Spring Cleaning: put out the (kitchen) fire before it gets started

Don't buy one of those nasty commercial oven cleaners. This DIY method is just as effective, but it's all-natural and nontoxic. (Plus a 15-point checklist for spring cleaning the kitchen!)

“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.

Don't buy one of those nasty commercial oven cleaners. This DIY method is just as effective, but it's all-natural and nontoxic. (Plus a 15-point checklist for spring cleaning the kitchen!)

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.


Leave A Comment
  1. Thanks for all the tips. Could you maybe just come and do mine for me? I’m having severe procrastination issues.

    PS The oven can be used to hide dirty dishes, at least it can at my house. 😉

  2. April W. says:

    I just wiped out my oven this afternoon. I was feeling too lazy to use the baking soda until tonight for an overnight “soak.” I have to say, this usually works very well for me too, but the oven has never been 100% spotless with this method as with commercial cleaners, and that’s okay with me. I can’t stand the idea of the chemicals in those harsh cleaners, and the smell just about knocks you out.

  3. Gracie says:

    We don’t have a junk drawer–truthfully we have like six or more junk drawers. There is basically one in every room except my bedroom and every drawer in there is basically a junk drawer.

  4. Mahalie says:

    I need to clean my oven (I’m nearly 29, and yes, I know I need to clean it, and have since I was about 15, lol). However, I grew up in, what city folk would call, the boonies. I never had a gas stove. I now have a gas stove and need to clean it. I am worried that what ever I uses (harsh chemical spray or baking soda) for cleaning will be flammable. I have considered turning off the gas at the line but don’t really know how. Anyone know if the harsh chemicals or baking soda is flammable?


    • Anne says:

      I’m not the fire marshall, but…

      If you use a commercial oven cleaner, make sure you follow the directions on the package perfectly. I wouldn’t be surprised if those chemicals were flammable, but look at the label to be sure.

      For the baking soda method, you’ll be fine if you get it out of the oven before turning it on. It’ll be okay if there’s some baking soda residue in the bottom of the oven. (We DO cook with baking soda, after all!)

    • KJ says:

      baking soda is not flammable. it is actually a good “go-to” for putting OUT a kitchen fire (if you don’t have a fire extinguisher, which I highly recommend always having within reach of a gas stove – aim at the base of the fire). A lid is your first option if the flames are very small and you can safely get close enough. NEVER NEVER use water!

  5. Jackie says:

    I don’t have a junk drawer… Our house is 768 square feet! At least we’re close to the beach!

    I also love cleaning with baking soda… You can unclog drains by sprinkling baking soda down the drain, followed by vinegar, followed by very hot water. I also like scrubbing my sink with half a lemon covered in baking soda.. Works better than a sponge!

    What’s your take on essential oils for cleaning? Love your posts.

    • Anne says:

      I have essential oils but I haven’t made homemade cleaners with them yet. I’m sure I own natural cleaning products (Method, etc) that incorporate them.

  6. Great tips! I didn`t know the sink needs cleaning, too. I am going to do it next time. It is a full time job if you want to clean the entire kitchen. I spent my whole day rubbing and washing. I hope you are faster than me. Best regards!

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