Cleaning the Kitchen in a Big Hurry


Proof that my counter has been clean at least once.

I’m not one of those people who can make a plan to keep their kitchen clean and stick to it. I’m more the type who cleans it “pretty well,” keeps it up for a bit, then lets it slowly degrade further and further until things get to “Oh crap, [my parents/friends/landlords] are coming over and will think I belong on Hoarders”-level.

Having had two such incidents within the past month (to be fair, a wedding + houseguests were involved), I looked to the internet to tell me what to do. These instructions from were probably the most suited to my needs, but I modified a bit and I’ll share them now, as much as for my own reference as for the use of anyone who happens upon this page during a cleaning emergency.

It deserves to be repeated that it’s much less painful to clean with some music playing.

Supplies and Prep

  • paper or kitchen towels
  • a trash can or bag
  • a recycling bin or bag (optional if you hate Mother Nature)
  • cleaning fluid*
  • dish soap
  • sponge
  • dishwasher detergent
  • hot water on tap — if your sink takes a while to heat up, start it now
  • a large-ish container like a moving box or laundry basket

*You can use a ready made cleaner, but I like a mix of 1/4 c vodka or white vinegar, 1 c hot water, a couple hearty shakes of baking soda, a squirt of dish soap, and a few drops of an essential oil of your choice (I recommend lemon). As far as ready-made cleaners, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day in Rosemary is my favorite.

“Need to Have” Steps

  1. Put away your clean dishes. This includes anything sitting out to dry or hanging out in the dishwasher. (Even if it’s still a bit wet! You’re in a hurry, aren’t you?)
  2. Put every dirty dish that can go into the dishwasher into the dishwasher. Run it. If you don’t have a dishwasher, feel sorry for yourself and move on to the next step. If you have more dishes than will fit in the dishwasher, give yourself an early start so you can do two loads.
  3. Fill your sink with hot water and a few squirts of dish soap, then put remaining dishes into it to soak. After you’ve completed the next few steps, return and finish washing them by hand. If you have more dirty dishes than will fit in your sink at a time, try handwashing some of the less nasty ones first or in a different side if you have a segmented sink.
  4. Throw away trash that’s on the floor/counter. Random wrappers, onion peels, those little fruit stickers…
  5. Put away any food that goes in the fridge/pantry. Or you know, eat it or feed it to someone real quick. If you have spices, or random pieces of fruit, try arranging them decoratively like they’re supposed to be there.
  6. Put away any appliances/measuring cups/cookbooks/assorted kitchen utensils that don’t live on the counter.  You can use the cleaner to wipe them off if they’re grimy. If you have room, put them away even if they’re normally out, because it looks nicer.
    (6 1/2.  Check on those dishes from step 3. Once you’ve handwashed them, start soaking the next batch while you hand-dry. Drain the sink once everything’s done soaking.)
  7. Put anything that doesn’t belong in the kitchen in the box/basket. Best case scenario: you put these items where they belong when you’re done with the kitchen. Worst case scenario: store the box somewhere your visitors aren’t going to go.
  8. Wipe down the counters. By now you should have cleared yourself some counter space. Use your cleaner and towels to wipe down the counters.

“Nice to Have” Steps

  1. Sweep or mop the floor. Depending on the state of your floor, this may fall under “Need to Have” 😛
  2. Wipe down the sink, including the faucet and knobs. The cleaning mixture is great for random sink goo.
  3. Take out the trash and recycling. Did you know there are some people who can smell garbage? Crazy, I know.

Extra Credit

Make yourself some kitchen potpourri – in a saucepan, add couple cinnamon sticks, some slices of lemon, a teaspoon full of cloves, and some apple slices if you’re really fancy. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and let simmer.


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