We love our kitchens -- after a long hard day, this is where the wine bottle uncorks, the bare feet come out and the magic happens over the stove.
But for a place we adore so much, it's a wonder we spend so little time maintaining our precious in-home oasis. Dirty towels, stinky fridges and gooey countertops run amuck, slowly edging this room from culinary wonderland to total disaster zone.
But hark! With a few hacks, your kitchen can get back on track. Follow these simple commandments, and keep your kitchen the beautiful, delicious place it's meant to be.
Get the fungus out of your dishwasher
According to a 2011 study, more than 60 percent of household dishwashers had some kind of fungus growing in the seal around their doors. To combat this, scrub the seal with white vinegar and hot water (use a toothbrush for the tightest areas), then run a cup of white vinegar through the entire dishwasher. Repeat once per month (or more often if you notice the ick) to keep things fungi-free.
Keep eggs on a shelf, not on the refrigerator door
The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator -- to prevent temperature fluctuations that could lead to bacteria growth, store eggs in their carton on the lowest -- aka coolest -- shelf.
Microwave your sponge
What, you don't microwave your sponge? Don't worry, we thought it sounded weird at first, too. But turns out zapping your dish sponge for 60 seconds -- with vinegar and lemon juice, if you desire -- actually kills bacteria (up to 99.9 percent, in one Good Housekeeping test). Of course, you can always soak the sponge in bleach solution and run it through the dishwasher or just start with a fresh one.
Cutting knives do NOT go in the dishwasher
The cleaning cycle can dull those nice, sharp blades. Try hand washing them in warm water with a cloth and dish soap instead.
... And pans are no place to cook bacon.
The oven, dear friend, is where it's at. Not only can you make infinitely more bacon at once, but your strips will stay flat and your kitchen will remain splatter-free.
Avoid re-using your dish towels
"You may think you are cleaning the counter where food will be placed," says Kelly Reynolds, a researcher at the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health. "But if you are using a dirty kitchen rag, you may actually be introducing hundreds of thousands of bacteria." Ideally, you should start with a fresh towel each time you do dishes. But to get a few more safe uses out of it between washes, dip the towel in a diluted bleach solution and let dry.
Never trust coffee to clean a coffee maker
Some people believe the myth that running coffee through your coffee maker acts to sufficiently disinfect it. This is not so. If you have a classic coffee maker, you should gently clean it every day and then follow this five-step process -- a fairly easy one, with just vinegar and water -- every one to three months to ward off mold and bacteria buildup.
Fix every cockroach magnet
Insects thrive near ample food and water sources, which makes your leaky kitchen sink a welcome mat for cockroaches and other bugs. If you notice rust around the drain -- or have just been ignoring that "harmless" faucet drip -- get it fixed ASAP.
Soap and cast iron do not get along
Just a little won't hurt, right? Wrong. You may use MILD soapy water the very first time you wash a piece of cast iron cookware, according to the pros at Epicurious. But after that, soap will only serve to ruin the cast iron's "seasoning," that magical layer of fat or oil baked into the iron.
Hardwood floors are not indestructible
Laying a simple floor runner by the sink will protect your hardwood floors from shoe scuffs, drip stains and dings from dropped silverware.
That fan above your stove actually needs to be cleaned
It's actually called a vent filter (who knew?), and Martha Stewart recommends soaking it in hot, soapy water once per month. Then scrub, rinse and dry. Remember to wipe down the vent hood (that covering above the filter) every week.
Remember your fridge water filter can get gross, too
No, your refrigerator is not a nimbus cloud -- its filter needs to be replaced to continue delivering quality water. Timelines vary depending on how much water you use, but most sources say the filter should be replaced about every six months. In the case of the Frigidaire Side-By-Side, the process involves one easy pop-out and pop-in maneuver.
Don't spray cleaning products onto the countertop
Ever noticed how spraying Windex directly on the countertop causes particles to fly back up into your face? Yeeeah... might wanna spray it on the rag first.