25 Habits of People With Really Clean Kitchens

Aiming to finally get your kitchen clean — and keep it that way? These easy strategies can make a big difference.

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August 01, 2022

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They plan time to take a full kitchen inventory.

The first step to getting a clean and organized kitchen is taking stock of what you have from the inside out. That’s especially key in places where things can pile up out of sight, like further back in the cabinets or freezer. "Take everything out," says Jennifer Johnson of The Orderly Space. "It will allow you to see everything you own at once, and give you a fresh perspective."

And they split the task into two parts.

Split your inventory sessions into at least two afternoons one for food products and one for kitchen gear. That will keep things from feeling too overwhelming. It will also prime you for the next step: actually cleaning the items and spaces you intend to keep and use.

They ditch duplicates — and items they don’t use often.

"If you have things like multiple spatulas or can openers, you’d be surprised as to how much room these little 'extras' can really take up," says Melissa Maker of Clean My Space. The same goes for rarely-or never-used kitchen gadgets. Pare down on all three and you’ll immediately free up surfaces and space.

They put their vacuum attachment to use.

As you clean, you’ll likely run into dusty cabinet corners or crumb-laden edges of snack drawers. The fastest way to clean these kitchen crannies? Use the trusty suction attachment on your vacuum. One-touch cleaning at its finest!

They streamline their sink with two quick fixes.

A messy sink is often a bottleneck when it comes to clean kitchens but it can be kept under control with the help of two things: 1) A sink strainer that pops over the drain and catches any rogue bits of food or waste. 2) A small kitchen caddy that hooks over the sink and keeps dishwashing supplies in easy order without taking up prime countertop real estate.

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They focus on their fridge.

"The fridge can often be the most disorganized space in an otherwise clean kitchen," says Kay Patterson of The Organized Soprano. "But proper fridge organization and storage is something that can be life-changing." Patterson says that if you take time to learn the basics, it will pay off two-fold: You’ll end up with a neater fridge, and save money in the long run because you’ll waste less food.

And they tackle the crisper drawers first.

Read up on what exactly should (and should not) go in them then adjust your fridge setup accordingly. And don’t be afraid to invest in a few products to help with that. "You can get your lettuce to stay fresh twice as long if you know how to store it correctly," says Patterson. "I love these greensaver produce keepers for when I don’t have enough room in my crisper drawer."

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They freeze things flat.

To maximize freezer space, freeze any liquid-based leftovers (like chili or chicken soup) in reusable plastic or silicone bags so they can lay flat. This way, they’ll freeze in thin, stackable shapes and you can cleanly file them away without taking up unnecessary space. (Don’t forget to label and date them, of course!)

They keep their counters mostly clear.

When counters aren’t in use, keeping them as clear as possible is a two-part win. "The visual payoff can’t be overstated," says Meredith Ryness of Tiny LA. And functionally, cleaning them will be a total breeze.

And they thoughtfully group items that are left out.

If you can’t store everything away (or if it makes more sense to leave often-used items out on the counter), group them so that it looks cohesive. For example, gather all your coffee items on the same decorative tray, or store your dry goods in a set of matching containers.

They double the space under their sink.

Alongside kitchen cleaning comes the inevitable barrage of cleaning supplies. To keep them all tucked away, consider a tiered expander rack. It fits right under your sink and quickly doubles your storage space.

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They empty the dishwasher before they start cooking.

If the washer is cleared out before you start on dinner, you can rinse and load dishes and tools as soon as you’re finished with them instead of leaving them out for later. When you’re done eating, just toss in your last few pieces, and you’re halfway done with nightly cleanup.

They zone out their pantry — and stick to it.

The best way to food shop and keep a clean, streamlined pantry? "Create pantry zones for each food category like cereal, bread, or grains," says Johnson. "Then limit your purchases to only what fits in that zone." Knowing you’re up against a defined space limit will keep you from excessive bulk or impulse buys. It will also prevent items from being shoved away until they’re forgotten.

They ditch unnecessary boxes and packaging.

Decanting food items isn’t just for aesthetics. Doing so can also eliminate bulk and free up prime pantry space. And if you opt for clear containers, you’ll also know (at a glance!) exactly how much you have left of an item, making you more likely to use it up. Not sure where to start with decanting? Aim for dry staples like pasta or cereal.

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They quickly reset their kitchen every night.

Just do the highlights: wipe counters, sweep up crumbs, empty the sink and load the dishwasher if you haven’t already. The whole thing should only take a few minutes, and you’ll be rewarded in the morning with the sight of a clean kitchen.

They unload their dishwasher in the morning.

Remember that habit of always making sure your dishwasher is empty before you start cooking? Doing the unload part first thing in the morning is the easiest way to get that started. (Maybe, say, while coffee or tea is brewing!) Think of it as a clean storage slate for dirty dishes for the rest of your day so they don’t stack in the sink.

They store things vertically instead of horizontally.

Two things that usually benefit from vertical storage: 1) Pots and pans: These can neatly stack and tuck away into vertical organizer racks, along with their lids. 2) Spices: Tiering your spice cabinet with a stacked-shelf organizer lets you see everything at once, and eliminates rustling around for what you need.

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They power through deep cleans with a playlist or podcast.

Dreading your next cleaning session? Queue up a special playlist or podcast — then only listen to it while you’re cleaning. Not only will good music or a compelling story make the task at hand more fun, but it will also give you something to look forward to when (and only when!) deep clean days roll around.

They clean their garbage cans — beyond just taking out the trash.

Clean kitchens not only mean visually clean but fresh smells, too. And washing trash cans is a crucial part of that. Always wipe down and sanitize your waste bin as needed. Then at least once a season, take it outside, pour in dishwashing liquid, and hose it down.

They tend to the (often-overlooked) grout.

Chances are you’re already cleaning and wiping down tiled backsplashes, floors, or counters every now and then. But don’t forget the grout! Getting lighter grout back to its original color can instantly brighten up everything around it. Grab a gentle grout cleaner or make a DIY version with warm water and dish soap.

They visualize open shelving  — even if they don’t have it.

"Imagine your kitchen with no cupboard doors or drawer faces. What would that look like?" asks Johnson. We often let clutter pile up as long as we can hide it when the time comes, she explains. But if you treat these spaces as open shelving, you’re less likely to let clutter accumulate.

They remember the little things.

Clean kitchens don’t have to be clean to the point of bare. Once you have your blank slate, add small things back that have flair and function like a low-maintenance plant or a pretty hand towel. Small touches can make your space feel like it’s truly yours. (And in turn, help motivate you to keep things clean!)

They keep an eye on collections.

Almost every kitchen has its version of a catch-all collection that grows over time like travel mugs, tote bags, or reusable water bottles. Know what yours is, and trim it to make sure it’s not slowly (but surely) taking over your cabinet space

They invite people over often.

Whether you decide to host a casual kitchen coffee date or an all-out dinner party, having guests over is a sure-fire way to jumpstart a cleaning routine beforehand. It’s also the perfect opportunity to show off and feel proud of your space.

They use past declutter days as motivation to avoid future ones.

There’s no getting around it: Kitchen cleaning and decluttering can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task. But after you take the time to really sort through it including getting rid of items you may have overbought or don’t actually want you’ll be a more mindful kitchen consumer going forward. And that means future cleans will be even easier!