Wipe Down Cabinets. With a damp rag, gently clean off any dust or dirt on the inside and outside of the cabinet doors, as well as all sides of the cabinets themselves — including the top. For grease-splatter, dip your cloth in undiluted vinegar to rub off the grease, then rinse the rag in warm water to wipe off the vinegar. Some cabinets will swell if they encounter too much moisture, so be sure to always ring out your rag well before wiping down the wood, and dry the surface quickly with a paper towel after cleaning.
• TIP: After wiping down the top of the cabinets, cut a newspaper to size to fit the space.
As the months go by, the paper will collect the dust — not your cabinets — and you’ll only need to swap out the paper for next year’s spring cleaning.
Vacuum Out the Refrigerator Coils and Vent. Use the vacuum’s hose or brush extension to remove all the dirt and dust from the fridge coil and vent, or rent an air compressor to blow it out.
Clean Out the Fridge and Defrost the Freezer. Take everything out, so that you can remove food debris from the shelves and inside walls — starting from the top and working your way down. When you put food back, be sure to check expiration date, and toss anything that’s past its prime. Don’t forget to wipe down the fronts of the fridge and freezer, paying close attention to disinfecting the door handles.
Throw Out Old Sponges. These kitchen tools are germ magnets. Even zapping them in the microwave won’t kill all the bacteria that find their way inside. Disinfect sponges every few days by letting them soak in a bleach-water solution (¾ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water) for five minutes. After a couple of weeks, however, they should be thrown out completely and replaced, or swapped for reusable silicone scrubbers that can be more easily disinfected.
Scrub Down the Stove Top and Vent. For range hoods and stove tops covered in greasy dust, use a mineral oil to wipe away the film, then remove the oil with some warm water and dish soap.
• TIP: Coat gas stove top surfaces (not the grates) with car wax, then wipe it off. This will make it easier to clean up future spills.
Clean the Oven. If your oven doesn’t have a self-cleaning function, you can make a DIY cleaner by mixing 5 tablespoons of baking soda, 5 drops of dish soap, and 4 tablespoons of vinegar into a paste and slathering it on the worst spots. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then scrub at it with a sponge or non-abrasive brush. For extra stubborn grease stains, place a few drops of dish soap on half a lemon, and rub it on the problematic areas. Then, scrub or wipe it clean.
Organize the Pantry. After you’ve removed everything from the shelves and wiped them off, replace and organize the pantry items by purpose. For example, instead of having baking items stacked on a shelf or spread throughout the pantry, place all ingredients used exclusively for baking inside a clear bin or tub. That way, when you’re ready to make cookies, you already have everything you need and can easily carry the items to the counter and back. Similarly, use racks and clear containers to separate breakfast items from snacks or dinner ingredients, and so on.
• TIP: Mount a dry-erase board inside your pantry to keep notes of what you have or what you need.
Clean Out the Microwave. While a spaghetti-splattered microwave can seem daunting, this might be the easiest task in the whole kitchen. Mix a tablespoon of vinegar with a cup of water, and microwave it on high for 5 minutes. The vapor from the boiling solution will coat every inch of food debris, and make it easier to wipe away.
Disinfect the Sink. If you cook with raw meat in your home, chances are the kitchen sink is the germiest spot in the whole house. Give the basin a good scrub with a disinfectant or bleach solution to kill any bacteria lurking inside.
Wipe Down the Countertops. Remove any items on the counters, including appliances and knife blocks, and then use a disinfectant spray or cleaning wipes to get corners and spaces in the back that might not get as much attention throughout the year. While you’re there, wipe down the walls or backsplashes, too.