The 13 Best Kitchen Cleaning Tips We Learned in 2016

April  5, 2017

Cook, clean. Cook, clean. It's a two-act play every time you turn on a burner or pile ingredients into a mixing bowl; intermission is sitting down to feast on whatever you've concocted. Maybe you like to get every dish done, and the floor swept, and the cooktop glistening immediately after dinner—I admire your work ethic, if that's the case—or maybe you're more like me, leaving the majority of things to soak overnight so they can be tended to in the morning (it might make you late to work sometimes, but all the better).

We're always on the hunt for tips and tricks and natural solutions to make these necessary tasks a little bit easier. Below are 13 kitchen-cleaning tips (plus some of our favorite cleaning supplies from the Food2 Shop) that we learned in 2016 and have committed completely to memory. To make Act Two run a little more smoothly.

  • Carbon steel, like cast iron, shouldn't be cleaned with soap. But if yours gets super gunky, do as JohnMD1022 let us know to do on the hotline: Scrub lightly with a piece of steel wool, or soak the pan in vinegar diluted 50% with water. (If the steel wool takes the seasoning off, you'll want to re-season the whole pan.)
The carbon steel pans we sell in our Shop, from Mauviel, are naturally nonstick once seasoned.
  • Remove turmeric stains from any pale-colored ceramics by soaking them in a bleach solution, or a strong white vinegar solution, overnight. Then wash clean with soap and water. (A slurry of cornstarch, baking soda, or flour left on a turmeric-stained linen will help lift it out of them, too.)
  • Despite the fact that they appear impossible (read: scary) to clean, appliances that blend ingredients basically clean themselves. Think food processors, French presses, blenders, and spice grinders—just add cleaning solvents plus water, press pulse/blend/pump, and watch them froth up a lather.
  • If the idea of using oven cleaner on a greasy cooktop makes you unhappy, try Goo Gone—which is both powerful on grease and friendly on the range itself.
  • Besides being the most convenient and incredible abrasive for cleaning dishes, baking soda will also help unclog drains, de-skunk dogs, wipe clean crayon-covered walls, and wash the washing machine. It'll do anything, really.
  • If hard water makes your glassware cloud after a spin in the dishwasher, try running them in a load with vinegar or citric acid in place of the detergent, the way some of our readers do. (Bonus: It'll clean the dishwasher, while it's at it!)
  • Deep-cleaning a butcher block is three-step, afternoon-long procedure, but it can be done without professional help! Wash off any residue, sand down the surface, and then oil the fresh new layer you've unearthed below it. (The same will work for overly worn cutting boards!)
  • We also figured out how to clean windows without leaving them streaky. Hint: It involves sponges and squeegees.
  • Rather than letting your fine mesh strainer dry after you use it, soak it immediately to loosen any food residue from between the tiny holes—and then poke away any remaining bits with a toothpick. (If things are really dire, you can try singeing them away, carefully!, above a burner flame.)

We originally brought you this article in the new year, but it's back to help with your spring cleaning goals.

What cleaning tricks did you learn in 2016? Share them in the comments.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Robin Jervey
    Robin Jervey
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Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


Robin J. June 6, 2017
Meant to say the lemons turn the vinegar yellow.
Robin J. June 6, 2017
After soaking, a little lemon essential oil works great at getting rid of the sticky label residue when repurposing glass jars. My favorite non-toxic all-purpose counter and stovetop cleaner is half white vinegar, half water in a spray bottle with lemon essential oil. Excellent on grease! I read a great tip about making lemon vinegar concentrate by dropping your used lemon peels (after removing the inner white membrane part) into a glass jar filled halfway with white vinegar. The lemons will turn the vinegar lemon and give it super cleaning power. Use the concentrate 50/50 with filtered or distilled water in a spray bottle. Works like a charm and costs almost nothing!
Michele G. April 14, 2017
Thanks for the tips. Marna, I took your suggestion, and used distilled white vinegar for a couple days. It removed more of the cloudiness than anything I've ever tried. midnightbaker, yes, minerals in the water are largely responsible, though I am, too, for not trying harder, earlier. I do use Polident tabs in distilled water to clear our wine carafes. Polident works very well so long as I use it promptly and regularly. (It was no match for my procrastination on the vase.) Again, thanks.
midnightbaker April 10, 2017
Michele Gildner - is the cloudiness the result of minerals in the water? I've read (haven't tried it myself, however) that dissolving Polident tabs in water and immersing a vase in it will remove mineral deposits. Good luck!
sandyrepp April 9, 2017
Some great tips here! I'd like to add a suggestion on removing sticky label adhesive from commercial containers you'd like to reuse -- if soaking and oils won't do the job, the product GooGone gets it off entirely. I tried many natural and chemical products, and finally it was GooGone that enabled me to repurpose many food grade bulk nut containers that now hold grains and beans in my pantry.
MARNA April 9, 2017
Michele Gildner - Have you tried vinegar?
Michele G. April 9, 2017
Does anyone have a good method for removing the (seemingly permanent) cloudiness in a Waterford crystal vase? It was a wedding gift 30-odd years ago, before I learned the joys of cleaning. Now I just use it for keeping herbs fresh on the counter, and I use distilled water. But no luck in removing the cloudiness.
Julie April 10, 2017
I don't own any crystal, but this method has worked fantastically for my tragically stained/fogged glass teapot:
1) Boil water
2) Put a spoonful or tablet of dishwasher detergent into the vase
3) Pour boiling water into the vase till the vase is full and detergent is dissolved
4) Let sit for an hour (or overnight depending on how stubborn the cloudiness/stains are)
5) Rinse
6) Enjoy crystal clear vase!
beth April 13, 2017
I'm not sure if it would work on a crystal vase- but years ago when I worked in restaurants we would throw a hand full of rice and some water in the bottom of glass coffee carafe- and swish and swirl like crazy. It removed cloudiness as well as coffee residue. Its worth a try. My second thought is fill it with white vinegar and let it sit for a few days.
201 M. March 20, 2017
I was taught that mesh strainers are meant for rinsing or draining raw produce and "light food items, ex. berries, few salad greens, a hard boiled egg after peeling to make sure no tiny bits of shell still remain.) Colanders are for draining cooked veggies and pasta. Potatoes and pasta are starchy and really gunk up the mesh strainers while colanders stand up to the heft of what is drained. (Just wish my daughter would apply this distinction. You wouldn't want to see her strainer while her colander sits pristine in the cabinet.). 201 Mama
Frank March 20, 2017
Anyone have a solution to the silicone gasket of a pressure cooker that always picks up the smell of the last dish cooked no matter how many times I soak it?
Dagny H. April 7, 2017
In my experience, a borax solution is good for getting odors out of stainless steel thermoses and plastic food storage or reusable water bottles. Could work for silicone too!
Kim January 31, 2017
Kim R

I find that denture brushes really work better than toothbrushes - cleaning those hard to reach places around the on/off water controls, faucets, getting the remains of pasta out of the mesh on your colanders and those
spots on your glassware baking dishes (after a good soaking).
HelloThereNicole January 18, 2017
Oh, and stop using Canola oil to fry with, sunflower oil is a healthier high heat oil that doesn't leave your house smelling like a fish fry
HelloThereNicole January 18, 2017
Turmeric stains are not lightfast so spritzing them with a little water and setting them in the window for an hour or two will remove them without having to resort to bleach. Worked for me on a white dress I had spilled curry soup on, no problem.
Lynn P. January 16, 2017
I have learned that the same ingredient that you put into a dishwasher to keep away spots will clean the deposit ring left in the cats' water bowl when added to the bowl and scrubbed with a toothbrush. I doubt the cats notice tho'.
midnightbaker January 15, 2017
I love my cast iron pans and use them almost every day. For cooked-on, crusty food, the best method is to simply add water or dishwater and put the pan back on a burner set on low. The crusty interior almost cleans itself, and can be washed without any additional scrubbing.
MARNA January 15, 2017
Regarding cleaning a fine mesh strainer, I tried "singing them away, carefully!, above a burner flame" but nothing happened. I guess I should try singeing them away.
Amanda S. January 16, 2017
Updated :) We also enjoy singing to them.
Whiteantlers April 5, 2017
The key to success is singing them the right tune.
Monika H. January 15, 2017
Regarding the inclusion of a French Press in the clean-up section of blending appliances, I must say cleaning one is the bane of my existence, since the finer grains of coffee that escape my rinsing of the press through layers of paper towels, tend to stay lodged in the trap of my drain pipes eventually clogging them. Any ideas on how to rid the drain of these particles, which are impervious to the much touted baking soda/vinegar or sadly, bleach applications. Any ideas?
Amanda S. January 16, 2017
Monika, I've plunged my sink drain to great success—just fill the sink with enough water to cover the rubber part of the plunger, then pump a few times to dislodge any stray materials in the pipe. (You might keep a spare plunger in the kitchen so as to not have to borrow the bathroom's.)
Monika H. January 16, 2017
thanks Amanda for this tip!
kantcould January 15, 2017
Here are 4 improvements or exceptions I would make to your cleaning tips:
1. I would never use steel wool in any fashion on my seasoned cast iron. The closest I get is with 3M cellulose scrub pads which do not have sharp edges and then very lightly. Usually pouring hot water into the pan immediately after using and letting it sit for awhile is enough to do the job.
2. Regarding sticky residue from labels, frequently you can do the job by dabbing the sticky side of the removed label several times over the residue.
3. My stove cook top is stainless steel with cast iron burners and grills. The best product I've found to easily clean up greasy deposits with no residue is Simple Green concentrated cleaner.
4. As for streak free window cleaning, the oldest trick going is balled up sheets of newsprint.
Robert W. January 15, 2017
The suggestion wasn't about cleaning cast iron, it was about cleaning carbon steel.
Laura R. January 15, 2017
I applaud the optimism about the powers of baking soda. I am sorry to say, however, that soda is no match for a well-skunked dog.
Linda H. January 15, 2017
For cleaning I find that Bon Ami works better than Bar Keepers friend. I've been using it for years on Corning ware and my pots and pans.
Mobar January 15, 2017
Oops - " judged " should read "judge-y"