight for the cookware or treating dinner buffet-style now and then, rather than having to do it all yourself if it’s not a special occasion or if you’re not entertaining.
21. Clean those appliances off sooner than later.
I used to be pretty bad at cleaning stovetops, ovens, and microwaves. But I eventually realized it’s a heck of a lot easier to clean messes, like the dreaded microwave pasta sauce explosion, right away.
This is because it has less time to harden and set and can often be wiped up with one quick swipe of a slightly damp microfiber or cleaning cloth. In fact, I tend to wipe out the microwave every night or as soon as possible if I know it’s been used, which is why it’s always clean, and I never have to scrub. It takes maybe 5 seconds.
The same can go for spills on stoves and in the oven. Try to get to clean your stop top and microwave as soon as you can and it’s safe to do so to save time and effort. I also recommend wiping underneath the microwave or exhaust vent whenever cooking something greasy, or to at least try to do so once a month, including tossing the vent filters in the dishwasher or soaking in a sink full of hot, soapy water, which should take less than 10 seconds.
Otherwise, getting all that grease off later can quickly become a time-consuming disaster—and a smelly one, at that.
Keeping your kitchen as clean as possible while you cook can take a bit of practice. And, sometimes, what you’re cooking can factor into how easy it’ll be to clean up. This is because some meals can be messier or more complex than others, which is why it may be helpful to start with the basics:
Have any tricks of your own to share? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to check us out and follow us on Pinterest for the latest updates.
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