I like to think I’m a clean person. I regularly do laundry, vacuum my floors, and keep the clutter to a minimum. But while I have no problem wiping down my kitchen counters and cleaning my trustiest pan, it occurred to me recently that I might be unknowingly neglecting some of the most important appliances in my kitchen.
Like, I can’t exactly remember how long it’s been since I cleaned my refrigerator. Or my oven.
“Nothing in your kitchen will kill you if it’s not properly cleaned,” says Melissa Maker, founder of tidying blog Clean My Space.
Phew. But according to Maker, while the cleanliness of a stove top might not be a dire situation, it does matter. Not only will cleaning kitchen gadgets make your kitchen look nice, but it’ll also keep your appliances working in tip-top shape.
“If people learn to take better care of their items, they will really work as the manufacturer intends for them to function,” she says.
Maker dishes on how often we should be cleaning some of the most-used appliances in our kitchens—and shares her top tips for caring for them in between cleans. Because, as she puts it, giving up a few minutes to take some preventative measures now will save you so much time scrubbing later.
From crispers chock-full of produce to gallons of oat milk, it’s safe to say my refrigerator is one of the most used appliances in my kitchen. The good news is, it doesn’t require much maintenance, says Maker.
“Once a month would be like getting all A-pluses at Cleaning University,” she explains. “But if you clean it once every three months, you’re in pretty good shape.”
In the meantime, it’s important to regularly remove expired or decaying food. Not only will it create an unpleasant scent every time you open up the fridge (no thanks!), but that odor can move on over to your other food, too.
“The food in your fridge can absorb the bad taste of something else,” says Maker. “[One of the] best things you can do every month is replace your box of baking soda. Open it up to help filter the air and neutralize bad odors and flavors.”
Another way to cut down on the scrubbing? Clean the outside of any bottles. Everyone knows maple syrup is notorious for dripping down the sides of its exterior, leaving a sticky mess in its wake. So give it a nice cleaning here and there, and you’ll thank yourself later.
And the oven? “If you can get it done once or twice a year, you're in really good shape,” Maker says. “It's also something that doesn't need to be overdone. It’s okay if there's a little bit of crud in your oven; it's not going to hurt anybody.”
The most important thing to consider when sprucing up your stove is whether or not it’s self-cleaning.
“If your oven is self-cleaning, you must use self-cleaning,” she emphasizes. “The inside of the stove has a special coating and if you use a sponge, you will ruin the coating, void your warranty, and your stove won't work.”
If you don't have a self-cleaning stove, one easy way to prevent a huge, time-consuming clean is sprinkling salt over any spills. Salt, Maker says, absorbs whatever spread over, preventing it from adhering to the bottom of your oven. Instead, it crusts up in a pile, so you can easily sweep out the salt.
Every single time I cook, without fail, my stove top gets covered in grease, oil, and the occasional sauce explosion. Maker says it’s important to give it a good wipe-down after I’m done whipping up something delicious.
But while you should regularly clean your the surface of your stove top, other parts of your stove require less maintenance. The drip pans, Maker explains, can be cleaned once every few months.
To make sure the whole thing really shines, I usually reach for a trusty all-purpose cleaner—but Maker gave me the low-down on her favorite DIY recipe:
“Apply equal parts baking soda and dish soap,” she says. “If a sponge isn’t working, you can move up and use super-fine steel wool or a soft pumice.”
How do you know when you should clean your microwave? Well, just look at it! There’s no denying that a microwave covered in soup, sauce, and remnants of last night’s takeout needs a good scrubbing.
“I clean it as it needs to be cleaned,” Maker says.
Spillover, she says, is the biggest problem—so it’s always a good idea to cover anything you’re heating. One way to prevent superfluous cleaning is investing in a few silicone microwave covers, which allow you to heat your food while keeping the mess to a minimum.
Of course, you'll eventually need to clean your microwave. When that time comes, Maker recommends filling a bowl with warm water and sliced lemon, and putting it in the microwave for three minutes.
“The water creates steam, and lemon has an oil that breaks down the dirt and grease on your microwave,” she says.
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