It’s virtually impossible not to make a mess while cooking. After all, you’re trying to make a culinary pièce de résistance, not win first prize for a sparkling kitchen! So when spills and splatters do happen, check out some easy ways to get your kitchen counters and workspaces spick-and-span.
Clean while you cook
This is the first rule of thumb for cleaning your counters: clean up as you go. Professional chefs may look like they never make a mess, but that’s because they’re taught to wipe up spills in culinary school to avoid messiness that could later taint their food or interfere with their workspace. Be like them and keep a damp sponge, bottle of wipes or wet dishtowel handy. Wipe spills when they are made to cut down on your final cleaning time. Dried-on spills and food are tougher to clean, so get them while they’re fresh.
Even if you ignore this advice most of the time, for highly pigmented foods like berries or sauces, really do clean spills right away–especially if you have porous countertops that stain easily, like white marble or wood. A quick scrub with dishwashing liquid gets even tough-to-remove turmeric off your counter if you clean immediately after contact.
Basic method for cleaning
If you do have dried-on splatters or stains, apply a little hot soapy water from a kitchen sponge or bowl of soapy water. Let it soak for a few minutes and wipe that mess away! The water should be as hot as you can stand it – cold water doesn’t play so nice with grease. For really stubborn stains (like rust), add a shake of Bar Keepers Friend to the offending mark, let sit for a few minutes and wipe.
For spotlessly clean countertops, use disinfectant disposable wipes. Or, mix a teaspoon of mild disinfectant or white vinegar with water and wipe surfaces with a sponge; rinse with soapy water. Hate the smell of vinegar? Do another rinse of water with lemon juice or a drop of eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree or lemon essential oil to freshen. Here’s one more tip: keep a spray bottle with these premixed solutions ready to avoid making each time.
All surfaces are not created equal
It’s best to follow manufacturers’ instructions to clean special materials, like copper and wood (they can require special polishes to keep them at their best). Clean stainless steel, granite, and marble with the basic method.
But–and this really is the key!–surfaces get more and more difficult to clean the longer the grime on them sits and dries. Wiping up spills right away makes your total cleaning effort when you’re done cooking much easier. And that’s good. Because you still have washing your pots and pans to look forward to.