The First Thing to Clean When You’re Cleaning the Kitchen

published Oct 19, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Maintaining a clean kitchen is a perpetual task that’s best performed as a collection of habitual motions you barely notice: Filling the dishwasher with breakfast dishes before you fill your water bottle for the day. Clearing off and wiping down counters while you recount the day’s schedule. These are the daily rhythms of life that take place in the heart of the home.

But even a faithful routine isn’t enough to ensure that your kitchen stays as clean as you want it to be in the long term. With so much traffic and use, your kitchen needs some weekly and monthly attention that involves deeper cleaning of things like your small appliances, your larger appliances, the backsplash, the floor, and the fixtures, as well as the usual gamut of decluttering and reorganizing your pantry, refrigerator, and cabinets. Yeah, it’s a lot.

When those deep-cleaning days arrive, it’s tempting to tackle the most visible trouble spots first (such as the counter tops or the overflowing fridge), or to address the areas that will offer the most immediate visual reward (hello, polished fridge front). But a little strategy goes a long way in making sure that you don’t sabotage your own best efforts.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

When You’re Cleaning the Kitchen, Start with the Upper Cabinets and Shelves

As with so many thought-out cleaning plans, the best first thing to do when you go to clean your kitchen is to clean from top to bottom. In the kitchen, this means your upper cabinets.

Begin by dusting the top surface of your cabinets (if they don’t reach the ceiling) and then work your way down. After dusting, stay high and wipe down the outer face of your cabinet doors (they collect dust and grime too!), working your way toward the bottom of each door. The same goes for cabinet interiors or kitchens with open shelving: start with the top shelves. This way, anything that falls down to the counters or the floor will get cleaned when you get to your next steps.

By starting on the upper level, you are making sure that you don’t get freshly-cleaned areas dirty again. For instance, if you dust and wipe your cabinets after clearing off the counters, you run the risk of dislodging dirt and drips from rags onto your counters, and anything on them—like the clean dishes drying in the dish rack. And who has time and energy to clean everything twice?

But Ultimately: You Do You

While we love a fully strategized, super efficient kitchen deep cleaning plan, if a shiny dishwasher and fridge front gets you juiced to keep going and clean the oven interior or pantry or whatever is up next, by all means clean in whatever order you want!