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A kitchen with wooden floors and white cabinets.

You know those pictures of bright, shining, new kitchens in magazines? Everything is neatly stowed, the sink is utterly free of hard water spots, and the refrigerator is sparkling clean.

Well, it’s hard to have a kitchen look that way for more than a couple minutes. In fact, I think the last time my kitchen looked like that was before I moved in. Instead, I have a permanent pile of junk mail clutter on the counter, dishes stacked in (or by) the sink, and a refrigerator whose stainless steel exterior is always covered in grimy handprints. You may not have a spic-and-span kitchen all the time, but when you have time for some projects, you can get your kitchen closer to that ideal picture using these different tips and cleaning supplies. In fact, you might even rediscover your love of the kitchen.

Here are some tips to help you restore your kitchen to its former glory:

Grease spots on pots, pans and sheets

A new pan is just about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. However, it doesn’t take long for pots, pans, and cookie sheets to acquire grease stains from butter, oil, and fat. If they’re left to sit for too long, and they’re baked or cooked along with the food, those spots are notoriously hard to get rid of. In fact, most of us despair of ever seeing the pan look clean again. However, there are ways to scrub off those old spots. Remember that using terribly abrasive methods can void a warranty (if you have one) and scratch off finishes, so steel wool or salt scrubs aren’t always the best options. Give this a try first:

Make a paste out of baking soda (three parts baking soda to one part water) and apply it to spots. Leave it to sit for at least 10 minutes, and then wipe it all up with a non-scratch sponge (it might take some elbow grease). Another great tool is Barkeeper’s Friend. That stuff is built to handle set-in stains, I’m telling you.

A kitchen with wooden floors and white cabinets.

Tired, stinky dishwasher

Has your dishwasher ever developed a funny smell, or been plagued by hard water marks that haunt the corners? Isn’t it ironic when the very thing that works to clean your dishes can’t seem to stay clean itself? Well, dishwashers need a little more TLC than you might think. Try a couple methods to get the interior of your dishwasher to look and smell beautiful.

(1) Usually the smell comes from debris that’s building up in the filter. So, clean out the filter (check your manual if you need to).

(2) Add some vinegar to your dishwasher during the part of the cycle when it’s filling up with water. This should help reach all the spots that are usually splashed and soaked with water and clear up hard water spots. This article has more advice for cleaning up your dishwasher.

The under-sink junk trap

Last time I opened up the cupboard under my sink, old sponges and candles spilled out in a cascade of plastic grocery bags. Does the area under your sink gather clutter too? What’s really troublesome is when the pipe under the sink also happens to drip. That turns the clutter into a moldy disaster. It’s best to take some time now and then to clear out the clutter so that you can spot problems in the pipes early. I find it helpful to have a special place for the things that accumulate. For example, I now have a basket where all the cleaning supplies can rest. There’s also a bucket where the plastic bags (are supposed to) stay contained.

Splattered microwave

At first glance, microwaves should be easy to clean. Did you know that microwave interiors are almost always finished with powder coatings? This is great because powder coating is much more durable than paint, so you can scrub without worrying about damaging the paint. However, it’s still best to stay away from something as abrasive as steel wool. Instead, perhaps try a microhood. Microhood’s are fantastic ovens that minimize the amount of cleaning needed. You can also use these tips:

(1) Soften the grime by steaming the interior of the oven first. You can either put a bowl of water into the oven and heat it up for a bit, or you can wet some paper towels and heat them up in the microwave.

(2) Take care of trouble spots by soaking them for a while first. Using natural ingredients like baking soda, lemon, and vinegar is nice because it keeps a chemical smell out of your microwave and subsequently, your food.

A kitchen with wooden floors and white cabinets.

Grimy walls and cupboards

Ah, yet another place that you never think twice about. Your countertops get a scrub-down pretty regularly, but the grime and drips from years of cooking just sit on your cupboards and walls indefinitely. Your kitchen walls and cupboards get so dirty because grease from cooking creates a light film on all the surfaces. And of course, that film attracts dust and over time it builds up quite a bit. If your walls have had it, why not learn how to install wood planks so you can make your kitchen look great once more?

Because you’re working on a painted surface, it’s important to use care. You don’t want to use a chemical that will damage the finish. Instead, follow this formula:

(1) Soften the grease with a swipe of warm water from a sponge or dishcloth.

(2) Use grease-fighting dish soap sudsed up in a bucket of water to clean thoroughly.

(3) For stubborn areas, spritz watered-down vinegar, or do a spot-treatment with baking soda paste (like what we used for the pots and pans above).

How are you with your kitchen? Â I make our kids clean the kitchen every night. The cupboards above the stove, OMG. What are your tips?

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