Start with gentle cleansers before working up to strong chemical ones. Lemon and distilled white vinegar help deodorize, and baking soda is a good scrubbing agent.
Designate sponges for specific tasks -- washing dishes, wiping counters, and the like. Sterilize sponges regularly by dampening, then microwaving them on high for one minute, or by tossing them in a dishwasher.
Keep instruction manuals for appliances in a binder stashed in a drawer. Refer to manuals for maintenance issues.
Maintain freshness and order in the pantry by weeding out expired items; many spices and baking staples lose potency after six months to one year.
Wipe up spills immediately, before stains have a chance to set. Choose the appropriate cleanser for the material. Marble, for example, can handle only pH-neutral products, while stainless steel should be cleaned with a special commercial spray.
Wipe down the stove after each use; spills, particularly greasy ones, are difficult to remove once they harden. Wash glass cooktops with a cleaning pad designed for nonstick pans; gently scrape away caked-on food with a razor blade.
Wash gas burner grates by hand with dishwashing liquid once a week (unless deemed dishwasher safe by the manufacturer). Use a scouring pad on noncoated grates and a soft sponge on coated ones. For electric burners, wipe off debris with a damp sponge. If residue remains, run the exhaust fan, turn the burners on high, and let the food burn off.
Remove control knobs periodically and wash them in the sink with mild dishwashing liquid and warm water; avoid cleansers with ammonia or abrasives, which can remove markings on the knobs. Dry knobs thoroughly before reattaching them.
Soak racks in warm, soapy water for several hours (try a tub or utility sink if they won't fit in your kitchen sink). Scrub with a scouring pad, then rinse, and dry.
Deep-clean the oven every few months (or if it smokes when in use). For self-cleaning units, remove racks, and switch to clean mode. Once the cycle is complete, wipe away residue with a damp cloth. For other ovens, make a thick paste using three-quarters cup baking soda, one-quarter cup salt, and one-quarter cup water, then spread it throughout the interior (avoid bare metal, and clog openings with foil); leave overnight. Remove with a plastic spatula, and wipe clean.
Wipe the outside of the hood with hot, soapy water and a soft cloth once a week; rinse with another hot, damp cloth, and wipe dry. For stainless steel hoods, use a spray formulated for such surfaces.
Remove filters once a month, and soak them in a solution of hot water and dishwashing liquid. Brush gently with a plastic scrub brush to remove greasy particles; rinse and dry thoroughly before replacing.
Empty the refrigerator every few months, and wipe the interior with a solution of two tablespoons baking soda and one quart water; rinse with a damp cloth, and dry with a clean towel. Remove glass shelves and drawers, and wash them in the sink; let shelves come to room temperature first to avoid cracks and breaks.
Make space for new groceries by discarding expired food items regularly, such as before your weekly shopping trip.
Keep an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator and the freezer to help neutralize odors. Replace the boxes after a few months, or whenever foul odors return.
Wipe the exterior of the unit every week with a soft cloth and a solution of mild dishwashing liquid and water (or stainless steel cleaner if applicable).
Wipe up spills right away to prevent stains and lingering odors. This is especially important in refrigerators, where dry air removes the moisture from spills quickly, making them sticky and stubborn.
Clean condenser coils, commonly found at the back or front bottom of the unit, twice a year for maximum efficiency (more often if you have pets). Always unplug the refrigerator first, then use a long-handled brush or the crevice attachment of your vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt.
Countertops and Backsplashes
Clean surfaces with water and mild dishwashing soap each evening; rinse well with a damp cloth. Periodically, treat natural-stone countertops with a cleanser specifically designed for the materials.
Protect grout lines, such as those between ceramic or natural-stone tiles, with a penetrating grout sealer once or twice a year.
Prevent grease and grime from building up by cleaning cabinets weekly with a sponge and soapy water. Most surfaces respond well to this mild cleanser; rinse with a damp sponge, and dry with a clean, absorbent cloth to stop streaks from occurring. For wooden cabinets, use a product specifically designed for natural materials.
Routinely wipe hinges, handles, and pulls with a sponge. To treat stubborn grime, unscrew hardware and soak in warm, soapy water for thirty minutes before scrubbing lightly with a brush. Repeat process if necessary.
Protect dishes and utensils and minimize dirt by lining shelves and drawers. Consider linings made of cork, which provide a cushiony surface for delicate glassware, or a resilient and nonslip synthetic mat.
Organize cabinets in a logical manner, storing items closest to where they're used. Pots, pans, and other cookware should be by the range, mixing bowls by the work countertop, plates by the dishwasher, and so on.
Faucets and Sinks
Wipe the basin and fixtures at the end of each day with a soft cloth, warm water, and a mild dishwashing liquid.
Clean crevices around the faucet with a soft toothbrush. Buff water spots with a dry, soft cloth. For mineral deposits, mix one part white vinegar with one part water; apply with a soft cloth, rinse, and then dry.
Don't let dishes pile up in the sink. Even during meal preparation, try to wash pots, pans, and other implements as you go.
Keep drains clog-free by flushing them with boiling water once a week. Boil one gallon of water. Pour half down the drain, wait a few minutes, and then pour in the rest. Never put oils or animal fat down the drain, as they're a major cause of clogs.
Deodorize drains twice a year by pouring in one-half cup baking soda, followed by one-half cup white vinegar; cover tightly with a plug or wet rag. Let the mixture sit for five minutes, and then flush with boiling water.
Sanitize the garbage disposal and sharpen its blades by grinding frozen cubes of vinegar (made in an ice tray) or citrus peels while flooding the disposal with boiling water.
Scrub wooden cutting boards with hot water and soap or scouring powder and a brush after every use; rinse (without submerging), and wipe dry immediately. To deep-clean, sprinkle with coarse salt once a week, rub with lemon, and rinse. Alternatively, coat boards with a paste of baking soda and water, and leave on for five minutes; rinse well.
Place plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher, where the hot-rinse cycle will sterilize their surfaces, or occasionally soak boards in a solution of one teaspoon bleach to one quart water.
Wipe the door and control panel with a soft cloth lightly dampened with water; dry thoroughly. Clean stainless steel surfaces with an appropriate spray. Remove interior stains by putting three to four ounces of citric acid crystals (sold at grocery and drug stores) in the detergent cup and running the
machine. To deodorize, repeat the process with vinegar.
Sweep every evening to prevent the build-up of dust, grime, and grit tracked in from outdoors, which can scratch a floor's surface, especially if it's made of wood.
Enhance the floor's finish a few times a year with a cleanser formulated for the material, whether wood, stone, tile, or linoleum.
Small Appliances and More
Dispose of crumbs every week or so by turning the toaster upside down or emptying the crumb tray into the trash.
Adhere felt pads to the base of your toaster to protect countertops and to make it easier to slide in and out (this trick works for all small countertop appliances).
Wash and dry by hand; placing these utensils in the dishwasher can warp and dull their blades. Avoid soaking knives, as this causes wooden handles to shrink.
Maintain blades by storing knives in a countertop block or on a wall-mounted magnetic strip. If you must store these utensils in a kitchen drawer, keep their blades sharp with knife guards or slotted trays.
Wipe exterior once a week with warm, soapy water and a soft sponge. Clean control panels with a barely damp cloth.
Clean the interior weekly with warm, soapy water, then with plain water. Tackle stains with a solution of two tablespoons baking soda mixed into one quart water.
Loosen caked-on residue by heating a dish of water in the microwave on high for three minutes; let stand five minutes with the door closed, and then wipe the interior.
To treat persistent odors, stir six tablespoons baking soda or one-half cup lemon juice into one cup water, and heat mixture on high for two to three minutes; leave the door open for a couple hours afterward to air out the appliance completely.
Wipe the exterior with warm sudsy water; rinse and then dry. Wash carafes in the top rack of a dishwasher or by hand.
Flush out interior once a month with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water (about two cups). With the carafe in place, run the machine for half a cycle, then switch it off. After an hour, turn the coffeemaker back on and finish the cycle. Rinse by running several cycles with fresh water.
Dissolve mineral deposits in your kettle every few months by boiling equal parts water and white vinegar. Remove kettle from the heat, and let it sit for several hours before rinsing. Clean exterior with a damp sponge.
Coffee and Spice Grinder
Run soft white bread or uncooked white rice through a grinder to pick up lingering spice particles and the oils they leave behind. Any residue left behind by nuts can be eliminated by grinding one tablespoon baking soda; wipe thoroughly.
Wash aluminum attachments by hand. Those made of stainless steel can be placed in the dishwasher. Wipe the base of the mixer with a damp sponge or cloth.
Unclog blocked vents with a toothpick or toothbrush; vacuum out dust.
Hand-wash with hot, soapy water and a dish brush. Sanitize occasionally by rubbing a cloth dampened with a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water across the surface; rinse and dry thoroughly. Rub food-safe mineral oil into spoons to prevent them from drying out.
Take out the trash daily, and wipe the bin's exterior and interior once a week with a sponge and mild detergent.