When most of us clean, we tend to concentrate on the most visible and easily accessible surfaces. But there are many not-so-visible surfaces in our kitchens that need to be cleaned just as often – or nearly as often – as the things that we can see.
Below are 10 things that I believe to be the most overlooked surfaces in the kitchen. I’ve had to work hard, listen to feedback from my clients and former co-workers, and make a lot of mistakes to put this list together – so I hope you find it useful.
1. The underside of your kitchen faucet: Everyone loves the look of a shiny and spot-free kitchen faucet, but all too often we just wipe down the top – the most visible side. The underside of the faucet neck can get just as dirty as the top, so don’t forget to run a rag and cleaner along the underside of the faucet neck every time you wipe down the sink.
2. The inside of the vent hood: Whether you want to call this the inside or the underside, it’s very easy to overlook this part of the vent hood. After you wipe down the outside of the hood, spray your cleaning rag with a generous amount of degreaser and wipe down the inside edges of the vent hood, as well as around the light and fan area.
3. The inside lip of dishwasher door: When you open your dishwasher door, there is a lip around the edge that fits snugly into the dishwasher to make it water-tight. If you’ve never cleaned this edge before it will probably be covered with stains and gunk. Just wipe it down with a good degreaser or all-purpose cleaner every time you wipe down the countertops at the end of the day and it will stay clean and fresh.
4. The refrigerator door handle: This is probably the most touched surface in your kitchen, and probably the most ignored. When you’ve finished wiping down the countertops and sink, grab the handle of the fridge and freezer doors with the rag and wipe up and down vigorously, getting both the back side and front side surfaces.
5. The cabinet knobs: This is another commonly ignored surface, perhaps because they seem so small and insignificant. But knobs can be covered with greasy fingerprints and bacteria. Wipe them down with an all-purpose cleaner or disinfectant at least once a week.
6. The sink stoppers: Nearly every sink comes with two kinds of drain stoppers when it is installed – a black plastic one and a metal one that can act either as a stopper or as a strainer to prevent solids from going down the drain. I cannot tell you how often I come across these looking wickedly dirty. The easiest way to keep them clean is to pop them into the dishwasher every time you run a load of dishes. I don’t use mine that often, so to keep them out of the way I just leave them in the top rack of the dishwasher; that way they’re always clean and right next to the sink when I need them.
7. The edge of the counter: Like with most things we clean, we tend to focus on what is clearly visible – meaning the top or outer surfaces. But the edges of counters often get overlooked because we are standing right next to them when we wipe down the kitchen countertops, and we can't see how dirty they actually are. After you wipe down the tops of the counters, step back and look at the edges, too. I think you’ll find they could use a good wipe down as well. (This is especially true for Formica counters, which have a flat edge. Natural stone tends to have rounded edges, and it is not as much of a problem.)
8. The stove knobs: Nearly all stove knobs can be pulled off, but they seldom are. While it is not necessary to do this every day, you should periodically pull off the knobs and clean under them. (If they come off easily. If not, don’t try to force them, as you could break them.) Wipe the knobs off with a degreaser and just pop them back on. If you feel the knobs are dishwasher safe – and they probably are – pop them into the cutlery basket the next time you run the dishwasher and let the machine do the work for you.
9. The drawer under the oven: Most ovens that sit on the floor come with a convenient drawer underneath that is great for storing baking sheets and frying pans, but we seldom remember to pull all of these things out and give the drawer a good cleaning. If you’re really dedicated, you can pull the drawer completely out (it just slides on tracks like any drawer in your kitchen) and clean the floor underneath it, too. You’ll be shocked at the amount of dirt, crumbs, and pet hair that accumulates under the oven.
10. The trash can and lid: One of the best ways to keep your trash can clean is to empty all food containers of any unconsumed liquids or foods before placing them into the can. Pour out, scrape, and rinse any bottles, aluminum or steel cans, and to-go containers into the disposal or compost pile before tossing them in the trash. Of course, you should be rinsing out most food containers and placing them in the recycling bin, and not the trash can, anyhow. (You are doing this, aren’t you?) Either way, keeping food waste out of the trash can will keep your trash fresher and make the bag less likely to leak in the first place.
When the can gets dirty and smelly, pour some hot (not boiling) water into the bottom along with some all-purpose cleaner or disinfectant and let sit for about 5 minutes. Drain the water and wipe down with a clean rag and more cleaner if necessary. Keep the lid clean by regularly wiping it down—outside and underside – with your preferred cleaner. Better yet, if it will fit in the dishwasher, run it through a full cycle. Just be sure the dryer heat is turned off so it does not melt.
Image by Stilfehler (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.