Dig a little deeper when you’re cleaning your kitchen and you might find that you’ve been overlooking a few areas that make it stink. As clean as your kitchen looks, most of the smelly kitchen spots are the ones you don’t see at first glance. Take the gaps between the oven and the cabinets, for example. There’s a whole lot of food that spills into the area when you’re cooking, and after a while, it can cause an unpleasant odor.
Keep your kitchen looking—and smelling!—its best by tackling these surprisingly smelly areas during your cleaning routine.
The smelly kitchen spots you’re forgetting to clean
1. The gap between the oven and cabinets/walls
Okay, this can be a tricky area to clean, but a whole lot of gunk gets caught between that tiny space. “The gap between your oven and cabinets is a pitfall for crumbs, spills, and splatters, which can lead to bad odors,” says James Conner, vice president of operations at Neighborly, the parent organization of house-cleaning company Molly Maid. “If the crevasse is already home to gunk and grime, you need to clean it out first. Then, once clean, you can implement a few techniques to keep it clean.”
Conner says the easiest ways to go about cleaning the gap is to dampen a washcloth and wrap it around a butter knife. “Then insert this makeshift tool into the crack as close to the wall as you can and pull it toward you. To help prevent crumbs from falling to the floor, tilt the knife upward slightly,” he says. “After the first pass, shake the washcloth out in the sink. After both sides are relatively clean, dampen the cloth again—this time with vinegar. Re-wrap the knife, and return to the gap, and do a bit more scrubbing to remove stubborn gunk. Rinse and re-soak the cloth as many times as you need.”
You can also prevent gunk from getting in this crack in the first place by using a Kleen Seam ($15). “It’s designed to cover the gap between counters and appliances. By installing an insert on each side of your oven, you effectively stop crumbs and splatters from falling into the chasm,” he says. Or, he says you can make your own gap guard by filling the gap with rubber weatherstripping ($9), clear plastic tubing ($15), or soft edge foam masking tape ($39).
If you use your microwave often, make sure you’re cleaning it regularly, too. “Many people don’t clean it, and it can have an awful smell after reheating meals,” says housecleaning expert Diane Regalbuto, owner of Betty Likes to Clean. “Fill a bowl with water and heat it up in the microwave for two minutes. Then let sit for 10 minutes so the steam can release the dried-up food particles. You can also squirt some lemon in the water to help disinfect.”
Here’s what a dietitian has been eating over quarantine:
3. Trash cans
Your trash can is probably pretty gross (and smelly) if you don’t clean it often. Luckily, it’s really easy to keep it spotless. “A disinfectant spray is great for trash cans. Just spray and let dry,” says Georgia Dixon, a grove guide at Grove Collaborative. “Seventh Generation makes a disinfectant spray ($4) that’s great at killing bacteria and germs.”
4. Silverware tray
You clean your silverware every time you use it, but how about the tray you set them in? “Blame it on items not being fully cleaned in the dishwashing cycle, but this tray seems to easily collect crumbs,” says Conner. “Once a month, remove all your silverware from the tray and dump out the debris over your trash can or sink. Using a mixture of two parts water, one part distilled vinegar, dampen a clean cloth and wipe out the container for a green clean. If the tray is dishwasher safe, you can also just simply run it through a cycle at least once a month.”
Once a month, it’s important to clean out the inside of your oven—especially if you cook daily,” Regalbuto says. “Wiping out spills often keeps it clean and reduces smell and smoke in your home.” Grab an oven cleaner ($30 for 2) and get to work. With the help of a store-bought product, the job will be a whole lot easier.
You’d think a dishwasher would technically wash itself every time you do your dishes, but that’s not exactly the case. It needs a little extra attention to stay fresh and clean. “The wet nature of a dishwasher is perfect for germinating bad smells. Tackle the smells before they start,” says Angela Bell, a grove guide at Grove Collaborative. “Always rinse off food before placing dishes in the dishwasher (this will keep old food smells from building up between washes), and leave the dishwasher open ajar to avoid moisture buildup, which can also harbor bacteria and create bad smells.”
If you’re noticing an especially bad smell coming from your dishwasher, you may need to take some extra steps. “Empty the dishwasher and leave it open to air dry completely,” she says. “Remove the racks and wipe down the sides of the dishwasher and interior of the dishwasher door with a vinegar and water cleaning solution, or a cleaner such as Aunt Fannie’s Cleaning Vinegar Spray.”
7. Garbage disposal
The garbage disposal isn’t an area of your kitchen you would think to clean, but all the food that winds up down there can start to cause quite the stench. “The garbage disposal can wind up smelling terrible,” says Regalbuto. “Consider pouring baking soda and vinegar down the drain from time to time, or squeeze half of a lemon.”
You know you’ve gotta clean out your fridge on a regular basis. But how about the freezer? “It can build up just as much odor as the refrigerator,” says Regalbuto. Simply wipe it down with a sponge or dishcloth dipped in hot water and soap and you’re good to go. It will only take a few minutes to look good as new again.
These are the best healthy freezer foods, according to a dietitian:
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