Five pre-holiday kitchen cleaning must-dos. Five things that can wait. Plus favorite cleaning products.
Families can get a little snoopy when they visit relatives especially during the holidays. Someone will open a kitchen drawer or a pantry cabinet and get a little judgmental about what they see. It rarely becomes a big deal but, as we all know, unless someone says “this is the cleanest kitchen I’ve ever seen,” a little offhand remark can sting. All this is on my mind since we’re having two family visits this week. And with Thanksgiving and Christmas in view, early Fall may be the best time to get the holiday kitchen cleaning list done so the house is ready for company quickly. Emphasis on quickly!
Having a tactical turn of mind, I’ve boiled it down to the ten top pre-holiday cleaning tasks that need attention. Five are must-dos. The other five are optional but, if there’s time, I like to get them done to eliminate any possible kitchen ick-factors.
My 5 Kitchen Must-Cleans
1. Frequently Used Drawers
Why: Everyone goes into kitchen drawers, especially when helping to put food out or away.
Who knows how dust, drips and dirt work their way into drawers that are closed most of the time? How does black stuff get into my silverware drawer? As we all know, crumbs happen.
To clean: Empty the contents of each drawer onto an old bath towel. That way, stuff won’t roll onto the floor. Bath towel fibers will trap all the little stuff and it can be shaken outside and thrown into the washer afterwards. Back to the drawers: vacuum; then damp-wipe drawers. I favor lint-free microfiber cloths for this task since those will naturally attract dust and dirt. Wash or wipe as needed and replace contents.
Use: Vacuum crevice wand or upholstery brush. Best are vacuum micro-attachments for cleaning electronics, which do double duty here. 7-piece Micro Vacuum Attachment Kit, Amazon.com, $7.02, Microfiber Cleaning Cloths, 6-pack $9.99, Target.com, Miracle Cloths (multi-colors), 3-pack, $9.50, Solutions.com
2. Holiday Dishware, Glassware, Silverware
Why: At holiday dinner tables, like restaurants, before the food arrives everyone looks at the place settings. Since every spot is visible, freshening “good” china, glassware and tableware is important. Yup, that means rewashing.
So I load up the dishwasher with everything I’ll be needing and turn it on before I go to bed. Silver requires low-abrasive polishing — yes, it’s tedious and polishing silver is one of my least-favorite chores. I tell myself it’s only once a year and the table always looks better for it.
To clean: Do dishes-only dishwasher loads on warm, keeping same-size plates together for easy unloading. Even “good” dishes stored it protective containers or bags need freshening, I think. If I don’t use my wine glasses for a month or two, I’ve noticed a film develop that makes them look less than sparkling. So I do those on the hottest cycle for glassware and that cycle produces sparkling results with stainless steel cutlery, too. Silver (sterling or silver-plate) does not usually go into the dishwasher though I confess I’ve put my silver plate cutlery into the Miele with just half a tab of detergent.
A lot depends on your dishwasher, however. Mine has a china/crystal cycle that keeps the temperature lukewarm — at 115 degrees. Dishes can be damaged by very hot water or heated drying, especially some older sets, or any with gold rims. Sterling or plate can be harmed by many dishwasher detergents so care must be taken.
Use: Jeffrey Herman, an expert in silver restoration, has extensive helpful notes on silver care including a recommended list of silver polishes — there are nearly a dozen choices on Amazon.com.
3. Handles, Knobs, Faucets, Doors
Why: During one visit with relatives, I hung out in the kitchen where it was hard not to notice sticky, gunky cabinet and refrigerator handles and the less-than-pristine sink faucet. I wiped those down (and kept quiet about it), as well as the pantry door which had an arc of dark smudges. Just yesterday, I noticed dark smudges on my own basement door. These are high-traffic areas are germ magnets and at eye level, smudges are noticeable.
To clean: Use a lint-free cloth (once again, microfiber here) and hot sudsy water spiked with an antibacterial, disinfecting cleaner or some 90% alcohol. Wipe down all cabinet knobs, door knobs as well as the area above and below them on pantry, laundry room, mud-room, garage-access and appliance doors. Doors need a wipe-down on each side. With a Flitz touch up, metal handles, knobs and nickel faucets will look new (use caution polishing anything metal-coated).
Use: Over the last few years stopped using supermarket cleaning products and switched to brands like Mrs. Meyers, Method and Caldrea. Counter top sprays can do double duty if anyone wants to get this out of the way quickly. If nothing else, I prefer the botanical and fruit fragrances to the more synthetic ones in commercial products. When in doubt, consult the massive The National Institutes of Health Household Products Database for cleaning product specifics and safety information. Products can be searched by brand name on that database. Flitz Metal Polish, 1.76 oz. tube, $6.53, Amazon.com
4. Table Linens, Dish Towels, Sponges
Why: My friend and Parsons School of Design fabric guru Jamie Gibbs is blunt about towels. “Go to Costco or Walmart and buy three new dish towels before guests come and put those out – don’t use old ones.” And, he says “sponges are breeding grounds for icky. Throw them out like you do a toothbrush, every six weeks.” Tablecloths, runners and placemats harbor dust in closets and drawers so those need to be shaken out and aired for a day or two. Cloth napkins need re-washing and ironing since guests can smell them as they wipe their mouths.
To clean: Gibbs recommends soaking stained linens overnight in cold water mixed with a scoop of Oxiclean before washing. Iron flat and damp, he says, then fold. Don’t iron-down folds on napkins. “Never press in creases on fine linens. Every time you fold and press in the crease you are breaking the fibers,” Gibbs says.
Use: OxiClean, at supermarkets. Also, for stains on older linens Vintage Textile Soak, 14 oz., $9.98.For many years now, I’ve also had great results with an enzyme fabric wash that can be used for delicates such as lingerie as well. Forever New Fabric Care Wash, 4 oz. $5.41, Amazon.com
Why: My Mom’s refrigerator had assigned parking spots for various foods. These days, nobody has time to keep that up, especially not me. But still. Old juice or moldy ricotta in fridges is gross and you don’t want loved ones eating something past its prime. Make space so things don’t fall out when someone innocently rummages for a beer or soda.
To clean: Evaluate contents of door shelves and pitch anything that’s been there longer than 3 months or that’s nearly empty. Check covered dishes and dates on containers — recently I was horrified to find 4 year old pickles. Consult manufacturer’s care guide on water temperature before cleaning glass refrigerator shelves. Again, I empty everything onto an old bath towel to absorb moisture. Wipe shelves, sides and doors. If I find any sticky jars or lids, I let the hot water run for a while then give them a quick rinse.
Use: A mild white vinegar-water solution and warm water to clean most refrigerator shelves (but always consult the care guide for the refrigerator just to be sure no special cleaning routine is required). I also keep baking soda in the refrigerator to help absorb odors and replace it once a year. I also favor microfiber towels to clean the refrigerator. Mine are color coded — the green ones are used in the kitchen but not for any other cleaning chores. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, 1-pound $3.79, Ace Hardware to deodorize. (Afterwards, it can be repurposed to use in pools, freshen drains or even to extinguish fires.
Five Cleaning Chores it’s Probably OK to Postpone
Oven & Microwave – Always a bore. But since these are bound to get heavy use during the holidays, unless they are scandalously bad, cleaning them before the holidays is pointless.
Vent Hood – I find the vent hood so easy to overlook. The baffles are a snap to clean because they go right into the dishwasher. But I have a stainless chimney hood that collects dust. Given a choice, I’ll dust it quickly and put the baffles on the list for January, once all the cooking is finished.
Floors — The usual routine should be enough. I should note, though, that I request a no-street-shoes policy in the house to help keep the floors clean.
Under the Sink – This is a lot like the oven. I take a quick look and move anything that could be mistakenly used (or shouldn’t be) to another location. I’ll also wipe out the front of cabinet liner if it’s gunky.
Cabinet Reorganization/Decluttering – When we renovated the kitchen I couldn’t believe the greasy film that collected on things in the back. Those can wait. Meanwhile, toss out old plastic containers and put new ones in front so they will be handy for airplane lunch boxes or sending holiday leftovers home with friends and family.
(Source: cleaning-services, listplanit, hgtv, linens lavoir)
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