Cooking inevitably involves cleaning, and we’re always on the hunt for the most efficient ways to tidy up in the kitchen. Here are 20 of our favorite reader-submitted cleaning tips from over the years.
Our 20 Best Cleaning Tips of All Time
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1. Squeeze Bottle for Dish Soap
A clear plastic squeeze bottle makes an effective (and attractive) dispenser for liquid dish soap. –Gordon Delbrook, Bradenton, Fla.
2. Sponge “Dryer”
A hair dryer’s diffuser attachment is perfect for holding kitchen sponges. It contains them like a dish rack would and helps them dry quickly. –Georgette Naccarato, Kingston, Idaho
3. Cleaning Narrow Vessels with Rice
To loosen any residue on the inside of a narrow carafe, cruet, or syrup dispenser, add cool water, a little dish soap, and a small amount of dry rice; cover the top; and rapidly swish the rice grains until the vessel is clean. –Roma Heerhartz, Sacramento, Calif.
4. Aluminum Foil Scrubber
A crumpled-up ball of aluminum foil makes a great stand-in for steel wool. Pair it with dishwashing liquid to scrub tough, baked-on food off of items such as glass bakeware, stainless steel cookware, or your oven rack. –Allison Brown, San Francisco, Calif.
5. Vinegar Fly Trap
Since so-called fruit flies are actually vinegar flies attracted to the odor of fermenting fruits and vegetables, you can eliminate them from your kitchen by placing a few drops of dish soap in a small bowl of vinegar and stirring to combine. The vinegar lures the flies into the liquid, and the soap breaks the surface tension, preventing them from escaping. –Laura Carrigan, New York, N.Y.
6. Steady—Then Sanitize—Your Cutting Board
A damp paper towel under a cutting board works great to stabilize it. But instead of using water to dampen the towel, spray it with cleaner. When you’re done cutting, pull out the sanitized towel and use it to wipe your work surfaces clean. –Mike D’Angelo, Rockville Center, N.Y.
7. Cleaning Crevices
To clean the nooks and crannies of panini presses, grill pans, and narrow cooking spaces, blast air into the crevices with a compressed air duster. –Karen Pizzuto-Sharp, Seattle, Wash.
8. How to Clean Doughy Hands
To wash flour or dough from your hands, rinse with cold water instead of hot so the flour doesn’t turn into glue. With cold water, the floury paste slides right off. –Juli Lederhaus, Petaluma, Calif.
9. Clean Your Kitchen with Dryer Sheets
The coarse texture of used unscented dryer sheets is uniquely suited to wiping away grease from kitchen surfaces such as the stovetop, backsplash, and microwave. –Geoff Walker, Farmington Hills, Mich.
10. Trash Bin Towel Handle
Before working with raw proteins, loop a clean dish towel through the handle of your pull‑out trash drawer. That way, you can pull on the towel—which can easily be removed and washed—to access the trash rather than using dirty hands. –Ed Michaelson, Orange, Conn.
11. Cleaning Reusable Straws
To clean the inside of reusable straws, wrap a small piece of wet, soapy paper towel around one end of a wooden skewer and plunge the skewer into the straw, twisting it as you go to scrub the inside. Then give it a quick rinse. –Linda Propsom, Valparaiso, Ind.
12. Clean Up Messy Spills with Salt
Covering spilled oil or a broken egg with a generous amount of salt (table or kosher) makes it easier to contain and clean. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes so the salt soaks up moisture and forms a paste, then scoop it up with a paper towel or dustpan before cleaning the area with soap and water. –Rose Smythe, San Francisco, Calif.
13. Making the Most of Sponges
You can make new sponges last longer by cutting them in half. The smaller shape is also ideal for cleaning narrow items such as drinking glasses. –Jordan Jungwirth, Roseburg, Ore.
14. A Good Tool for Cleaning Crumbs
Crumb sweepers—the tools used for tidying restaurant tables—are great for cleaning kitchen counters, too, since their curved shape makes it easy to scoop up small scraps and coffee grounds. –Bill Kaufner, Oakland, Calif.
15. Soak Pots and Pans on the Stove
Here’s a way to clean large pots and pans if you have a small sink: Add soap and water to the cookware; cover it with the lid; and place it back on the stove over low heat. After a few minutes, the hot water and steam will loosen any stuck-on residue—no hard scrubbing necessary. –Tiffany Miller, Akron, Ohio
16. The Best Way to Clean Your Peanut Butter Jar
Chain-mail scrubbers sold for scouring cast-iron cookware are also great for cleaning empty jars of peanut butter. Place the scrubber in the jar, add a bit of water, replace the lid, and shake and swirl the jar to get out the remaining peanut butter before recycling the jar. The scrubber can be cleaned in a dishwasher’s utensil basket. –Mary Kaszyca, Trumansburg, N.Y.
17. A Low-Effort Method for Cleaning Cookware
OxiClean, dissolved in water, will clean a dirty pot with minimal elbow grease. Use roughly one scoop per quart of water, soak the pot for an hour, and give it a light wipe and rinse. Note: OxiClean will accelerate rusting, so do not use it on items that are susceptible to rust. –Wendy Spears, Woodland Hills, Calif.
18. Keep Your Composter Clean
Line your countertop compost container with newspaper before dropping in any scraps. The paper can simply be thrown onto the compost pile along with the rest of the contents. –Claudia Shedd, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
19. Deodorize Your Microwave
Rid your microwave of strong or unpleasant odors by zapping the peels from two oranges, limes, or lemons for 40 to 45 seconds. Allow them to sit in the microwave for 5 to 10 minutes after, then discard. –Charles Krasnow, Ann Arbor, Mich.
20. Clean Your Waffle Iron with a Chopstick
After your waffle iron has cooled, wrap the end of a chopstick or skewer in a damp paper towel and drag the tool through the iron’s grooves to clean out all of the residue. –Kat Vellos, Berkeley, Calif.