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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 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.
- If your cutlery is rusty (which happens to us fairly often, because we like to use a medley of silver-plated vintage utensils from flea markets), rub them with salt and a lemon slice until the rust comes right off. (If they're just tarnished, try the foil-baking soda-hot water bath trick.)
- Enameled cast iron naturally discolors when grease burns onto the sides of the pot, but a little scrub with water and Bar Keeper's Friend will wipe it clean with ease.
- Many kinds of oil will remove labels and their sticky residue from jars you'd like to clean and re-use. Mineral oil will do it, as will plain old olive oil (I've found that rubbing oil on the label and then soaking the jar in hot water loosens it most efficiently. Then just scrub it away with a scouring pad.)
- 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.
- We knew that there were ways to get the frying smell out of a kitchen but it was news to us that you could also zap a fishy smell from a room, too: Scrub any and all residual fish grease from the floor and walls, use a cut lemon to clean all utensils, then set out a bowl of coffee grounds (or put baking soda-water in a slow cooker, as melissa y suggested).
- 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.)
What cleaning tricks did you learn in 2016? Share them in the comments.