Spring-cleaning tips to spruce up your kitchen

Spring is traditionally the time to open the windows and clean out the cobwebs. Although it may seem like a daunting task, it doesn't have to be. Real Simple magazine’s Elizabeth Mayhew was invited on the "Today" show for a three-day series to talk about easy ways to break big chores down into simple steps, as detailed in the May issue. Here is the second excerpt:

When cleaning your kitchen, start with the sink. Keeping your sink empty and sparkling will inspire you to load the dishwasher and keep counters, refrigerator doors and the stove-top clean too.

You don’t need harsh products to yield a clean kitchen. In fact, you’ll probably have some of the products we recommend laying around the house.

Sink:1) Fill the sink to the rim with very hot water; add one cup of regular bleach, and let it soak for an hour. Drain and rinse thoroughly.

2) Scrub with baking soda — the household staple acts as a natural cleaning agent and odor neutralizer. Believe it or not, baking soda attacks grease by turning it into soap.  Rinse thoroughly.

3) Shine with Windex or another glass cleaning spray and dry thoroughly.

Do this every season to keep your sink germ-free and looking great.

Garbage disposalWhite vinegar is also an all-natural deodorizer. The acid neutralizes basic compounds, like those found in meat, that can smell.

To get rid of odors, make vinegar ice cubes and feed them down the garbage disposal. Simply run cold water through the drain after grinding. You can also use lemon, which will leave your disposal smelling lemony-fresh.

Double-duty dishwasherThe quickest way to clean household odds-and-ends is to put them in the dishwasher. While you might not think of it, you can wash sponges, brushes and combs, toothbrushes, dish racks, and your kids’ plastic toys in the dishwasher.

Here’s another use for white vinegar: to clean your dishwasher.  Add 1 cup of vinegar to an empty dishwasher after it fills with water at the start of its cycle to remove buildup.

Stainless-steel appliancesConsidering the money you invest in them, appliances deserve a good scrubbing on a regular basis. Besides keeping them sparkling, inside and out, cleaning appliances will help them run better and last longer.

A streak-free stainless appliance is the gold standard of a clean kitchen. When you’re polishing one, you’re really oiling the finish, so wipe with the grain, which usually runs vertically on refrigerators, and horizontally on smaller appliances. Some scratches aren’t removable, but you can wipe away fingerprints with a stainless-steel cleaner and a microfiber cloth.

Wash surfaces with hot, soapy water (dishwashing liquid is fine), and a nonabrasive sponge, working both with and against the grain to remove buildup. Dry with a towel. Don’t be alarmed if appliances look duller than usual, since you’ve just removed kitchen grease and residual cleaning products.

Apply a layer of stainless-steel polish, like Sheila Shine, which works as well as cream polish but requires much less elbow grease. Buff the polish into the surface with a towel, going along the grain, until the appliance shines and the towel comes away dry.

We recommend doing this 2 to 4 times a year.

MicrowaveHere’s a Real Simple way to clean spills and splatters and deodorize at the same time. Do this once a month to avoid buildup.

  • Fill a coffee mug with water and a few slices of lemon; put it in the middle of the microwave’s tray. Cook on high for about 3 minutes; then turn off the microwave.
  • Leave the mug inside for another few minutes. The steam will soften food spills, and the lemon will get rid of odors.
  • Open the door and take out the mug. Wipe down the walls with warm, soapy water to remove excess residue and food. Rinse and dry with a clean dishcloth.

CabinetsJust because it’s behind closed doors doesn’t mean you don’t have to clean it. Unfortunately, those doors don’t keep dirt and dust out.

Empty cabinets of all pots, pans, utensils and cooking products. Wipe down the cabinet interiors with a microfiber cloth. Press into corners, under ridges and along door edges.

Dampen a sponge with a solution of dish soap and warm water, and clean the tops, bottoms and walls. Rinse the sponge in clean water as you go. Dry with a clean towel or rag as you work.

A Real Simple tip: Consider storing muffin tins, woks and other rarely used things in plastic bags, so you won’t have to rinse off the dust the next time you use them.

We recommend doing this once a season. It’s the perfect time to look at what’s stale and should be thrown out. Do the same with your fridge — pick a date when you get rid of all food in the fridge and start over. That way you always know a general date on how long things have been in there.