After cooking and a meal, the last thing anyone wants to do is tackle a kitchen disaster. But, it's part of the deal, so here are some practical tips for how to make kitchen clean-up as efficient as possible.
1) Start clean. Cleanliness begets cleanliness. Starting with a clean kitchen motivates you to keep it as clean as possible as you cook. For example, a clean counter makes your dribbles obvious and helps you wipe them right away. Also, prevent a backlog by making sure your dish rack and dishwasher have enough empty space to accommodate new dirty dishes.
2) Don't stack. Stacking dishes almost doubles the amount of surfaces you have to clean. Have everyone clear their own dishes and place them on the counter near the sink or in a soaking tub.
3) Clean as you go. The more you clean as you go, the less you have to clean at the end. Aim for no dirty cooking utensils by the time you begin eating your meal. You'll have enough to clean afterwards.
3) Prepare a soaking station. Although it's best to clean as you go, you can't always clean every single thing as it gets dirty. To corral dirty cooking utensils and keep messes from drying on them, prepare a soapy side of the sink or a tub placed in the sink. Do the same for dirty dishes after the meal. If possible, put dirty dishes in the dishwasher right away, but if you can't, keeping dishes submerged will also prevent caking on of food and save you lots of time scrubbing.
4) Fill pots and pans with water. Again, the idea is to keep food from crusting, which takes significantly more time to clean. While you're eating, fill dirty pots and pans with water so they can soak. Note: Don't put cold water into pots or pans until they've cooled. The sudden change in temperature can warp them.
5) Keep dishes to a minimum. Unless you're entertaining, don't dirty more dishes just for serving. One solution is to serve portions in the kitchen or bring pots and pans to the table. Another solution is to serve from containers that can double as storage for leftovers, such as glass tupperware.
6) Wipe it while it's wet. Swipe counters, appliances, the floor, and the stove when spills are fresh. This will keep your space clean and will keep the mess from spreading (like to the bottom of the spice jars that you place on the counter when you're cooking, for instance). Perhaps most importantly, wiping while it's wet will keep you from having to scrub dried-up messes.
7) Spray and wait. Inevitably, you'll have some spills to clean up. Spraying with your cleaner and giving it some time to soak in a bit before you wipe usually softens the mess and makes it much easier to wipe away.
What's your favorite time-saver for kitchen clean-up?