Cleaning

20 All-Natural Spring Cleaning Tricks For the Kitchen

April 18, 2017

Sharing kitchen cleaning tricks is like handing out chocolates: More is never a bad thing! It follows suit that despite how much we love to test and share our favorite methods for stain-busting, pest-control, and grime-scouring, we also love to listen up.

I went back to a few of our past cleaning posts and Hotline threads that got you riled up the most and culled the best ideas from the comments section. As it turns out, the vast majority of your suggestions were for all natural, eco-friendly, or otherwise non-chemically-laden solutions!

We're all about finding more natural ways to do the work of classic cleaners, and in the spirit of sharing, here are some of the best tips from our archives and your expertise:

Photo by Mark Weinberg

For cleaning a vent or hood:

  • "Mineral oil works way better than hot water and a microfiber cloth for cleaning that dusty, oily film off vent hoods," Kenn has told us. "It's also the best way to erase fingerprints and get a streak-free shine on your stainless steel appliances. Much cheaper than those ridiculous stainless steel spray cleaners too!"

For polishing up stainless steel:

  • By spraying plain white vinegar on your finger-printed or greasy stainless steel surfaces, as Sarah Engler taught us last year—the smudges will rub right off. And a quick polish with olive oil afterwards will make them shine.

For cleaning a cooktop:

  • DMStenlake once recommended a homemade solvent—"the baking soda and vinegar trick"—for spiffing up a cooktop surface. This combo will also work wonders on other white surfaces like a toilet bowl and grout.
  • And more than a few of you simply suggested thoroughly soaking a rag or towel in hot water and laying it across the cooktop (with all the burners turned off and cooled, of course!), waiting a half hour, and then wiping it off.

Instead of oven cleaner:

  • Due to its super harsh fumes and chemical makeup, many of you advised steering clear of oven cleaner no matter what. In its stead, take a cue from Lindsay-Jean: "When a dish boils over in the oven, cover the spill with salt while it’s still wet; it will make it easier to clean up later—after the oven cools down of course," she assures.
  • In this Hotline thread, HalfPint suggests degreasing the interior with "hot soapy water and a scrubbing sponge," using "a scraper to chip away any carbonized foodstuff that you can" before making a paste of baking soda and water to coat the interior of the oven, as you would with cleaner. Leave it overnight, then scrape and sponge away.
  • In this article's comments thread, Andrew Wilson suggests this tip for cleaning oven racks: "The best thing to do is soak them for a few hours (or overnight) in a bathtub (lay down a towel to prevent scratching) with enough hot water to cover and 1/2 a cup of dishwasher (or laundry) detergent." Use a stiff-bristled brush as you rinse, to remove the stubborn gunk. You could also apply Laura Cattell's trick of putting dryer sheets at the bottom of the bath, which "melts off [the grime] while wiping the racks." Use an all-natural brand, of course.
Photo by Mark Weinberg

For cutting layers of grime...

  • "For cooktops and that greasy layer of dust that accumulates on practically everything in the kitchen eventually," Rick Strong suggests turning to "the (not terribly) toxic" Goo Gone. Since the main solvent ingredient in it is actually Kerosene, as Beth pointed out in the same comment section, Goo Gone "dissolves most grease instantly and is surprisingly gentle on the underlying surface (check a patch first!)," according to Rick.

For preventing the need to clean high surfaces that gather gross dust...

  • For super dusty out-of-sight surfaces, like the top of the fridge or high up cabinets, grandma recommended keeping "a piece of sturdy cotton fabric" spread out on the top, which you can then simply "swap it out and wash it regularly." Newspaper can be used to the same effect, but the ink could transfer—and it's is a little harder to keep in place.

For getting stickers or labels off...

  • In 2013, Lindsay-Jean wrote that plain white vinegar will loosen papery stickers if you sponge it on and let sit for a few minutes before scraping the sticker away. Guess what? It's still true. (In a follow-up post, she also notes that you can use mayonnaise to the same effect—if that's your thing.)
  • And our photographer Bobbi Lin says that eucalyptus oil is a wonder tool for this purpose, as it "smells better and works better" than Goo Gone. Beyond stickers, she says it's also great for cutting grease, finishing a cutting board, and getting minor stains out of carpet.
Photo by Mark Weinberg

To get a thin-necked bottle or vase clean...

  • Lindsay-Jean (have you noticed she's our expert on all the best all-natural tricks?) has recommended using uncooked white rice as a natural mild abrasive, coupled with a bit of arm strength. "Partially fill [the vase] with warm water and a handful of rice and shake vigorously," she instructs, "covering the top of the vase with your hand, please. If your vase has a stubborn white film in it, fill the vase with white vinegar (enough to cover the residue), let it sit for a bit, and then add the rice and shake.

For rescuing a burned pot...

  • "Cover the burned material with a thick layer of baking soda, add a small amount of water, and let it sit overnight," jthelwell piped up in a comment section, and "the burned material will wipe off." And AntoniaJames agreed: "It worked like a charm! I heated the pan with the baking soda and water briefly first, and then let it sit for 24 hours" before washing clean. "It not only helps to release the burned food, but also neutralizes the disgusting smell," shares mamameeka in the same conversation.

To remove stains from dishes...

  • HalfPint has told us that cream of tartar—which is actually a natural byproduct of winemaking, did you know?—is "a good cleaning agent as well as a oxidizer." Apply a paste of it to a coffee-stained pot, or any porcelain dishware that's no longer bone-white, and wipe away with hot water after letting it sit for a bit.

Instead of copper cleaner...

  • As Beth Sweeney, the maker behind Coppermill Kitchen, has shared, ketchup is a great solution for cleaning discolored copper cookware, as it's just acidic enough but not at all abrasive.

Instead of a stain stick...

  • A few years ago, Merrill taught us one of her tricks that combines heat and velocity to get stains out of clothing and aprons: "Pour boiling water straight from the kettle from at least a foot above the item you are cleaning. My mother taught me this, and it works!"
  • And for oily stains, good old salt can fight the good fight, as Zara ALston has noted: "Just sprinkle the salt all over the stain and wait till it absorbs the oil." Flour, cornstarch, and white chalk will also draw an oily stain out from a napkin or tea towel the same way.
  • For the most dreaded (and likely) of food stains, those of red wine on white fabric. Mayukh Sen reported that a leisurely soak in hot milk should do the trick. For the similarly persistent and purple-ish stain of berries, Sarah Jampel found that a mix of hot water, vinegar, and, if necessary, toothpaste, are capable of great teamwork.

We originally ran this article last spring. It's back—with some extra tips that we've received from you since then—to help you tackle your kitchen clean out!

27 Comments

fisher6188 March 19, 2018
I accidentally let my hot saucepan come into contact with plastic bread wrapping and it burned on. Since it is on the outside of the saucepan, I can't soak it or simmer it. I tried to soak it with a wet washcloth and baking soda laid over the plastic burn, but it didn't work. Any suggestions on how to get the burned plastic off?
 
Daniel March 10, 2018
Great post, i look forward to trying these out around my home. <br />We run an exterior cleaning company cleaning and i have a lot of clients that would be interested in this article.<br /><br />Thanks!<br />Daniel<br />http://www.jetowash.com<br />
 
Torn C. August 8, 2017
I'd also like to share an easy method for cleaning your racks if you prefer to do it yourself instead of a professional oven cleaner. So, basically you spread a towel inside your bathtub and then place your dirty trays and racks on it. You fill the tub with hot water and then spread laundry detergent. Make sure the water is very hot because that's what's going to loosen the grime. The laundry detergent is there to help, but it won't work unless the liquid is very hot. Leave it like that for several hours. When the water has cooled get your racks and trays out and scrub away the grime with an old tooth brush and you're ready to go.<br /><br />Torn Clark from Domestic Oven Cleaners London<br />http://www.fantasticovencleaners.co.uk/
 
Torn C. August 7, 2017
Nice read.
 
Lindy S. May 10, 2017
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Kl F. May 3, 2017
Any suggestions for getting coffee out of cotton napkins? I cannot use bleach.<br />A suggestion for melting beewax, put it in an empty can, put that in pan of water and set to boil. It has an incredibility low flash point. Watch it while it melts. I find the idea of wax in the microwave dicey. If it smokes remove it from the heat source.
 
Dryer D. April 20, 2017
Don't forget about dryer vent cleaning. There is a company called Dryer Duct Pros at www.dryerventcleaning.us who does such a service
 
Carol March 30, 2017
I have two favorite cleaning products that I seldom see mentioned - Bon Ami and Murphys's Oil Soap. I prefer Bon Ami to Barkeeper's Friend because it does not scratch. I use it on the stovetop, my stainless steel sink and table, the bathroom, etc. Murphy's is great for that greasy gunk that accumulates on things in the kitchen including shelves and fan blades. I have also used it to clean walls before painting. If the grime is too much for Murphy's, then there is TSP, I use the phosphate-free variety.
 
tia March 30, 2017
Thank you for the fabric on cabinets tip. I just scrubbed mine and it was like something out of Martha Stewart's nightmares. I didn't even realize they were white when I started. I'm definitely making covers so i never have to do that again. EVER.
 
Andrew W. March 29, 2017
"(with all the burners turned off and cooled, of course!), waiting a half hour, and then wiping it off." I wouldn't dream of telling anyone who is worried about cleaning their stovetop while it's hot that they are wrong, but when my glass top gets grimy I clean it like a teppanyaki chef: run all the burners for a couple of minutes, halve a lemon, cut the heat, splash a cup of warm water on the cooktop, and go to work with a doubled over hand towel and the lemon half cut side down underneath.
 
Lisa R. March 29, 2017
No mention of the oven racks. Clean the same way as the oven itself?
 
Andrew W. March 29, 2017
For oven racks, the best thing to do is soak them for a few hours (or overnight) in a bathtub (lay down a towel to prevent scratching) with enough hot water to cover and 1/2 a cup of dishwasher (or laundry) detergent. Hit them at the joins with a stiff bristled brush while you rinse them off and they should be clean and shiny, if not you may have to break out the Bar Keepers Friend.
 
Laura C. March 29, 2017
Adding a layer of dryer sheets at the bottom of the bath works wonders. The grime melts off while wiping the racks.
 
Lisa R. August 7, 2017
Thanks, Andrew and Laura. I'll try your tricks this week, as my daughter and son-in-law are visiting next week. Need clean ovens!
 
breakbread March 27, 2017
Is there a good remedy for a fresh-smelling dishwasher after it runs a load of dishes? Mine seems to need a refresh. Thank you.
 
Andrew W. March 29, 2017
The first step to a better smelling dishwasher is often to take it apart: your washer has screens and traps to catch gunk, and if that stuff has gotten gross it's the most likely source of the odor. The good news is: on most modern washers those parts are designed to be removable without tools and sink washable. Just Google your washer model and "clean trap" for instructions. The bad news: You're going to want to wear gloves and open the windows for this; there's probably some pretty foul stuff that you're going to have to deal with while cleaning the parts.<br /><br />If washing these components doesn't take care of the smell, you might want to consider calling a plumber. The smell could be representative of an issue in your system that you can fix before it starts backing up your drains.
 
Allison K. May 4, 2016
Good old salt will also take red wine out of carpet :)
 
Debbie W. April 28, 2016
I love eucalyptus oil for getting stickers off. Thanks for sharing great cleaning ideas. Debbie
 
JoAnne L. April 18, 2016
My go to for seasoning and protecting wood cutting boards is; ten parts mineral oil, found at any drug store, to one part beeswax which is naturally antibacterial, heat carefully in the microwave (or in a double boiler on the stovetop) just until the beeswax melts, stir and apply warm to the cutting board. I do this at least once a month, it makes your hands feel wonderful too!
 
JoAnne L. April 18, 2016
Old English Lemon Oil works wonders on stainless steel, tile, wood and many surfaces. It cleans spots, stains and hard water deposits and leaves a bit of a residue that protects the surface from stains. Water bubbles up on it so you can re-wipe it several times, it smells great too. It is totally amazing on stainless steel sinks. It does contain petroleum distillates so use common sense, you wouldn't use it inside of stainless steel bowls unless you washed them well before using with food. <br />
 
Julia C. April 17, 2016
My mother taught me to add liquid dish soap to a pot or pan with hard baked or burned on solids and add water to it to make it soapy then put it on the stove and let it simmer for and hour or so. Every one and awhile take a pan brush and rub the bottom and sides careful not to splash to bring up the baked on solids. i repeat if needed. Works a charm especially with nonstick surfaces!
 
Marlene S. April 17, 2016
A quick simple solution for getting greasy food stains off washable clothes is concentration dish liquid. It breaks the grease down without spraying any harsh chemicals. Place a few drops directly onto the grease stain and rub it into to the fabric. Let sit for about a half hour and then wash with your regular laundry. This works most of the time but if the stain is particularly stubborn, prep fabric with plain white vinegar first and then the dish liquid. I've even saved some of my husband's silk ties (grease & spill catchers if you ask me) using this trick. I hand wash just the affected area, blot with a towel and send it to the dry cleaners. With out this preliminary treatments, ties come back neat, cleaned, pressed but still stained.
 
cookinalong April 16, 2016
While I applaud the impulse to clean green, I have to throw a wet (but clean) blanket over the vinegar & baking soda cult. It ain't magic. I have had absolutely zero success using it to clean an oven. I rent and, like many NYC residents, I have an OLD gas oven, used and abused and inadequately cleaned by many previous tenants. Three solid days and numerous applications of baking soda and vinegar & considerable elbow grease affected the baked on gunk very, very little & made little headway on more lightly soiled areas. And for the gunky, sticky grease & dust film that eventually settles on every kitchen surface? Sorry. Baking soda & vinegar is a very distant second to plain old ammonia. Just about an ounce in a bucket of water does the trick. I don't think anyone need cry themselves to sleep over it. Vinegar & baking soda is great for cleaning out small drain clogs, however & does a good job of cleaning the toilet or dirty windows. <br />For cleaning baked on grime on pans, I use a paste of hydrogen peroxide & baking soda left for an hour or so, then wipe away all the gunk. Sometimes a repeat application is needed for very heavy soil.<br /><br />
 
jclark April 16, 2016
Great suggestions, your web sight rocks!