Greasy dishes await a well-deserved cleaning.
Greasy dishes await a well-deserved cleaning.
© Nielsen

Cleaning the kitchen can seem so intimidating. Many people would pick laundry duty or weed patrol in the yard any day, because with dishes piled up in the sink, splashes from last night's lasagna on the oven walls, and rings around the faucet, it seems like the only way the kitchen will ever be clean is if you dedicate an entire week to fighting it.

There's always an easier way to do things, though. We all know a kitchen can get dirty in the blink of an eye, but with our 10 easy cleaning tips, it can be spotless in just as much time. So grab your rubber gloves and get ready to spend a few minutes making your kitchen look as fresh as the day you moved in. We'll start with that greasy pile of dishes.

Greasy Dishes

What's a mom's never-ending complaint? Don't leave your dishes in the sink; put them in the dishwater. But kids -- and spouses -- never learn. There are always a tower's worth of plates, pots and bowls threatening to topple over before you can ever find the time to wash them.

Washing them may be easier than you think, though. Attack extra-greasy dishes, pots and pans by filling a sink full of hot water and adding 3 to 4 tablespoons of white vinegar, along with a squirt of your usual dishwashing liquid. Vinegar's natural acidity will cut through that stubborn grease like a knife through butter, leaving you more time to try out the next 9 kitchen tricks.

Stemmed Glasses

Have you ever held up a wine glass to see the legs of your favorite vino, but all you could look at were the soap spots? You can run a glass through the dishwasher as many times as you want, but most of the time, those little spots will continue to cling.

Well, we wouldn't want you wasting that tempting glass of wine just to get those pesky spots off! Try this trick next time you're washing wine glasses and other stemware. After washing, give them a final rinse in a sink or basin filled with warm water and -- here's the secret -- a cup of white vinegar. Then simply allow them to air dry. Now you can kick back and toast to a clean glass.

Sauce-Stained Containers

Your family's traditional recipe for mouth-watering spaghetti sauce was passed down to you from your mother, who got it from her mother, who got it from her grandmother. Too bad it didn't come with instructions on preventing the stubborn red staining that the sauce leaves in your plastic food-storage containers.

Now you can teach your mom a thing or two. Before storing any kind of tomato-based food or sauce in a plastic container, rub the inside of the container with vegetable oil to form a protective barrier against stains. Applying a thin coating of vegetable-oil cooking spray will work, too.

Ceramic Tiles

If the wall behind your stove is lined with ceramic tiles, you know there's really a curse hidden inside that beautifully-patterned blessing. Tiles are magnetic for sauces and liquids, which sometimes seem to jump right out of the pan and attach to the wall. Not only do the splatters dry and harden quickly after contact, but using just a sponge and water won't wipe away the germs below the surface.

To clean splatters and spots from a ceramic tile back-splash, wipe the tile down with a clean sponge dampened with rubbing alcohol. The rubbing alcohol will not only get rid of the gunk, it will disinfect the backsplash, too.

Wooden Surfaces

With their natural tendency to absorb, wooden surfaces can lock in bacteria that'll fight back when you try to get it out. Baking soda is great for cleaning and deodorizing wooden surfaces. Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with a quart of warm water and use a clean sponge to rub it on the wood surface. Rinse with plain water, blot with a clean towel and allow to air dry completely.

You can then bring back the wood's natural finish by coating it with boiled linseed or vegetable oil and using fine steel wool to rub the oil in. Apply a couple more coats of oil 24 hours apart, wiping off the excess between each application.


Spoons, spatulas, salad tongs, pasta forks -- you may not even realize how much woodenware you have in your kitchen until it comes time to clean it. Sauces and dressings that get sucked right into the porous surface can leave woodenware looking dingy. While stains may seem impossible to get out, don't give in!

Revive your old wooden utensils in only a few easy steps. Remove stains from woodenware with a mild bleach solution of 1/4 cup bleach to 1 quart warm water. Then rinse and dry before reapplying a protective coating of oil (as described in the preceding hint).

Family Heirlooms

When it's time to wash your treasured family heirlooms, avoid accidental chips and breakage by padding the bottom of the sink with a thick towel and wrapping a second towel or washcloth around the faucet.

Never use strong chemicals, abrasive cleansers or steel-wool pads. Warm water -- with a small amount of mild dish soap (not the antibacterial variety) if absolutely necessary -- and gentle wiping with a soft cloth, sponge or just your fingertips will typically do the trick with the least risk to your valuables. Do not wash delicate pieces in the dishwasher or in a sink filled with other dishes; wash them by hand, one by one.

Calcium Deposits

To remove calcium deposits from a glass vase, coffeepot or teapot, scrub with the flesh of a lemon. It's fine to use a lemon wedge that has already been squeezed or that has floated in a glass or pitcher of water. You can sprinkle on a little baking soda or salt to help rub away really stubborn stains.

To scrub away calcium deposits from the inside of a narrow-necked vase, combine a little white vinegar and uncooked rice in the vase and swish them around vigorously. Then pour them out and wash the vase as usual. Your flowers will light up the room even more without those ugly rings on the vase dulling their shine.


Everyone's happy when the kitchen is filled with the decadent aroma of warm chocolate cake or cheesy lasagna -- at least, that is, until the chocolate cake overflows and the drips from the lasagna are still on your oven floor days later. Yes, such food is always delicious, but as you spend hours scrubbing the spills off the oven, you may begin to wonder if baking it was worth the trouble of cleaning it.

Don't sacrifice chocolate cake just because of a few spills, because you don't have to spend hours cleaning it if you use our trick. Coat oven spills and splashes with salt as soon as possible after they occur. Be careful though! Wear an oven mitt and use a long-handled spoon to sprinkle salt on harder-to-reach spills. Once the oven has cooled down, use a damp rag or sponge to easily wipe them away. Watch out, because now you're going to want to bake that chocolate cake everyday just to prove you can clean it up without a hassle!

Sink Drain

There's nothing worse than a clogged sink, but try to ignore who's to blame for the clog and focus on fixing it as soon as possible, because the fact is with a clogged sink you can't rinse off veggies, wash your hands or do the dishes. Maybe the clog won't stop you at first, but as the water continues to build up, you'll be left in a tight squeeze (with no sink to drain into).

When a sink drain has begun to back up, sometimes simply putting in the drain stopper, filling the sink full of water and then suddenly pulling the plug creates enough pressure to dislodge a clog and get the drain moving again.

Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.


Quiz: Do I Really Have to Wash This?

Quiz: Do I Really Have to Wash This?

Take this HowStuffWorks quiz to find out your how your cleaning skills stack up.

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