6 Things You Should Always Clean Before Dinner (and 7 Things to Clean Immediately After)

No matter how persnickety you might be about keeping your home clean, keeping will always be the operative word. Homes that stay tidy are that way because someone is constantly conquering entropy.

Preparing, cooking, serving, and cleaning up after dinner probably causes your kitchen’s biggest messes. And because dinner happens in your kitchen hundreds of times a year, focusing on efficient ways to keep it clean is an investment that pays off by making dinnertime and its aftermath far less painful.

It doesn’t matter how you divide the labor in your house — if you want a cleaner kitchen, put somebody on each of these 13 tasks:

Before Dinner

Here are some pre-dinner cleaning habits that help make mealtime seamless.

1. Clear the counters

Gather any dirty dishes that are sitting on the counters and pile them either in the sink or right next to it. Deal with any paper piles or other clutter.

2. Wash leftover dishes

The goal is to start fresh in the kitchen before you cook. If you have any dirty dishes, wash them now.

3. Empty the dishwasher and dish rack

If you want to keep a good flow of clean-as-you-go while you’re preparing dinner, you don’t want anything to bottleneck.

4. Disinfect the counters

To ensure sanitary food prep, swipe the counters with a disinfecting wipe before you begin cooking. Keep another handy if you’re going to be dealing with raw meat or unwashed produce.

Read more: We’re All Using Clorox Wipes Wrong, Apparently

5. Check the fridge

Make sure you have everything you need and that nothing has spoiled or expired. (This way there’s time to run to the store before you start cooking.)

6. Wash as many preparation dishes as you can

If you wash the pots, pans, utensils, and tools you used to cook with before you sit down to eat dinner, you’ll have so much less to do after you’ve enjoyed your meal. Everyone can linger at the table a little longer.

After Dinner

If someone’s able to get to these tasks right after the meal, you’ll be rewarded with a perpetually cleaner home.

1. Get some fresh soaking water ready

This method may not work for everyone, but I find it helpful to fill one side of my double sink three-quarters full with hot soapy water. I put hand-wash items in there as we’re clearing the table and loading the dishwasher.

2. Wipe the table

As soon as everything is cleared off, wipe the table down. Then you don’t have to go back and do it later.

3. Clear the stove and other dirty preparation areas

The idea is that you’re gathering everything that’s dirty into an ever-narrowing area.

4. Wash the dishes

After you’ve put everything that goes in in the dishwasher, wash your hand-wash items, including, of course, any items you weren’t able to get to before dinner.

5. Clean the counters

Make an initial swipe with a clean, damp rag. Next, spray a cleaner and wipe with a clean cloth. If disinfecting is necessary, use a wipe or a spray according to instructions.

6. Wipe appliances and fixtures

Take a look at the fridge (inside and out), the stove and oven, and any other small appliance you used. Also check the fridge handles and the faucet. Wipe everything while spills and splatters are still fresh and relatively easy to address.

7. Scrub your sink

This is the topstone of a clean kitchen. Sprinkle some Bar Keeper’s Friend in a damp sink, scrub, and rinse.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 6 Things You Should Always Clean Before Dinner (and 7 Things to Clean Right After)

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