The Dirtiest Things In Your Kitchen, And How To Clean Them

There can be more fecal bacteria on a kitchen cutting board than on a toilet seat. Here’s how to deep clean some truly dirty places.
Joseph Giacomin via Getty Images

Which is the cleaner room in your living space — the kitchen or the bathroom? Often, the bathroom is the more sanitary spot.

“The kitchen sink typically has more germs than a toilet,” said Becky Rapinchuk, a cleaning expert known as “Clean Mama.While most people stow food in the fridge and give at least a halfhearted wipe to counters, Rapinchuk said most kitchens she’s encountered “aren’t thoroughly cleaned.”

You’re in good company.

We talked to experts about smart ways to tackle some of the germiest, grimiest parts of your home. They told us what to clean, how often you need to clean it and the best way to get the job done. The good news is that it won’t take too long.

“It just requires maintenance and daily upkeep,” Rapinchuk said.

And the benefits run much deeper than you might think.

“A clean kitchen is an immediate mood booster because it’s often the heart of the home,” said Wendy Saladyga, stain expert at Persil ProClean Laundry Detergent.

Still, that “heart” can get very messy, very quickly. A recent Persil research study showed that the majority of adults admit to a host of sloppy kitchen behaviors, including spilled condiments or sauces (66%), thrown/dropped food on the floor (63%) and spilled drinks (62%). If that’s the sort of thing happening on the regular at your place, you’ve got your work cut out for you. So, let’s get started.

Developing a strategy will make cleaning less stressful.

As important as it is to do thorough kitchen cleaning, you can give yourself permission to take things nice and easy. You don’t have to tackle everything at once, so pick one or two of these items to deep clean, then move on next week to a couple of new ones.

In between bigger projects, don’t lose focus on keeping the food preparation surfaces clean.

“They need to be wiped down before and after each use, and should get a good cleaning once a week,” said cleaning expert Katie Berry of “This keeps harmful pathogens under control and prevents foodborne illness. You should also wipe handles and switches at least once a week and clean spills on the floor when they happen. These steps keep grime from building up and attracting pests.”

“Even if you fall behind and the grime builds up, it’s still work taking the time to deep clean,” Berry said. “You don’t need a lot of expensive products, because simple solutions like warm, soapy water, baking soda and vinegar can all be very effective.”

Refrigerator: Timing matters when you’re cleaning a big appliance, experts said. When it comes to the fridge, it’s easier to clean if it isn’t full.

“Wipe out the inside before you go grocery shopping, when it’s emptiest,” Rapinchuk suggested.

That should help with basic upkeep, but the fridge also needs twice-yearly deep cleans, according to Jill Bauer, home and lifestyle contributor on the “Today” show.

“I usually do these cleans in fall, before the holidays, and then again in spring,” Bauer said. “I take everything out of the fridge and wipe off all the jars and bottles with a microfiber cloth. They’re less wasteful than paper towels for a big project like this. Plus, the fibers are like little mini scrubbers that loosen things up.”

“Then I clean the inside of the fridge, starting at the top and working down. I have a small bowl or bucket of warm water with a bit of dish soap to cut through grease. Sprinkling baking soda directly onto tough spills helps them lift up. Once it’s been wiped down completely, I go back and dry it all off with a fresh microfiber cloth.”

Don’t forget to give the exterior a good wipe-down, too. If it’s a stainless steel surface, Bauer offered this tip: “There’s a ‘grain’ to the surface, which is either vertical or horizontal, so wipe in the direction of the grain.”

During one of your semiannual fridge deep-cleans, you also need to clean the refrigerator coils, Berry added.

“Over time, dust and debris can build up there, causing your fridge to work harder and use more energy. At least once a year, unplug the fridge, locate the coils, which are usually on the back or bottom of the unit, and use a vacuum or coil brush to remove any dirt and debris. It’s a simple step that can help improve the efficiency of your fridge and save you money on your energy bill in the long run.”

Now that this refrigerator is so clean, how can you help it stay that way?

“Between cleanings, keep your fridge tidier by lining your produce and meat drawers with paper towels to catch drips. changing them out weekly,” Berry said. “And always wipe the bottom of containers before you put them in your fridge.”

Can you even imagine having a refrigerator that looks like this on the inside?
okanmetin via Getty Images
Can you even imagine having a refrigerator that looks like this on the inside?

Microwave: This once-a-week suggestion from Bauer can make a big difference in what’s usually one of the grubbiest spots in the kitchen.

“I fill a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup with water and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon,” she said. “I put the cup in the microwave and run it for five minutes. The water will be at a vigorous boil, but don’t open the door. Instead, let it sit for another five minutes. Steam will build up and loosen all the gunk, so all I have to do is wipe it down. Not only is it clean, but it smells fresher, too.”

Oven: Berry suggested making a thick paste from baking soda and water and “painting” it onto the walls and floor of the oven, avoiding the heating element.

“Let it dry, then fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spritz the oven interior,” she said. “It’s going to fizz like crazy, which is dislodging grime. Wipe it away with a warm, soapy rag once the fizzing stops, then go over that with a clean, damp rag.”

Dishwasher: Sometimes we forget that the things we use to clean also need to be cleaned themselves. That’s certainly the case with the hard-working dishwasher.

Bauer suggested a monthly check of the filter, usually found in the bottom of the unit.

“Take it out and give it a rinse under warm running water,” she said. To clean the interior, she offered this tip: “Take a Pyrex cup and put it on the top rack. Then add one cup of water and one cup of vinegar, and run a cycle with just that cup in it.”

Toaster: “They can collect a surprising amount of crumbs and debris,” Berry said. “Start by unplugging the toaster and turning it upside down over the sink. Tap the bottom to dislodge any crumbs that may have collected in the slots. Then, turn it right side up again and use a pastry brush or clean toothbrush to remove any stubborn bits that may be stuck inside the slots.”

“Next, take out the crumb tray and wash it either in the sink or dishwasher, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure everything is completely dry before reassembling the toaster and plugging it back in.”

Towels and mops: “Kitchen towels are a great cleaning tool for your kitchen, but keep in mind they should also be cleaned,” Saladyga said. “I recommend washing kitchen towels every three to five days, so you can be confident that they’re clean when you use them to wipe counters.”

“If your mop has a detachable head, I recommend washing it after every use on the hot water setting,” she added. “Afterwards, allow the mop head to air dry completely before reattaching it to the mop handle.”

Kitchen trash can: “It’s not a glamorous thing to clean, but keeping it free of grime is an important part of keeping your kitchen free of odors and pests,” Berry said. “Take it outside if possible and fill with several inches of warm water, then add a splash of dish soap. Let that sit for several minutes, then use a long-handled brush set aside for just this task and scrub the interior. Dump and rinse it, then let it air-dry in the sunlight for added disinfection.”

Want the can to stay fresher longer? “Line the bottom with old newspapers or even junk mail, sprinkle a light layer of baking soda on top, and then add your trash bag,” Berry said. “The paper and baking soda will catch any messes dripping through holes in the bag, so you can swap those as needed when you take out the trash.”

The smell of that banana peel can last long after the trash has been taken out.
Maskot via Getty Images
The smell of that banana peel can last long after the trash has been taken out.

Small cookware (slow cooker, air fryer): “Wipe the exterior with a damp microfiber cloth after each use,” Rapinchuk said. “Most inserts can be washed in the dishwasher. And don’t forget to clean the cord, too.”

If you’re noticing an odor from the silicone gasket in your instant pot, try this tip from Bauer: “Make a paste of baking soda, rub it on, and let it sit,” she said. “It’s a great absorber, and you can rinse it off once it’s had enough time to work.”

Coffeemaker: “Running a tank of half vinegar and half water is an easy way to descale your coffee maker,” Berry said. “Follow it with another tank of plain water, then unplug the machine and let it cool. Wipe the nonremovable parts with a warm, soapy rag and go over them again with a clean, damp cloth. Wash the movable parts in the sink or dishwasher. Get rid of any crusty buildup in your coffee pot by sprinkling a thick layer of salt on the inside then scrub that with the cut side of half a lemon. The combination will loosen the burned coffee and deodorize that funky smell, too.”

Want to get the gunk out of your kitchen? The cleaning products below work like magic.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Wine Away
I remain devoted to my Wine Away. It's the perfect food and drink stain remover, though I've used it on dirt, mud and vomit stains as well. (What can I say? I have an elderly dog.) Sommeliers, bartenders and maître d’s have long sworn by this trusty, never-fail wine-spill solution, which I learned firsthand when I worked as a restaurant hostess right out of college. It’s one of those cleaning products that works on even the most unexpected messes.

Promising review: "Awesome product! I had an unfortunate accident where a guest knocked over a glass of port wine from an end table which splashed on white window shades, white window sills, white baseboards, taupe-colored painted walls and white with dark beige carpeting. I left it that way for a few days in order to research the best way to hopefully clean it up without negative results... I eventually landed on a source in the UK which spoke specifically about Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover... I used it today, after days of doing nothing, mostly because I was afraid to make it worse. Lo and behold! I completely cleaned the window sills, the window shades, the baseboards, the walls and the carpeting! You cannot even tell it happened. No stains or color change to the carpet or the walls or the white painted surfaces. Before you try or use anything, buy this. It cannot be beat! I was afraid I might have to hire a professional to clean the carpet and that I might have to completely repaint walls, but no. I cannot recommend this product more highly! You will not be disappointed, I guarantee it." — Sharon Hamilton
Dyson V11 Animal cordless vacuum
Have you ever spilled an entire bag of rice on your countertops, stove and floor? Because I have, and this vacuum saved the day. The top handle portion of the vacuum can detach and be used as a little handheld Dustbuster-style vac, making it ideal for cleaning up kitchen messes.

Everything about the Animal line of Dyson cordless stick vacs is designed to make life with pets easier and home care more manageable, though as my story above demonstrates, you don't necessarily need to have a pet to enjoy the benefits. I can't live without my V11 Animal; it has incredibly powerful suction and is even engineered to capture tiny particles like allergens and bacteria. A single charge of the V11 Animal can last up to an hour, which frankly makes it a pleasure to use. It's lightweight, easy to maneuver and leaves my floors — even my kitchen floors — squeaky clean.

Promising review: "I vacuumed around the kitchen/living area first. my dad had me order him one right after we both saw how much hair/dirt we got out of the carpet and couch in just one vacuum session! He would never spend this much on a product but he said 'it sucks better than a — I’m not going to finish the rest. Just buy it!! Lol' — Meghan
The Pink Stuff cleaning paste
There's nothing this cleaning paste can't tackle, from food stains and more. Check out this TikTok in which BuzzFeed Shopping writer Britt Ross uses The Pink Stuff on a dirty sheet pan, pair of white sneakers, and her toaster oven. Spoiler: The results are seriously impressive. And for another testimonial, check out this TikTok in which it's used on the bottom of a burn-stained saucepan! Save your cookware and spare yourself the headache with a jar of this miracle worker.

Promising review: "Got this because TikTok made me do it. I put a smear on a hair dye stain in my shower from six months ago. Thought I’d have to let it sit for a while so I rubbed it in with a Scrub Daddy and was ready to let it sit, but it was already gone. Blew my mind. Removed rust stains in the toilet and hard water marks from the tank instantly. Goodbye other cleaners." —L. Seitz
Swedish dishcloths
I love using Swedish dishcloths instead of paper towels. These particular packs from Swedish Wholesale include 10 dishcloths and are available in eight different colors or an assorted color pack if you prefer a bit of variety. Swedish dishcloths are washing machine-safe, but they also hold up great in the dishwasher. When the cloths have run their course, simply add them to the compost bin. I bought a 10-pack and found that at most, I go through one cloth a month. (Serious cleaning fanatics might go through two.) That means that I’ve used 10 compostable dishcloths in the same amount of time I would have used approximately 24 paper towel rolls. Best of all, they’re super multifunctional. I primarily use them to wipe down counters and kitchen appliances, but they’re also great for drying dishes and are safe to use on a variety of surfaces, from marble and tile to stainless steel and wood surfaces.

Promising review: “Excellent! Love these! Much better than all-cotton dishcloths because they are VERY absorbent, yet easy to wring out completely (and I mean completely!) after use; when using them to wash dishes, things like jar garlic “seeds”, tomato “seeds,” etc., are easily rinsed out, unlike all-cotton cloths; and because you can wring them out completely, they work really well to dry the sink after washing dishes, clean counters off, etc. And as advertised, they don’t stink! Today I threw several of them in the washing machine and hung them up to air dry, but discovered too late that I’d put one in the dryer. It shrank by at least an inch all around. My husband said, “Maybe if you run water on it, it will get big again!” He was joking, but it DID return to its normal size when I ran water over it! So, they can be put in the dryer if you want! VERY happy with this purchase, and highly recommend these.” — JTD
Bar Keeper's Friend
You can use this soft cleanser just about anywhere in your home, but it works wonders in the kitchen. It can remove old food stains, clean your oven and stovetop, clean metal cookware and remove, tarnish, soap scum, rust and hard water deposits with ease.

Promising review: "Bar Keepers Friend should really be called 'Homeowner's Magician'! I purchased this cleanser in an attempt to revive our stainless steel knife set, which is a great moderately-priced set that has seen better days, and I'm extremely happy that I did. The cleanser not only took away the rust spots with minimal difficulty, but it returned them to their original luster! After cleaning our knives, I gave it a shot on our porcelain sink, which I typically have to douse in bleach cleaner to remove the stains from, causing the entire kitchen to be filled with noxious fumes... and it worked beautifully! The stains came clean, and it made the sink look pretty enough to eat off of." — Kat Ferrari
A 12-pack of steel wool pads
What can't steel wool do? These bad boys are a beast in the cleaning arsenal, and can be used to clean, polish, buff and refinish all sorts of surfaces, from cast iron cookware to copper, brass, wood and leather. These pads are made with high-quality, fine-grade metal strands with gentle abrasiveness.

Promising review: "Gentle. Doesn’t scratch my stainless steel sink. Works well with cleaning products. Will order again." — DeeDoll
The Ringer original stainless steel cast iron cleaner
Anytime I use my cast iron pan or skillet, we enter into a battle of wills. I have yet to ever cook in these dishes without nearly harming them or driving myself to the brink in an attempt to clean them properly. This stainless steel cleaner has been an absolute lifesaver. It scrubs off any food residue without damaging the pan or skillet, is easy to clean and can be stored without taking up much space. It's a must in any kitchen with cast iron cookware. Just run it through in the dishwasher after use.

Promising review: "Best thing yet for cast iron. I wish that I had discovered this years ago. So much easier cleaning the crud from my cast iron frying pan than the copper scrubbers that I had been using. Furthermore, it is easy to clean once the job is done, just run hot water over it and hang to dry." — James A Dockal
Oven liners
I first heard about these oven liners from my mother, who, after seeing the condition of my oven, insisted on sending me a pack. These reusable liners are easy to cut fit the bottom of your oven or microwave, and are made of non-stick, dip-coated fiberglass fabric with a Teflon coating. They can be used in temps up to 500 degrees and are a breeze to clean. You can even use one to line a pan or baking mat, and I've seen my mom put it down on the counter before rolling out baking dough. It's an easy and convenient way to keep your kitchen from getting crusty.

Promising review: "They are fantastic and fit perfectly in my oven. Best oven product on the market. Spills wipe up easily and no more cleaning of oven!!" — Joyce Puskar
Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds biodegradable cleaner
I love an all-purpose cleaner, and this biodegradable option from Dr. Bronner's is as effective at cleaning even the toughest messes as it is gentle on your skin and the environment. It's made with plant-based surfactants that suds up beautifully, cleaning grease, dirt and much more with ease. You can dilute it or use it as is on everything from floors and dishes to furniture, cars and laundry.

Promising reviews: "Catch-all cleaner — fruit, laundry, dishes. Highly concentrated, safe cleaner with a light, pleasant, balsam-like smell. Suds up well and leaves laundry clean, great for cleaning anything. I throw some essential oils into a water mixture with this for floors or kitchen surfaces." — Zum
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day multi-surface everyday cleaner
You can't go wrong with classic Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day. The geranium fragrance smells like home and gives your place a vibrant, comforting scent. More importantly, it's an effective multi-surface cleaner that can be used for even the most abhorrent spills and won't damage your countertops or floors.

Promising review: "Works hard and smells great! LOVE Mrs Meyer's products! Geranium is my favorite scent - but the product is more than just a smell-good! It really cleans! The scent doesn't linger so your kitchen won't feel like a perfume counter when you are done - it is fresh and light." — Elizabeth Baker
A broom and dustpan set
Just last week I dropped and broke an entire pepper shaker, sending peppercorns flying throughout the entire kitchen. This handy broom and dustpan set saved the day, and within minutes it was like nothing had ever occurred. It's available in four different colors and doesn't require any awkward bending or maneuvering. The dustpan has teeth to get hair and debris off the broom bristles, which are made of high-quality, soft yet strong material. Best of all, they lock together for easy storage.

Promising review: "Great product. The combination dust pan and broom is perfect. They are compact, the broom has strong but flexible bristles, the dustpan opens and closes easily. In short, it us EXACTLY what I wanted. I couldn't be happier." — Rene' B
An oven cleaning kit at Etsy
This cleaning kit from Etsy seller Everneat is much more versatile and effective than you might think at first glance. It's made with plant-based ingredients, pumice powder, probiotics and essential oils that leave ovens, sinks and more gleaming. It can be used on everything from oven walls to oven doors, glass, racks, stovetop burners, stainless steel and cast iron cookware, toaster ovens, air fryers, porcelain sinks, toilet bowls and even grout. It includes a surface cleaner, oven scrub and a metallic scrubber.

Promising review: "I was somewhat skeptical and had this in my cart for a while because I didn’t want to spend the money on oven cleaner but this is totally worth it. I should had taken a before and after picture. I bought my oven on 2018 and never cleaned it. This stuff took off all the caked on grease and gunk and it looks brand new!" — Sheyla Gonzalez
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
With only a little scrubbing, you can say goodbye to any annoying marks that have been left on the walls, floors, countertops and more for eternity. There's nothing these can't get out, including ancient food stains and more.

Promising review: "This is as magical as unicorns! Buy NOW! I use it everywhere — walls, baseboards, mirrors, window panes, cupboards, floors, lamps, glass and faucets — everything looks brand new. Just got red hair dye that had been there for over a year off the wall in a minute. Made shower glass look brand-new after five years of hard water stains. This is the cleaning magic wand you’ve always wanted." — Michela
Microfiber cleaning cloths
My partner can't live without her microfiber cleaning cloths. They're ideal for surface cleaning and can catch and clear even the ickiest of kitchen disasters. They're reusable and eco-friendly, are machine-washable and made with premium microfiber fabric that is streak-free and professional-grade. Get them in packs of two, six, 12, 24 or 48.

Promising review: "Excellent quality and exactly what we needed for our kitchen and the camper! Will definitely order again if we need more." — Jessica Stubbs
A four-pack of Lysol disinfecting wipes
Anytime you're cooking with ingredients that can cause cross-contamination, like chicken or eggs, you're going to want to go the extra step when it comes to cleaning. Lysol's popular disinfecting wipes are an absolute game-changer. Not only do they kill a vast majority of viruses and bacteria, but they are also stronger than paper towels. Stock up with this four-pack and don't worry about it again for quite a while.

Promising review: "I have been a Lysol fan for many many years but then the pandemic came along and I fell in love all over again because I knew my trusted cleaner would kill everything and help keep us healthy. I travel with this brand and use it everywhere on everything. No matter how clean anything looks, with this I know it is clean." — Angela Stone
Folex carpet cleaner
Save your rugs — whether they be in the kitchen, under the dining table or beyond — with this little wonder. A bottle of Folex spot remover will make even the toughest of stains disappear from furniture, carpets and other fabric surfaces. This includes wine stains, pet accidents, lipstick smeared into furniture and more. It truly can make all sorts of horrific stains disappear quickly, and there's no rinsing or vacuuming involved. To use, apply to the stain, gently agitate with your fingers and blot with an absorbent cloth. It is non-toxic and won't irritate the skin.

Promising review: "I had terrible rust and oil stains all over the seats of my car when I bought it. I tried other cleaners to get it out, but they actually made the stains darker. I took it to the dealership to see if they could get it out and they flat out told me no, so I gave up and lived with it for almost five years. I tried this after it was recommended by a friend. I sprayed it on and literally watched the stain run right off my seat. It was amazing! I thought I was going to have to pay hundreds of dollars to replace the seats in my car because nothing else would work. This stuff really is awesome!" — Brittany
A three-pack of Scrub Daddy sponges
Scrub Daddys are everywhere and heavily trusted, plus they come in fun colors. They stay firm in colder water for heavy-duty scrubbing and soften when exposed to warm water. You can even use them on stainless steel and cast iron, as they are scratch-free. Clean up after yourself without having to break a sweat thanks to these effective little dudes.

Promising review: "Simply fantastic. I first ordered Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy from QVC. I was completely impressed. Most sponges are simply gross after you use them one or two times. I had gotten in the habit of buying them from the dollar store and just throwing them out every week but what a waste. Scrub Daddy is fantastic and very long lasting. They rarely get food stains on them and if they do you can PUT THEM IN THE DISHWASHER! Never had a sponge you could do this with. They come out clean and sanitized. I also love the Scrub Mommy but I am moving out of a place I've lived 10 years and I need scrubbing power. HIGHLY recommend these." — Molly S.

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