A step-by-step guide to cleaning a kitchen in under an hour

Cleaning a kitchen might not be exciting, but our cleaning experts are here to help speed up the process

a beautiful farmhouse kitchen in a fully restored and rebuilt farm
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Cleaning a kitchen is an essential job. Our kitchens are prone to messy build-ups of food on the counters, cookware in the sink, and household paperwork on the table. We wanted to see if there were ways we could speed up the process and make it easier, so asked cleaning experts for their insider tips on cleaning a kitchen, fast. 

The result is a simple step-by-step guide that will leave you with a neat and hygienic space. While a daily declutter and surface clean will keep your space tidy and germ-free, a regular deep clean is also an important part of kitchen maintenance. 

Many of the cleaning hacks below are common sense, but if you follow this easy guide, you'll save time and effort—and could be finished in under an hour. We've also shared expert guidance on how often you should be cleaning certain items in your kitchen, and how often kitchen essentials should be replaced. Before you get started, you might want to take a look at our guides to the best oven cleaners and the best steam cleaners to make the job easier. 

Preparing for cleaning a kitchen

When you're faced with a messy, overflowing kitchen, tackling it can feel overwhelming. So before you do, it can be useful to bear a few things in mind: 

  • Declutter first—Lynsey Crombie, cleaning expert, TV star, and Queen of Clean (opens in new tab), said to w&h, "The kitchen is normally the hub of the family home and gets more traffic than other rooms. But this means clutter zones often build up in the kitchen too—particularly if you have a kitchen island."
  • Work from top to bottom—Crombie recommends, "Always start at the highest point when cleaning as dust and dirt falls—so, if you have chosen to clean your kitchen cupboard tops, start with these." As a guide, start with kitchen cabinets, hob extractor fans, and the tops of fridges, —before moving on to kitchen counters, sinks, appliances, and finally, the floor.
  • Make sure you have all the right products—you don't want to start cleaning and realize you don't have enough left. Make sure that you've got all the essential tools ready to go—think cloths for wiping, sprays and disinfectants for cleaning, kitchen towels for any larger bits of debris, and any other essentials for you.
  • Ensure that no one else will need to use the kitchen just before or after your routine—check that everyone who lives in your home has eaten or prepared meals for the next day before you begin cleaning. There's nothing worse than someone cooking dinner just as you've finished washing up all of the saucepans. 

Cleaning a kitchen—a step-by-step guide

1. Throw away food scraps and clutter

woman throwing away food scraps into a compost

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Your first action when cleaning a kitchen is getting rid of food debris—scrape any plates, bowls, and pans off into the trash and get rid of anything leftover from preparing meals, such as onion skins or empty cans. It's important to limit the risk of mold by disposing of old food regularly, as Henry Paterson a professional cleaner for Housekeep (opens in new tab) explains. "As the place where food is prepared and stored, the kitchen is ripe for bacteria, fungus, and mold growth [check out our mold removal guide if this is a concern for you].

"Not only is the food in the kitchen the ideal medium for bacterial growth, preparing meals in the same space leads to a high chance of cross-contamination and ingestion of harmful bacteria if the area is not thoroughly cleaned."

Then get rid of any unnecessary items—think documents, technology, or empty plastic bags. Decluttering your home, even in a small way, is an important part of cleaning a kitchen. 

2. Clear out the fridge

A fridge full of cluttered jars gathering dust isn't going to inspire you when it comes to cooking. And once you do tackle the fridge, we bet you'll be surprised what's still lingering in there!

"This is a big one but purging all the expired, stale, and open jars that have been there for a while is healthier and invigorating," lifestyle expert Mareya Ibrahim, (opens in new tab) told us. "Drop off canned goods that you don't want to a food bank and let it be a chance to inspire you to map out a new food strategy."

3. Fill the dishwasher

person loading a dishwasher

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Now you should only have dirty pots and pans (and mugs, plates, and crockery) remaining for you to deal with. This is the time to put everything you possibly can into the dishwasher. 

If you aren't lucky enough to have a dishwasher, pile everything at the side of the sink ready for the next step. In the same cleaning session, you may also want to give your dishwasher a deep clean. See our guide to how to clean a dishwasher for step-by-step instructions. 

4. Wash up dishes or items that can't go in the dishwasher

person washing up

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The next step—and perhaps everyone's least favorite—is, of course, washing all of your dishes if you do not have a dishwasher. Or, if you do, now is also the time to handwash anything that can't go through it. All you need handy is a warm, clean cloth (or sponge), and some hot soapy water.

Some items—such as your best cast iron skillets or your best woks—may have lots of oil sitting in them which makes them harder to wash. These will need soaking in warm soapy water for a little while before you can clean them properly. But most of your other items can be washed and placed on the side to dry immediately.

5. Clean your small appliances

person cleaning microwave

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Jennifer Sharpe, the founder of cleaning product company Fabulosa (opens in new tab), explains that the next step is to, "clean small appliances. Shine and clear debris from your microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and any other appliances on your countertops." Sharpe continues, "Wipe down the exterior of each small appliance by using a microfiber cloth dampened with a disinfectant spray." 

An important one to remember is the kettle. Henry Paterson of Housekeep, explains the best way to do this. "You can usually wipe the kettle down with a clean microfibre and soapy water to clean the outside. You should also descale the inside of your kettle as part of your spring clean.  You can do this with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water. Just fill the kettle with equal parts of each, boil it and then leave it for an hour to cool down. Then simply pour away the contents and rinse it out a few times."

6. Wipe down surfaces

person wiping down kitchen surface

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Crombie advises, "In general, with your daily clean, always start with your surfaces—and finish with the floor." 

Use a hot cloth and a disinfectant to wipe down your surfaces, sweeping smaller pieces of food into the cloth and rinsing the cloth in the sink. With bigger pieces of debris, it might be more helpful to collect it in your hands, to throw them in the nearby bin. 

She also suggests you, "wipe down the exterior of your stove and oven. A deep clean of your oven/cooker might be best for another time, but cleaning the exterior regularly goes a long way in obtaining a tidy kitchen," she explains.

7. Disinfect your sink

kitchen sink

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Sharpe told us, "Deep cleaning your sink is easier than it might sound. Sinks can get really dirty through the day so it's really important to disinfect the sink daily."

She advises, "Fill your sink with warm water and add diluted disinfectant. Using a cloth, wipe down the entire area, including the taps." It's also worth doing the area around the sink too, as this tends to get populated with bits of food and water, too.

If you have a stainless steel sink, you may want to read our guide to how to clean a stainless steel sink specifically—as they can be fragile and easily damaged.

7. Put away your clean and dried items

ceramic plates on a wooden shelf

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By now, your cleaned items should be dry or finished in the dishwasher. If so, now is the time to put them all away back on shelves or in cupboards. If you feel that your struggling to find space for bulkier items, investigate some pan storage ideas.

8. Clean your floors

person cleaning kitchen floor

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Sharpe advises, "First, sweep with a broom to pick up all the larger crumbs and debris that end up on the kitchen floor. After sweeping, use a vacuum to get the fine dust and dirt. Follow it up with a thorough mopping to get rid of dirt and grime."

You should also remember to clean your floors according to their material. For example, if you have a tiled floor a steam cleaner could be useful for gentle and thorough cleaning. And, when working out how to clean laminate floors, remember abrasive, scratchy cloths can damage the surface.

9. Clean your windows, doors and handles

a modern kitchen with multiple windows with the sun streaming in

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Windows and door handles are the parts we often forget when cleaning a kitchen. Completing these tasks (no matter how tiresome they may sound), will give your kitchen an extra sparkle.

Knowing how to clean windows, as well as how to clean doors and their handles isn't difficult. All you really need is a clean sponge, warm soapy water (or a homemade vinegar solution), and a microfiber cloth for drying. Spritz on the cleaning liquid, give each area a gentle scrub and dry it with the cloth. 

10. Disinfect your sponges and cloths

hand holding soapy sponge

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Sharpe’s advice is to fill your sink with water and add a capful of straight disinfectant for every 400ml of water. "You can leave these cloths to soak overnight and by morning your kitchen will smell absolutely beautiful and your cloths will have been well and truly disinfected," she said. 

11. Take out the trash

kitchen bin

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Of course, the final step in any step-by-step guide to cleaning a kitchen is to take out the trash. Your trash bags should now be full of any leftover food scraps, empty bottles or packages, and any other rubbish that you've thrown away during the process of cleaning your kitchen. 

Take the trash bags outside and give your kitchen garbage can a quick clean over with some disinfectant, wiping out any bits of food that may have fallen in. Then, replace the bag, and you're good to go. 

How often should we clean our kitchen?

Clean kitchen, modern

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Our cleaning expert Lyndsey Crombie advises that we should be giving our kitchens a quick clean daily. This doesn't have to take a long time, and could be just ten minutes tidying up, clearing surfaces, washing up or loading the dishwasher and wiping down surfaces. 

When it comes to a deep clean, Crombie suggests, "a deeper kitchen clean is needed once a week" to keep our kitchens looking sparkling. She also has some more specific advice when it comes to individual parts of the kitchen:

  • Surfaces—according to Crombie, "Kitchen surfaces, hobs, and sinks should be cleaned daily using a disinfectant type product. Kitchen floors need a daily vacuum paying particular attention to around tables and barstools." So in your kitchen cleaning routine, make sure to prioritize this task.
  • Trash cans—some tasks don't need to be done every day. Instead, you can do them every few days—for example, taking out the trash, thoroughly cleaning the hob, and wiping down your hob splashback.
  • Floors, kitchen cupboards—a clean "where floors are either mopped or steamed, the kitchen cupboard doors are wiped down, and the where kitchen bin needs a good disinfect" should happen once a week ideally, according to Crombie. 
  • Dishwasher and fridge—"dishwashers, fridges, tops of cupboards and ovens should be added to your family cleaning schedule as a monthly task, but if never hurts to quickly wipe over your oven after every use just using a cloth and warm soapy water."

What are the dirtiest spots in our kitchen?

a clean, white and modern kitchen in a loft apartment

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While a proper kitchen cleaning process is an important part of the maintenance of any home, there are spots that we might often miss or forget about as we go. And it might surprise you, but there are a couple of spots in our kitchen that harbour more germs than anywhere else.

  • High touch points—Combie explains, "High touch points are going to be the dirty hot spots in your kitchen; for example, when you open your kitchen cupboards looking for ingredients in the middle of cooking, the handles are going to get sticky and start to harbor germs. The same goes for the knobs and buttons on your oven."
  • Light switches—and surprisingly, she also confessed, "Electrical and light switches are another germ hotspot." So be sure to give these a once over with the disinfectant as you're cleaning a kitchen too!
  • Appliances—these might not seem dirty, but we often use our kitchen appliances when we're right in the middle of cooking or chopping, so they're highly likely to get food left on them which could harbor bacteria.
  • Kitchen sink—but most terrifyingly is our kitchen sink. "Your kitchen sink, if not cleaned daily, can actually be dirtier than your toilet seat. So make sure it does get a daily disinfect," Crombie told us. 

You could take a look at our guide to how to clean a bathroom, too, where we also detail the dirtiest spots in your bathroom that you might be missing when you clean.

How often should you replace kitchen essentials?

You've nailed your kitchen cleaning routine and know not to miss the dirtiest spots—but what about the actual tools we use during cleaning? And how often should they be replaced to ensure we aren't spreading germs around a clean kitchen?

According to End of Tenancy London (opens in new tab), a company that cleans properties between rental tenants, this is how often popular kitchen items should be replaced:

  • Washing up sponges—should be replaced on a weekly basis, to avoid contamination when washing your plates, pots, pans and cutlery. 
  • Mop heads and cleaning cloths—should be shipped out of rotation every two months. This makes a lot of sense, given that they are used to clean some of the dirtiest areas of our kitchens—the floors and countertops. 
  • Cleaning gloves, microfiber cloths, and feather dusters—have a longer shelf life, but should all be disposed of when they begin to show signs of degradation. For example, if your gloves have got a hole in, or your microfiber cloth is becoming thin. Replace these at your discretion, although it's worth noting that you shouldn't be keeping these items for years and years before replacing them.
Amy Hunt

Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on womanandhome.com. 

With contributions from