Kitchen Maintenance You Should Be Doing (But Probably Aren’t)

Molly GraceNovember 21, 2019

Most people know the basics of kitchen maintenance: Wipe surfaces down with an all-purpose cleaner and throw out the old stuff in your fridge when it starts to smell. Right?

Well that might cut it if you’re looking to do the bare minimum when it comes to keeping a clean kitchen, but if you want to have a healthy and thriving kitchen area, you need to level up beyond a simple, regular cleaning.

There are a lot of components that make up your kitchen, and they all need to be regularly maintained to ensure that they continue working efficiently and don’t need to be replaced prematurely. While some things you might be aware of, like the importance of sharpening your knives regularly, others aren’t so obvious. Here’s our guide to all the kitchen maintenace you might be missing out on.

De-Stink Your Garbage Disposal

If you’ve noticed a weird smell in your kitchen that you can’t quite place (and taking the garbage out didn’t help), a stinky garbage disposal might be the culprit. Because all kinds of gross things inevitably end up going down our kitchen drains, they’re bound to need some TLC every once in a while.

To eliminate smell, cut up a lemon into small pieces, drop the pieces down the drain and run the garbage disposal until it sounds like it’s gone through.

Don’t forget to clean your drain’s splash guard, as that can hold on to some pretty nasty stuff. Use a toothbrush and soap and scrub the underside of the rubber flaps.

To easily keep your pipes clear and free of smelly buildup, pour boiling water down the drain about once a week.

Keep Your Backsplash Looking Fresh

With all the home improvement and home buying TV shows touting the backsplash as a stylish and value-increasing addition to the modern kitchen, it’s easy to forget that this feature actually serves a purpose. That is, until the stains of everyday kitchen use start to show up.

To keep this component of your kitchen looking brand new, be sure to clean it regularly and wipe up any big splatters as soon as they happen. When dealing with grease stains, use a commercial cleanser meant for grease or soapy water. If you have a tile backsplash, use a toothbrush to scrub the grout.

For really stubborn grease stains, mix equal parts baking soda and water and apply to the stain. Let it dry and remove with a cloth.

Descale Your Appliances

Anything that touches a lot of water – coffee makers, ice makers, dishwashers – will need to be descaled every once in a while.

Descaling sounds kind of gross, but all it means is removing the mineral deposits that build up over time from regular use. While the chalky, white residue isn’t harmful to your health, it can affect the efficiency of your appliances, resulting in hard water stains and potentially affecting the flavor of the things they produce. 

There are a variety of commercial descaling solutions available for purchase. Just make sure to buy one that’s suited for the machine you plan to use it on. If you prefer a natural cleanser, equal parts water and vinegar will take care of any limescale buildup. For something less pungent, try citric acid.

To descale a coffee maker, run a brew cycle with water and your chosen descaler in the water chamber, following the directions on the bottle if you chose a commercial product. After the first cycle has finished, run at least two more using only water to rinse the machine.

For the dishwasher, pour two cups of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe bowl and place it on the bottom rack of your empty dishwasher. Then, run a normal cycle.

When it comes to descaling your refrigerator’s ice maker, make sure to turn the ice maker off or unplug your fridge before you start cleaning. Remove the parts of the ice maker that you can. Dump the ice in your sink and gently remove any chunks stuck to the side of the bin using an ice pick.

Use the vinegar solution to wipe down the components, then wipe off any remaining moisture with a dry rag. Don’t put the components back together and turn the ice maker back on until everything is completely dry.

Do this a couple times a year for all your appliances that utilize water, more often if you live in an area with hard water or use these items a lot (die-hard coffee drinkers, take note).

Wash Your Dishwasher

In addition to the occasional descaling of your dishwasher, you’ll also want to do a regular cleaning of it about once a month.

Remove any debris from the drain. If your dishwasher has a manual filter, remove it and rinse it off in the sink.

If your dishwasher isn’t cleaning as well as it used to, it may be a sign that the spray arms are clogged up. Use a toothpick to clear the holes of any buildup. Do this every few months to ensure your machine is working as efficiently as possible.

Clean Your Range Hood Filter

These can get pretty greasy, so you should be cleaning it every once in a while to keep it in good, working order. If you’ve never done this (or are thinking “Uh, what’s a range hood?”), there’s no time like the present!

Some filters are dishwasher safe. However, if yours isn’t or you want to do a thorough cleaning, fill your sink with very hot water (boiling, if you can). Add some dish soap and a quarter cup of baking soda. Remove the range hood filter and submerge it in this mixture, letting it soak for around 10-30 minutes. Then, scrub the filter clean and rinse. Let it dry before putting it back.

While you’re doing this, take a look at the hood as a whole. Wipe down any grease splatter or other debris.

Make Your Fridge More Efficient

You probably know the importance of going through your fridge occasionally to make sure nothing is growing cultures in the back of your shelves. However, there’s an oft-forgotten part of your fridge that also needs attention from time to time: the condenser coils.

These are the coils that snake along the back or bottom of your fridge and help regulate the fridge’s temperature. When these coils become dusty, they don’t work as well. This means that the fridge has to work harder than normal to keep your food cold, shortening the life of the fridge and driving up your utility bills.

Safety first: Unplug the fridge before you begin (don’t worry, this won’t take long). Locate the coils. If they’re on the bottom, remove the grate that covers them. Use the hose extension on your vacuum to remove as much dust and dirt as you can. Then, use a duster or refrigerator coil brush to get the dust from the crevices. Vacuum up any dust that fell onto the floor.

You should do this one or twice a year, more often if you have pets.

Another way you can ensure your refrigerator continues to work efficiently is by keeping the gasket clean. The gasket is the rubber seal on your refrigerator door. Over time, it can become weak and won’t seal properly, meaning the fridge has to work harder to stay cool. Gaskets can be worn down prematurely if they aren’t cleaned regularly, as sticky residue can build up, causing you to have to pull harder to open the door. Wipe yours down regularly with an all-purpose cleaner to keep it in good shape.

Don’t Forget Your Cooking Tools

If you like to cook and have some good-quality cookware and utensils, you probably know the importance of taking care of these items. However, a lot of amateur chefs might be unaware of the maintenance that some of these tools require.

Wooden kitchen tools like cutting boards and spoons should be rubbed down with a little bit of mineral oil every once in a while. Allow the oil to soak in for a couple hours, then remove any excess with a cloth. Don’t use a food-based oil like vegetable oil or olive oil, as these can go rancid over time.

Always hand wash wooden tools, as the wood can warp and crack when put in the dishwasher. If you cut raw meat on a wooden cutting board, rinse it off immediately after use. When you’re ready to clean it, pour some hydrogen peroxide onto the board and allow it to sit for a few minutes. You can use diluted bleach instead if you’re especially concerned about bacteria. Rinse off with hot water.

Cast-iron skillets are a particularly finnicky piece of cookware. If you own one and aren’t sure how to take care of it beyond towel drying it so it doesn’t rust, here’s the lowdown:

You don’t want to use soap to clean cast iron, because soap will strip the pan’s “seasoning” – the thin layer of oil present on its surface. As soon as you’re done cooking, take the pan while it’s still warm and pour a little oil into it, along with a handful of kosher salt. Use a cloth or paper towel to scrub the salt around the pan. When you’ve removed all the food bits, dump the salt and wipe off the excess oil. If you stack your pans in the cabinet, use paper towels to separate them so they don’t scratch or harbor moisture.

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Molly Grace

Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.