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Despite daily cleaning, kitchen needs deep spring cleaning

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The kitchen.

It’s a place where we spend a lot of time preparing food, eating and just sitting around and chatting.

Even though the kitchen is a room that is usually cleaned daily, it is one of the most important areas of the house to give a thorough spring cleaning, especially those hidden areas like the top of the refrigerator and the inside of cupboards.

Before the weather warms up and tempts you to start tackling outdoor projects, now’s the time to dive in and get rid of that built-up grease and grime.

Area cleaning experts suggest that before you really dive into the heavy duty cleaning to eliminate clutter. Put away items such as cookbooks and piles of mail, and remove any items that don’t belong in the kitchen.

Sara Hanson, owner of Optimum Cleaning, which serves the entire lakes area, said spring is a good time to clean out those junk drawers.

“People collect a lot of fancy gadgets and they never get used,” said Hanson.

She said to have two cardboard boxes, one for stuff you can donate and another for items that are broken and should just be thrown away.

Hanson said spring is also a good time to rearrange your kitchen to make it more efficient. Pots and pans should be placed near the stove. Items that are used often should be placed within arms’ reach while items not used very often can be placed on top shelves.

Hanson said spring is also a good time to dump out the ice maker and change any drinking filters that may be in the refrigerator. It is important to clean the top of the refrigerator and the refrigerator coils. She said these small tasks will help to extend the life of your appliance.

Another important task is to clean the inside of the refrigerator and throw out any expired or unknown foods. If possible, move the refrigerator out and clean behind it.

After cleaning out the fridge, spend some time going through your pantry and tossing out any old spices. Although spices don’t go bad, they do lose strength. If spices are stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, whole spices can keep up to four years, ground spices three to four years and leafy herbs one to three years.

Whole peppercorns, nutmeg or cinnamon sticks can hold their flavor for up to five years. Recipe mixes are good for up to two years and marinades and sauces keep 12 to 24 months.

Bette Wolf, who writes a blog called Spring Cleaning 365, reminds people to clean under the stove. It’s also important to clean the stove fan and change any filters that it may have. She said you’ll be surprised at the dirt, dust and just plain gunk that accumulates under the stove and in the filter.

Because the kitchen gets a lot of use and because it has small and large appliances, it can be a very time-consuming task to thoroughly clean the kitchen. And, realistically, a lot of spring cleaning kitchen tasks most likely don’t get done every year.

But there are a couple of important tasks that should not be overlooked.

One, take the time to check the batteries in your smoke detector.

Two, make sure you know where your fire extinguisher is, and if you don’t have one, buy one and learn how to use it.

The following are 12 basic steps for “Spring Cleaning in the Kitchen.” They might not all apply to your kitchen, and you might not get them all done, but the list is a good checklist for most of us to go by.

Step one: Dust and wipe down walls.

Spend extra time cleaning grease, grime and spilled food from walls. Also check corners for cobwebs and dust trim.

Step two: Dust and clean any items hanging on walls and sitting on top of cabinets.

This is a good time to re-evaluate and see if you really need all of that “junk” that you’ve accumulated over the years.

Step three: Dust and clean light fixtures.

Step four: Clean windows and any window treatments, such as blinds or curtains.

Vacuum and clean the windowsills. If it’s nice enough outside take time to clean the outside of windows.

Step five: Clean the inside of cabinets and drawers.

If you have time it’s a good idea to remove everything from inside the cabinets, wipe down the shelves and reorganize items. Remember to toss out or donate any items you don’t use.

Also, wipe down exteriors of containers, such as honey jars, that tend to get dirty and sticky. If you have food items that are still good, but you don’t think you’ll eat, set those aside and take them to a local food shelf.

Step six: Clean appliances.

Because of the number of appliances in the kitchen and because they are often ignored, this step can take quite some time. You may want to break it down into a couple of days or recruit family members to help.

Start by working on the oven. If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven, spray oven cleaner and let it work while you clean other appliances. If using a commercial oven cleaner, open windows as the smell can be pretty strong.

Clean the refrigerator. Start by throwing out any expired or unknown food. Remove the rest of the food and put on a counter or table. Remove the shelves and drawers. Wash them down, being careful with glass shelves.

A good non-toxic cleaning solution for refrigerators is 1/2 cup baking soda to a gallon of water. Use this to wipe down the entire interior of the refrigerator and freezer. Make sure the refrigerator is wiped dry before putting the shelves and food back in.

Clean the microwave. Use a damp rag and wipe out any lose crumbs from interior. Next, fill a microwave-safe bowl with 4-5 tablespoons baking soda or one-half cup lemon juice and fill the remainder of the bowl with water. Heat on high for two to three minutes. When time is up, let it sit for five minutes, then carefully remove cup or bowl and wipe down interior with a damp cloth.

If there are still stains, pour a little vinegar on a damp rag and scrub the interior.

Also remember to clean the glass turntable. Leave the door open to air out the microwave for a few minutes. Clean the exterior and door with warm, soapy water and a soft cloth. Wipe control panels with a barely damp (not wet) cloth. If you get moisture behind the panel it could ruin the oven.

Dishwasher. The easiest way to clean the dishwasher is by running vinegar through it. Begin by starting the empty dishwasher on a regular cycle; do not use any dishwasher detergent.

Let the cycle run for a couple of minutes, until the bottom of the dishwasher has begun filling with water (just open the door carefully and take a peek), then add 2 to 3 cups of white vinegar to the water, close the door and let the dishwasher complete the full cycle. Wipe down the exterior with a clean cloth and wipe down any gaskets where “gunk” may have accumulated.

Go back to the oven/stove and wipe down and clean out the oven according to the directions on the oven cleaner. Remove knobs, burners, burner covers and spill catchers off of the stove and wipe off food spills and splatters.

For a glass cooktop, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean the top.

Step seven: Wipe down and clean small appliances, remembering to unplug the appliances first.

Toaster/toaster oven: Clean out crumbs and wipe down the interior and exterior. Be sure to remove racks; wash them in warm, soapy water.

Coffee maker: Pour equal parts white vinegar and water into the tank, and run the machine. Empty out carafe and run two or three cycles with fresh water before brewing coffee. Wash carafe and any other removable parts in hot, soapy water and wipe down exterior of machine.

For any hard water build up on outside of machine, use a cloth soaked in vinegar to removed the hard water crust.

Step eight: Clean the sinks.

Fill your sink with hot, soapy water and pour in 1 cup bleach. Let stand for about an hour, then empty. If there are still stains, scrub using a paste made from water and baking soda. (Pour baking soda into a cup and add water until it forms a paste.) Rinse well.

Step nine: Clean countertops.

Use your favorite cleaner or prepare a mild solution by mixing together dish soap and water. A good natural disinfectant is 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide mixed with one cup of water.

Step 10: Clean garbage cans.

Wash the inside and outside of the can with a strong bleach solution. Use 3/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. If it’s a sunny day, place the can outside and let it air dry.

Step 11: Sweep/mop floors and wash any throw rugs you have in the kitchen.

Step 12: If you have a pet and have dishes that sit on the floor, don’t forget to thoroughly clean their food and water dishes.

(Donna Evans lives in Merrifield and is a freelance writer and website designer. She is also part-owner of Plants to Your Door, a landscape nursery that specializes in hostas.)