By Nancy Kalish
Most of us are cooking more to save money. Unfortunately, that means that the kitchen can get dirtier than ever faster than ever. But you can easily bring it back to its former sparkle with a little prep. And once you do, your regular cleaning routine will be a snap.
Looking to also be green while you clean? Here, Linda Mason Hunter, co-author of Green Clean: The Environmentally Sound Guide to Cleaning Your Home, provides her best tips for your dirtiest spots.
1. De-clutter before cleaning.
Is your counter covered with knickknacks, canisters or small appliances that rarely get used? Such objects eat up valuable workspace, attract dust and dirt, and make it harder to clean your counters quickly. Make space in your cabinets for all canisters of food and appliances (or consider getting rid of them altogether if you haven't used them in a year), and you'll make the rest of your job a lot easier. "A de-cluttered kitchen feels cleaner and stays cleaner," says Hunter.
2. Clean toaster crumbs.
A buildup of crumbs can create more than just a mess: It can start a fire in your toaster oven. Stay safe -- and clean -- by lining the toaster oven tray with foil and replacing it weekly. To dislodge crumbs from a traditional toaster, turn it upside down and shake it over a garbage can.
3. Freshen the refrigerator.
Food can easily spill in your refrigerator, so it's important to regularly wipe it down -- inside and out -- to remove spills and grease, and keep it smelling fresh. An open box of baking soda should do the trick and can then be used to make a baking soda paste to clean the refrigerator. "It's especially important to use a natural cleaner in the space where you store your food," says Hunter.
4. Banish burnt-on spills.
You can get rid of stubborn spots in your oven or on your stovetop with this nifty natural nonabrasive scrubber: Simply make a paste of baking soda and castile soap, apply it with a sponge and rub. This also works on dirty grout. If spills are especially stubborn, sprinkle with baking soda, lightly spray with water and let it sit overnight. Then, rinse with cold water. Next time you cook, sprinkle fresh spills with salt as soon as your stove cools. This will absorb the food, and you should be able to scrape it off easily.
Wipe it up when it happens: Want to make your next kitchen-cleaning job easier? Be proactive and zap spills and other dirty mishaps as soon as they occur. "The longer that dirt and grease sit on a surface, the longer it takes to remove them -- and the harder you'll have to work," says Hunter. In addition, giving your kitchen a little TLC each day (wipe down the counters and sink, wipe smudges off appliances, sweep the floor) will help make bigger cleanups (almost) a breeze.
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