“She almost set the whole house on fire,” my landlord friend said incredulously, as she told me about a kitchen fire in a house she manages. “She didn’t know you had to clean the oven. An. Oven. Needs. Cleaning! Can you believe a 30-year-old woman didn’t know she had to clean the oven??”
Well, actually, yes I can. I used my own oven for years before I spilled enough stuff on the bottom to wonder or worry about cleaning it. But I didn’t know sinks needed cleaning, either. Or toilets. (Yes, really! My mother-in-law had to tell me! And once I knew they needed cleaning, I still didn’t know how to actually do it.)
So, in honor of the woman who almost set her house on fire, and my ignorant-of-all-things-cleaning self, we’re going to make a little checklist of spring cleaning basics for the kitchen.
1. Scrub the floors.
2. Thoroughly clean and sanitize countertops. (Remove items from countertop, clean countertop, replace items. Don’t just clean around the stuff on the counters.)
3. Clean cabinet fronts.
4. Clean the fronts of major appliances.
5. Wipe out the insides of cabinets and drawers.
6. Empty silverware tray; clean tray; replace silverware.
7. Empty the junk drawer. (If you don’t have a junk drawer, tell us in the comments section and we’ll all marvel at you.)
8. Pull the refrigerator out from the wall, clean the floor underneath it, and vacuum the coils.
9. Clean the inside of the refrigerator.
10. Defrost freezer, if necessary.
11. Change or clean the filter in the range hood.
12. Clean the stovetop. If you have a gas range, clean under all the burners. I recommend baking soda for scrubbing away nasty caked-on foods on the stovetop. (Sprinkle with baking soda, scrub with damp paper towels or rags. That’s it.)
13. Toss any expired food and donate any food you realistically are not going to use.
14. Have knives professionally sharpened, if needed. (If you cook regularly, and it’s been more than a year, it’s probably time for a sharpening.)
And of course….
15. Clean the inside of the oven! You may have a self-cleaning oven, which works by incinerating the burnt-on food particles with really hot temperatures. Follow your oven manufacturer’s instructions to run the clean cycle on your particular model.
For a non-self-cleaning oven, you can buy a commercial oven cleaner and follow the instructions precisely. These cleaners can be highly caustic so wearing gloves and a mask while cleaning would not be a bad idea.
For a non-toxic approach, I can’t say enough good things about baking soda. It takes patience, but it works as well as the highly caustic commercial oven cleaners.
Nontoxic oven cleaning
- Plan on not using your oven while the cleaning is in process!
- Liberally sprinkle baking soda over the bottom of the oven. The entire surface should be covered with a layer about 1/4″ deep.
- Spray baking soda with water until surface is damp (you’re going for moist, not soaked).
- Wait a couple of hours.
- Spray again if baking soda is drying out.
- Spray again and let soak overnight.
- In the morning, use paper towels or kitchen rags to sweep baking soda out of the oven. It will bring all the gunk with it. Use a little elbow grease, if necessary.
- Carefully rinse out any baking soda residue, using spray bottle and clean paper towels.